As he looked back on the craziest year he could imagine, Bay Area native Jeremy Lin conceded to the truth of hindsight. He did let Linsanity go to his head.
"If I'm being honest, in some ways, yes," Lin told this newspaper. "I fought it every day. But I think subconsciously it had its effect, everyone catering to you. People were saying only good things for so long that when people said negative stuff, it was like, 'Whoa, what's going on?' "
After Lin signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets, a lot of negative things were said. He's selfish. He's all about the money. His ego is out of control. And, to top it off, many deemed him a basketball fluke who already has maxed out his potential.
But Lin is happy. He said he is thankful for his time in New York with the Knicks, the ride of a lifetime. He said he is eager about his future in Houston and the possibilities with his new team.
And he doesn't seem too concerned with repairing his image or proving himself right. He said too much is going well to be worried about the negative.
"It's not about who's right or who's wrong. I'm going to respond with love," Lin said. "That's why I'm in this position, to show love and become a better person. I'm trying to focus on the right things. I'm thankful for everything that's happened. The Lord has blessed me so much."
A year ago, Lin was in the Bay Area working out as hard as ever, trying to make the NBA his home. Since then, it has been quite the roller coaster. The former Palo Alto High star has experienced the lowest low -- being waived twice and wondering if he would make it in the NBA. He has experienced the highest high -- orchestrating one of the most dominant stretches in basketball memory, posting 20 points and seven assists in seven consecutive games (all wins) and becoming a global star.
An injury reeled him back into the stratosphere as surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee April 2 knocked him out for the rest of the season. But the real humbling came after he signed the offer sheet from Houston. That's when the tide turned.
"It did kind of hurt," Lin said. "I had to remind myself who I'm living for. Do I fear God or do I fear man? I know my actions, and I know I would change nothing if I could go back."
Lin said he expected to -- wanted to -- re-sign with the Knicks. But the Rockets, who reportedly pegged him as a primary target, came after him hard. First, they agreed to a four-year, $28 million offer sheet, paying him about $9 million in each of the final two years. But by the time Lin arrived in Houston to sign the offer sheet, the Rockets -- after reports the Knicks would match -- had pulled the first offer and changed the deal. The new offer sheet was for three years, with a third-year salary of $14.8 million.
"I didn't go back to them and ask for more money," Lin said. "It wasn't like they gave me the choice to sign one of the two and I chose the one that would hurt the Knicks. I had one contract offer. That was it."
With no other offer on the table, Lin signed.
And the debate began about whether the Knicks should match, though that third year could cost New York upward of $40 million because of the NBA's luxury tax. Many said Lin wasn't worth it, that his hot streak was the result of a perfect storm he could never duplicate. Some who thought the Knicks could match the offer saw Lin more as a marketing tool than a player who could help them win.
Reports emerged about Lin having bailed out on the team by not playing hurt in the playoffs, about Knicks owner James Dolan feeling betrayed and deceived by Lin.
"I will always, always have doubters," Lin said. "But I really want to reach my potential to bring glory to God. That is more motivation than haters and doubters. I want to work just as hard, give just as much, whether or not I have haters."
Lin took extra steps to remain the same person he always has been. He turned down multiple late-night talk shows and started limiting interviews. Every news conference, he talked about his teammates, sharing the spotlight. He looked to find ways to serve them -- picking up others' trash on the team plane, volunteering to carry bags, opening doors, sparking conversation.
He even passed up millions of dollars by rejecting endorsement deals. He wound up signing only two, with Volvo and Steiner Sports (he already had a Nike deal). He said he would rather focus on getting better instead of racking up endorsements and spending his time away from the court making appearances and doing commercials.
Even signing an offer sheet with Houston was a financial sacrifice, as Lin walked away from the millions he could get only in the country's top market. The decision prompted a Forbes.com article on how Jeremy Lin May Be The Dumbest Harvard Grad Ever.
But Lin, after the initial shock of it all, said he has regained his center.
"It just comes down to knowing who I am as a person," Lin said. "People who know me know I didn't want all this. I didn't ask for this. It was uncomfortable."
Lin said he isn't concerned with matching the production he managed in New York. Certainly, that would be a tough feat. In 25 starts with the Knicks, Lin averaged 18.2 points, 7.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Lin said he doesn't have a guarantee he is the starter, or does he need one. He said what matters to him is the opportunity and that Houston believes in him.
But even if his production doesn't follow him to Houston, he said he is sure the hype and attention will. He said "absolutely" he would love all the hype to end but said there was "no chance" that would happen even though he is leaving the bright lights of New York.
This time around, though, Lin said he will be even more ready for it.
"The only way it will is if I fade out and get worse and worse," Lin said. "But I plan on getting better."