This is where Shirley Lin would sit, usually in jeans and a team sweatshirt, cheering with the rest of the parents as her son, Jeremy, ran up and down the floor. At halftime, she would bounce around, talking to parents and teachers, checking in on the food and drink offerings she probably had a hand in organizing. Then, when the game resumed, she would return to her seat, peering intently at her son.
“She was not the loudest,” Mike Baskauskas, the father of one of Jeremy’s teammates, said. “But you knew she was there. She was probably the single most involved parent I’ve ever been around.”
Shirley’s husband, on the other hand, was always silent, and this was by design. Before every game, Gie-Ming Lin would traipse up the steps on the opposite side of the gym — to the point farthest from the rest of the home fans — with his video camera in hand. Sometimes, he would take along Jeremy’s younger brother, Joseph; sometimes, he would go alone. But he was always in the rafters instead of among the other parents, his camera trained on the floor.
“I guess you wouldn’t want to have your voice on the tape all the time, so that worked for him,” said Michael Lehman, who worked with Shirley at Sun Microsystems and whose son, Brad, was a teammate of Jeremy’s.
Lehman added: “But he was always there. You knew he cared and loved watching his son play.”
By now, the mileposts of ’s basketball life are legend: State championship in high school. No scholarship offers. Harvard. Undrafted by the N.B.A. Picked up (and discarded) by a couple of teams. End of the bench with the . Got his shot on a February night and suddenly, incredibly, his world became a flash bulb.
Over the past three weeks, Lin has been poked and prodded by the tentacles of celebrity. He has had his high school days examined, his college years parsed and his rise to fame chronicled in publications across the world. Less attention, though, has been given to the story of his parents, who navigated a winding path from Taiwan to the Tidewater section of Virginia, from Purdue University to Palo Alto, on their way to raising a global icon.
“Jeremy’s life was formed by his parents,” Fu-Chang Lo, an elder at the Lin family church, said last week, and he and others who know the family maintain that in order to fully comprehend Lin’s rise from relative anonymity, his parents’ story must be understood.
Indeed, long before there were Madison Square Garden and endorsement opportunities and an unending spotlight on a quiet family from the Bay Area, there were two graduate students in a cramped apartment in Indiana, a rattling Ford Taurus and bills so overwhelming they once gripped the family’s finances.
At its roots, though, the parents’ journey is simple: Some 40 years ago, Lin Gie-Ming, a boy from Beidou, and Wu Xinxin, a girl from Kaohsiung, thought of coming to the United States. They dreamed of pursuing an education. They dreamed of perhaps, someday, raising a family.
From Taiwan to Virginia
Gie-Ming’s immigration to the United States arose from a fortunate connection. Ping Tcheng, a professor at Old Dominion University, graduated from National Taiwan University in 1961, he said, and about 15 years later sent a letter back to his alma mater seeking an engineering student who might be interested in working as his research assistant. In 1977, Gie-Ming arrived on campus in Norfolk, Va.
Gie-Ming, now 59, came from an educated family. His father, Lin Xinken, was part of the seventh generation of a family that crossed the Taiwan Strait in 1707 from Fujian province in mainland China, according to a short family history provided by a relative. Lin Xinken survived the massacre of thousands of Taiwanese by Chiang Kai-shek’s mainland Chinese troops in the spring of 1947. The purge was aimed at eliminating possible Communist sympathizers and advocates of Taiwanese independence, and fed decades of antipathy between longtime Taiwanese and new arrivals from the mainland.
Sam Borden reported from Palo Alto and Keith Bradsher from Taipei, Taiwan. Howard Beck, David Chen and Michael Luo contributed reporting from New York, and Mike Gruss from Norfolk, Va.