Tag Archives: Jeremy Lin


Jeremy Lin Makes Appearance at Fan Signing in L.A.


What do In-N-Out, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles and Korean barbecue all have in common? All three are at the top of Jeremy Lin’s list of foods to eat after the NBA season ends Wednesday.

Linsanity struck again as hundreds of fans of all ages lined up to get autographs from the 6’3” Lakers guard at the WSS store in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles on Saturday. Lin quickly rose to international stardom in 2012 when he led the New York Knicks on a 7-0 game-winning spree in a seemingly overnight success story.

Before the start of the event, Lin received a warm welcome from WSS Chief Operating Officer Roger Dunlap, State Treasurer John Chiang, councilman Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles Community College District board member Mike Fong.

Addressing reporters, Lin said he was excited to “get to spend time with [fans] today” since “not everyone gets a chance to go to the games.”

As the Lakers approach their last game of the NBA season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Lin recalled his favorite moment of the season wearing the iconic purple-and-gold uniform.

“There were probably two games,” Lin said. “When we got our first win, that was pretty sweet–that came like six games into the season so [that was] a really neat one–and then recently against the Sixers at home. That was a pretty fun game.”

Lin, who recently had an MRI on his left knee, said that the soreness was improving.

“My biggest thing right now is just getting all the swelling out,” Lin said. “It is getting better everyday and [there is] less and less swelling so I’m already back out on the court. I’m already shooting and we’ll start wrapping it up in terms of just being able to run, jump and do those things starting tomorrow.”

However, the day after Lin’s in-store appearance, Lakers head coach Byron Scott stated that Lin will be out for the rest of the season.


KoreAm was able to ask the last question before the fan signing began: “Any advice for Sim Bhullar, who will be the first NBA player of Indian descent and a trailblazer similar to you?”

Lin said “there was going to be some unknowns,” referring to his own rocky start in the league, but suggested that the rookie ultimately enjoy the experience.

“Have fun and enjoy the journey … you’re making history,” Lin said.

Following the short question-and-answer session with reporters, fans were then allowed to enter the store and get one item signed by Lin, provided that they made a minimum purchase of $30.

Seeing the overwhelming abundance of New York Knicks merchandise toted by fans, as if Lin’s time with the Houston Rockets and L.A. Lakers had never happened, one could almost forget that the Linsanity days are  long gone.

It is unclear whether Lin, as an unrestricted free agent, will be returning to the Lakers next season.


All images courtesy of Daisy Chen


Justin Lin to Direct ‘Star Trek 3′

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The Fast & Furious director Justin Lin has signed on to direct Star Trek 3, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Lin will be replacing Roberto Orci, who stepped down from the director’s chair in early December. The film would have marked the directorial debut of Orci, who wrote the first two installments of Paramount’s rebooted Star Trek franchise with his former writing partner Alex Kurtzman.

J.J. Abrams directed both 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, but chose not to return for the third film in order to helm Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

According to Deadline, Lin was the only one offered the project despite numerous top-rated directors being named as possible contenders. He apparently nabbed this year’s biggest open directing job because he became available after The Bourne Legacy sequel he was attached to direct with Jeremy Renner was delayed when Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass agreed to do another installment of The Bourne Identity series.

To put it simply, it was fate.

Lin comes to the wildly successful Star Trek franchise after helming Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious. Before he directs the third Star Trek installment, Lin will be directing the first two episodes of True Detective Season 2 for HBO.


Photo courtesy of Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

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LINK ATTACK: Naomi Ko, Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover, ‘World War Z’ North Korea

North Korea’s Ebola Response Mirrors World War Z
Although the current Ebola outbreak is far from a zombie apocalypse, many readers have been comparing North Korea’s closure of its borders to the events in Max Brooks’ 2006 dystopian novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Korean Adoptee Heather Schultz Starts the Search for Her Birth Family
“I remember thinking this is what mothers do — they leave you,” said freelance writer and editor Heather Schultz. Schultz, who is currently on a three-week trip to South Korea, discusses her early childhood as a Korean adoptee and how she came to discover her birth family’s stories.

heatherschutlz(Photo credit: Heather Schultz)

South Korea Launches “Happy Education” Policy to Shorten Study Hours
President Geun-Hye Park launched a “Happy Education” policy that aims to prevent students from measuring their success solely based on academics by placing a one semester ban on exams for 13-year-old students.

The South Korean Ferry Tragedy Has Exposed a Political Divide
More than six months after the Sewol ferry disaster, extreme right-wing groups are now protesting against Sewol victims’ families’ ongoing sit-in protests.

Why K-pop Idols Flee From Their Groups
The Joongang Daily explores the numerous reasons why K-pop idols choose to depart from their groups.

Why I Changed My Korean Name and Why I Changed It Back
“Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, I loved my name. … Butchered in foreign tongues, ‘Seonjae’ did not have the beauty and power that accompanied it back in Seoul.”

Rainbow House Aids Abused Women
Rainbow House, a shelter for abused women in Flushing, was founded by a Korean pastor, Rev. Keumhyan Yeu and provides meals and a full-time social worker to families struck by domestic violence.


Naomi Ko of Dear White People on Avoiding the Asian Representation Trap
Visibility Project interviews Naomi Ko, who talks about what it means to be a millennial of color and how the feature film Dear White People deconstructs racial stereotypes.



Japan Could Deploy Minesweepers off SKorea in War with North, U.S. Admiral Says
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to let Japan’s military fight overseas could open the way for the country to deploy minesweepers in South Korean waters in the event of a war with North Korea, a senior U.S. admiral said on Friday.”


Top 10 Weirdest Places in South Korea
Korea Observer compiles ten bizarre places in South Korea, including the Suwon Toilet Museum and Love Castle, a sex museum in Gyeongju.

Whistle-blower Sees Little Change in South Korea 10 Years After Exposing Cloning Fraud
Whistle-blower Ryu Young-joon, who exposed groundbreaking cloning research as fraud, speaks for the first time about the fallout he faced from his tip-offs and discusses how South Korea is still tied down by values that allowed cloning fraudster Woo Suk Hwang “to become an almost untouchable national hero.”


Conductor Kristjan Jarvi on Giving ‘Gangnam Style’ a Classical Spin
Grammy-nominated conductor Kristjan Jarvi programs the viral song “Gangnam Style” to Pablo de Sarasate’s late 19th-century classic song “Zigeunerweisen.”

Cured of Ebola, Nina Pham Gets a Hug From Obama
Nina Pham, a nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a diagnosed patient in Dallas, was released Friday after making a complete recovery from the deadly virus. She met with President Barack Obama at the White House, where she received a thank-you for her medical service as well as a hug.


Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover as Adidas Store Employee
NBA star Jeremy Lin is back with another prank. In his latest video, Lin poses as an Adidas store employee in Taipei and interacts with several unsuspecting customers.

As Decades of Korean Adoptions Dwindle, Identity Issues Remain
“What I hope the legacy of Korean-American adoptees is,” Korean adoptee Joy Lieberthal said, “is that we’ve elevated the level of conversation of what it means to be Asian, Asian-American, Korean, Korean-American.”

Jeremy Lin prank

Jeremy Lin Pretends to Be a Wax Statue, Pranks Museum Guests


Jeremy Lin seems to be pulling off a lot of well-orchestrated pranks lately. First there were the dunk cams, then the cake-smashing. Now the L.A. Laker star is scaring museum guests by pretending to be a wax figure.

On August 14, 2014, the LA Laker star was honored with a life-size wax statue at Madame Tussauds San Francisco. Lin, the noted prankster, naturally saw the opportunity to prank the visitors touring the museum and posed as one of the figures by sitting completely still.

Fans and even Lin’s own uncle couldn’t tell the difference between the flesh-and-blood NBA player and the wax statue, and were startled to see what they thought was a statue suddenly come to life.

“They told me they were wax, but that was not a wax figure. That was a real person!” said one surprised visitor.

Lin’s mother, however, didn’t seem too surprised by her son’s prank.

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin Headed To The Lakers In A Trade

Jeremy Lin is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers after the Houston Rockets traded the point guard to clear salary cap space for the expected free agent signing of Chris Bosh, according to ESPN.

The Lakers also receive a future first-round pick and other draft considerations. In return, the Rockets take cash and rights to an overseas player from the Lakers, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarwski, a reputable NBA insider.

When LeBron James took over the headlines earlier today by announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the largest domino fell in the NBA’s free agency.

Lin has been caught in the middle of these conversations with multiple reports hinting that he could be headed to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade this past week.

By sending Lin and his contract to the Lakers (worth $8.4 million), Houston would have enough cap space to sign a maximum contract with Bosh. The trade makes sense for the Lakers, too, as they don’t have to worry about absorbing the contract, which expires next summer. They hardly have any players signed at the moment, anyways.

Unfortunately, Mike D’Antoni, who was head coach of the New York Knicks during Linsanity, is no longer with the Lakers.


Jeremy Lin On The Donald Sterling Decision

Photo via Reuters 

NBA players, past and present, are sharing their reactions to the NBA’s ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling. One man who has a particularly unique perspective is Jeremy Lin, who’s experienced years of racism in the sport (remember ESPN’s awful ‘Chink in the armor’ headline?). The Rockets guard told  Ultimate Rockets that he’s happy with the league’s decision and that the whole situation brought memories of racist comments spewed at him.


“I was definitely shocked,” Lin said of the Sterling ban. “But I have kind of gone through Linsanity, and hearing and seeing things people said. I guess I wish it wasn’t like that, but I am not oblivious to some of the ridiculousness that is out there, and I have been exposed to some of it. I am all for heading in the right direction, and I think that’s where we are. Out of that negative comes a strong and positive statement.

“I think it’s great. It was an unfortunate and weird situation. I definitely think it’s a right step in the right direction. I’m glad it’s over. I feel bad for the Clippers and for the Warriors for having to play through something like that with all the distraction and the noise and taking away from what they are trying to do on the court. Hopefully we can get back to basketball now.”



April 2014 Cover Story: E.J. Ok Is One of the Greatest Point Guards You Never Heard of

One of the Greats

Long before Linsanity, crowds in Louisiana were chanting “EJ! EJ!” for a 5-foot-6 basketball talent from South Korea. E.J. Ok would become one of the greatest point guards ever to play college basketball, yet her name and repute hardly make the radar outside of her adopted home state, where she is revered.  This is the untold story of a woman—and phenomenal athlete—ahead of her time, but whose dream of winning a national title is still in play. (And don’t forget to check out Ok’s player highlights video after the story!)

photograph by  TERRANCE ARMSTARD

With three hours to go before tipoff, the line outside Ewing Coliseum on the campus of Northeast Louisiana University circled around the arena. An antsy crowd of 7,000 eagerly waited to enter for the biggest and most anticipated game of March Madness basketball in the school’s history.

The Lady Indians were about to take on their longtime rivals, Louisiana Tech, in the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game for a berth in the nation’s Final Four.

As the game got underway, fervent chants of “EJ! EJ!” from the crowd reverberated inside the arena at eardrum-splitting levels, as fans showed their appreciation for NLU’s star player, E.J., short for Eun Jung, Lee. The junior point guard, who only came to the U.S. from Gimje, South Korea, three years earlier, had already earned a special place in the hearts of these fans.

“Every day on campus, E.J. was the talk,” described Gene Ponti, the radio play-by-play man for NLU’s basketball games in the 1980s. “The fans couldn’t get enough of her.”

And, that day in 1985, before the packed sports arena, Lee rewarded her fans mightily. Time and time again, she fought her way through traffic, feeding her post players, with no-look lob passes to Lisa Ingram from the top of the key, and wrap-around passes to Chana Perry inside the paint. When the towering Louisiana Tech defense took away her passing lanes, Lee pulled up for her notoriously deceptive midrange jumper—a double-clutched, overhead shot—leaving defenders to second guess whether she was shooting or passing. Defensively, she held Teresa Weatherspoon, the Lady Techsters’ standout point guard who later became a four-time WNBA All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist, to just three points.

By game’s end, Lee posted 18 points and 11 assists for the night, while Ingram and Perry combined for 54 points, to lead NLU to a 85-76 victory and to a spot in the Final Four. Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech’s head coach at the time, told Lee after the game: “I’ll be the happiest person when you graduate. Expect my flowers at your graduation.”

“It was unbelievable,” said the star NLU point guard, now 51 and now E.J. Ok (her married name), recalling that momentous game 29 years ago. “Everybody was pulling for me. Our fans really loved the way I played basketball. I was always ready to play against Louisiana Tech, so that I can make our fans happy. When we beat them, it meant so much for them.”

Yet, almost 30 years after that game, it’s mindboggling to realize that Ok, quite arguably a living legend when it comes to college basketball, is hardly recognized outside of Louisiana.  She won the Southland Conference Player of the Year every year at NLU between 1983 to 1986, a feat no other male or female basketball player has ever accomplished. The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inducted her in 2004. She is also the Southland Conference Hall of Honor’s first female athlete inductee.

With Ok on its roster, NLU held one of the best overall win-loss records in the nation at 102-15 and went undefeated in the Southland Conference for four years with a 43-0 record. Although unranked in Ok’s freshman year in 1983, NLU went on to become No. 13 in the nation in 1984, No. 2 in 1985 and No. 3 in 1986 in the Associated Press rankings. Ok, who averaged 18.8 points and 8.4 assists per game in four years, is still NLU’s all-time leader in assists (978 total) and second in scoring with 2,208 points. In just her sophomore year in 1984, the Philadelphia Inquirer selected Ok as one of its top 10 players in women’s college basketball. Sports Illustrated dubbed her the “Korean Magic Johnson” and the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1985 that she was “one of the nation’s most exciting female players.”

Dale Brown, a legendary college basketball coach who sent 32 players to the NBA as the Louisiana State University men’s head coach, said Ok was to women’s basketball what Pete Maravich was to the men’s game, referencing the former LSU point guard and Hall of Famer known as one the greatest creative offensive talents in history.

“E.J. is the best female point guard I’ve seen,” said Brown, who coached Shaquille O’Neal at LSU in the early ’90s. “I don’t mean to embellish this, but she’s a female Pete Maravich. They had eyes all around their head. Great players perceive things that aren’t there. They diagram plays and know it in their head, and make that pass two seconds later. She was a phenom, I tell you. She had it all.”

Earlier this year, Ok, who works as an associate head coach for her alma mater’s women’s basketball team, became only the second basketball player at NLU to have her jersey retired in the rafters of Ewing Coliseum.

That jersey retirement ceremony is what put Ok on this magazine’s radar. And the process of discovery after that—including reviewing highlight videos of Ok’s playing days on YouTube (uploaded by her eldest son) and talking to those who played with her and followed her career—has been nothing short of remarkable. Yet, it also begged the question: Why didn’t we hear about her earlier?

“Unfortunately for E.J., she played during a time when there was very little TV exposure,” said Ponti, who now works for NBC-affiliate KTVE in El Dorado, Arkansas, and Monroe, Louisiana. “There was no such thing as ESPN. So she probably doesn’t get the credit she deserves, but she was one of the greatest guards to have ever played the game.

“Kim Mulkey (a former Louisiana Tech guard who played against Ok) later became the face of women’s basketball,” Ponti added.“But she met her match when she went one-on-one with E.J. If E.J. played today, or the last 15 years, because of how the media has changed women’s basketball, the country would know and remember E.J.”

Photo courtesy of Bill Smith

Even back in her native South Korea, from where Ok departed in 1982, she was an unknown commodity, although she may just have been the best South Korean women’s basketball player to have ever played. Ok wanted desperately to play for her mother country at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in L.A., where South Korea miraculously won the silver medal, but couldn’t because she said she didn’t know whom to contact.

Luck didn’t seem to be on Ok’s side, or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say she was simply ahead of her time.

After beating Louisiana Tech on that special night in March of 1985, Ok had to play with a bruised thigh in the following Final Four game versus Old Dominion. Perhaps that explains why the electric point guard only had eight points and two assists for the game. Her team also succumbed in a disappointing 57-47 loss before 1,000 travelling fans who drove seven hours from Monroe to Austin, Texas, for the game.

In Ok’s last season, the NCAA hit NLU with sanctions for illegally recruiting Perry before the previous season. The ban shattered NLU’s dream of winning its first-ever national title, as the program became ineligible for the 1986 NCAA Tournament. NLU still finished the season in style, beating No. 5 Western Kentucky and No. 3 USC to win the Northern Lights Invite in Anchorage, Alaska, but that was still another opportunity missed for Ok and her team to garner the nationwide recognition that many felt they deserved.

When Ok graduated from NLU in 1986, there was no professional women’s basketball league; the WNBA wouldn’t get off the ground for another 10 years. So when Ok left NLU, the only way for her to prolong her career was to play in Europe, which she did for two years in Sweden and Italy—at Sweden’s Club Visby AIK in 1986-87 and Ferrara of Italy in the following season. She was the Most Valuable Player for both teams in each of the two seasons.

“Women’s basketball in the U.S. wasn’t much at that time,” Dale Brown said. “Europe was the better program than the United States. E.J. kind of got caught during that transition.”

Even Ok’s professional career in European basketball was cut short when, well, life happened. She got married and returned home to Louisiana, where she and her husband settled into family life. Her first child, Peter, was born in 1991. She maintained her relationship with basketball by becoming the assistant coach of her alma mater when many felt she should’ve been playing the game herself.  This past March Ok just finished her 23rd season as a member of the women’s basketball coaching staff at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (NLU changed its name in 1999).

Photo courtesy of Bill Smith

By the time Ok joined the coaching staff, ULM was no longer the powerhouse it once was, but the loyal fans of the program still remembered the days when Ok graced their home court. In 1997, the WNBA’s inaugural season, Ok was then 35 and often played in pickup games with men, many of whom were former football players at the high school and collegiate level. She would often leave them in the dust with her undiminished ball-handling skills.

The fans in Monroe were confident that Ok could still make it in professional basketball and urged her to play one last time. Finally, friends were able to convince Ok to try out for the Houston Comets, the WNBA team that was geographically closest to Monroe, telling her that they would babysit her two children, Peter and Kristina. Ok, who missed playing the game herself, started preparing for the tryout by doing conditioning work, running and weightlifting.

“I was ready to go to Houston for the tryout,” Ok said. “But not too long before the tryout, I found out I was pregnant with my third child, Gabrielle.  My priority had to change.”

Despite missing her last chance to play professionally, Ok insists she has no regrets.

“I have three beautiful children, so it’s OK,” said Ok, whose son and two daughters live with her. She is divorced. Her eldest two, Peter and Kristina, attend ULM, and her youngest is still in high school.

“I just really appreciate people who recognize my accomplishments,” Ok added. “It’s unbelievable that my jersey is up on the rafters here.”

But Ok’s former teammates can’t help but wonder for her “what could have been.”

“Even by today’s standard of basketball, with the talent she had then, she would be at the top of the WNBA, easily. No doubt. I wish she continued to play,” said Chrissa Hailey, Ok’s former ULM teammate and now the athletic director and the head coach of the girls basketball team at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans.

Rene Johnston, another former teammate, said to watch old footage of E.J. on YouTube is to witness “the true sport of basketball. Nowadays, it’s just run, shoot, run, shoot, run, shoot. E.J.  had such a finesse. She was a little general on the floor.”

“There’s no question in my mind that, had E.J. played in the WNBA, she would’ve changed the game,” said Ponti. “Teresa Weatherspoon was one of the WNBA’s greatest at the point guard position, but she didn’t shoot the rock like E.J. did.”

From the 1985-86 media guide of the NLU’s “Dream Team”: Lisa Ingram (No. 33), E.J. (Lee) Ok, Chana Perry (No. 23); back row from left, Chrissa Hailey and Jocelyn Hill. They were the starting lineup from the previous year that reached the Final Four.

Born on June 10, 1962, in Gimje, a small city in South Korea’s North Jeolla Province, Ok was the youngest of five children, three girls and two boys, born to Park Chun Kee and Lee Hee Nam. Before age 10, she didn’t even know what basketball was. One day Ok’s P.E. teacher visited her family’s house to speak to her mother. The school was getting ready to start a basketball team and was desperate for new players.

Park, a short-distance runner back in her day, agreed to give her full support, but it took a long time until her husband, who owned a construction business, gave his blessing to allow their daughter to play basketball.

“Let me tell you what my daddy did,” Ok said, laughing hysterically.  “My daddy is old-school. He didn’t believe that girls should play sports. He said, ‘You should play piano. You’ll never be successful playing basketball.’”

Ok, who believes she got her athletic ability from her mother, began playing basketball anyway. Every time Ok went to basketball practice, her mother told her husband that their daughter was going to a piano lesson.

It wasn’t until Ok became one of Korea’s best basketball players at the high school level that mother and daughter revealed their secret to Ok’s father. The first time he watched her play was when Ok was playing in a nationally televised championship game for her school, Soongeui Girls High School, her senior year.

“I heard my daddy was so happy because everybody was talking about me,” Ok said. “They told him that he has a famous daughter who’ll be a great player.”

When Ok came home that night after the game, he told her: “I was wrong. You’re good.”

It was also during Ok’s senior year at Soongeui High School that college basketball recruiters in the U.S. spotted what a talent she was. In 1980, she came to the U.S. with her high school team to play some exhibition games against American schools in L.A. and Jacksonville, Florida. With Ok running the offense, the high school team from Korea was beating junior college teams.

“I remember doing the behind-the back pass and the step back shot,” Ok said. “I pretended like I was shooting, and then did the behind-the-back pass.  Not many people are doing that still, but I don’t know if anybody was doing that when I was playing.”

E.J. Ok executing one of her no-look passes in a game against USC. Photo courtesy of Bill Smith

Ok attracted recruiters at NLU, as well as Florida State, but she was soon drafted out of high school by Cheil Bank of South Korea’s semiprofessional basketball league and played there for a year. But a year later, when she received a scholarship offer to pursue college education while playing basketball at NLU, taking that chance was a no-brainer for her.

Korea’s conservative basketball officials at the time weren’t happy with Ok’s decision to move abroad. They told her to choose between representing her country at international tournaments and playing for a college team in the U.S.

Ok chose the latter.

“I’m so glad I came to America,” Ok said. “If I stayed in Korea, I would’ve never gotten a college diploma. Even in basketball, I travelled around Europe after college, because I played in Italy and Sweden. Because of basketball, I was able to do that.”

With all the stories in the media about how Chinese American NBA player Jeremy Lin encountered racism during his years playing at Harvard before finally making it in the NBA, one would assume that it must have been much worse for Ok. After all, Lin was a male athlete who was born and raised in the U.S., and lived most of his life in ethnically diverse cities. Ok, on the other hand, was a woman living in the South without her family. She also didn’t speak a word of English when she first came.

E.J. Ok with her three children, at her jersey retirement ceremony this past January.

But Ok said she has nothing but great memories with her coaches, teammates, opponents and even the crowd at the games.

“I’ve never really had that experience,” Ok said. “That wasn’t a problem at all.”

In fact, she was one of the most popular students on the NLU campus.

“E.J. was a superstar on campus,” Ponti said. “She was so approachable.  Her being Korean or Asian was never an issue. I remember her not understanding why students made such a big deal out of being around her and watching her play. She was always so focused on basketball.”

Ok’s only focus outside of basketball was to learn English to overcome the language barrier.

“I had about five, six dictionaries I carried everywhere,” Ok said. “Besides basketball, I didn’t do anything else but stay in the library until they closed, every day for four years.”

Her former coach, Linda Harper, who recently passed away, quickly became a mother figure to her and even drove her to ESL classes in the summer before she began her first semester at NLU in the fall of 1982. The two were so close that, years later, Ok’s three children called Harper “Grandma.”

And even though Ok was a year older than her classmates and teammates, she said they took such great care of her that she felt as if she was their little sister.

“She couldn’t speak any English, but we taught her English,” Johnston said. “Over four, five months, she opened up. It was like a flower blooming.  You could just see her blossom. The girls on our team, all we had was each other. That’s just the nature of how we were and still are. She was someone you just couldn’t help but love. Coming to America, she was so innocent. A very sweet, loving person.  And she never changed. She’s the same way today.”

Ok adopted the American lifestyle so well that it later became difficult to tell whether it was her teammates who adopted Ok or Ok who adopted her teammates. Fried chicken soon became her favorite food. She also fell in love with American actor John Travolta after watching Saturday Night Fever.

“That was a great movie,” said Ok, who speaks with a Southern accent. “He can dance!”

It was the support and love shown by those around her at NLU that prompted Ok to return to her alma mater to join the coaching staff. And because she remembers how valuable it was for her to have such a close bond with coaches and teammates, she feels that the most rewarding part of her job is the opportunity to help her players, and not just with basketball.

“I try to give them guidance and tell them how important education is,” said Ok. “Now, my players graduate, and I see them in pharmacy, medical schools, business, marketing and accounting.  I help them get ready, so that they can be successful even when they stop playing basketball. That’s my goal.  I want them to be successful even after they stop playing.”

Ok is in charge of recruiting players for the university. So like Harper did for her, she acts as a nurturing mother figure to players that she brings to the school from various regions of the South, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Alabama.

“She is the reason I chose to go to NLU,” said Niela Gray, who attended and played for the college from 1995 to 1999, before becoming the head coach of the boys junior varsity basketball team at Crowley High School in Texas. “She convinced my mom that she would watch out for me and I would graduate with a degree. She showed interest in me as a person, not just a player. She genuinely cares about her players as people and not just as basketball players.”

Coach Brown, who now works as a motivational speaker, first met Ok in person last year at the annual Louisiana Hall of Fame reception. He said he offered to be her mentor because he was fascinated by her approach to coaching.

“Athletes don’t care how much the coach knows until they know how much the coach cares,” said Brown.  “She loves kids and knows how to play the game herself. Many people, they haven’t played the game, and they don’t have good fundamentals. She’s really got a good brain on her, but she’s been held back because she has not been a head coach.”

Ok also feels that it’s unfortunate that too many coaches in basketball nowadays are reliant on players with raw power, speed and athleticism. Her ultimate goal is to become a head coach at the college level to promote the importance of helping players improve their fundamental basketball skills, such as footwork, shooting and passing.

Her goal in coaching is to revive the type of basketball she once played at the college, the kind of game that allowed a 5-foot-6 point guard weighing 140 pounds to thrive.

“I’m big on fundamentals, really big,” Ok said. “When I played, we played with skills, but now, coaches don’t emphasize footwork as much. I get upset sometimes. When I become a head coach, that’s what I’m gonna do.  I’ll teach them basketball, you know?  How to play together, penetrate, pass, that kind of basketball.”

Ok said that she’s just starting to feel that there could be an invisible barrier for her as she tries to move up in the basketball coaching hierarchy.  There’s still a paucity of Asian American basketball coaches in both the men and women’s game, but Ok said she will never stop trying and that she has a big goal in mind once she gets there: she wants to win it all in March.

“I don’t know if I’ll have the chance soon, but I’m gonna keep going,” Ok said. “We went to the Final Four when I played, but we didn’t win. I want to go to the Final Four and win the whole thing. As head coach, absolutely, that’s what I want.”

Highlights from E.J. (Lee) Ok’s playing days.

This article was published in the April 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the April issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


Jeremy Lin, Jubilee Project Promote ‘Acts of Love’ Campaign

The video producers behind the Jubilee Project have partnered again with basketball star Jeremy Lin and his foundation this time to inspire an “acts of love” campaign, which begins today.

To launch the campaign, the Jubilee Project and the Jeremy Lin Foundation released “Lost for Words,” an eight-minute video starring Klo Lay Pla, who plays the role of Ka Nyaw, based on his own experiences of coming to America from Burma and facing cultural barriers and bullying from classmates. Lin plays the student’s tutor, whose friendship and mentorship inspire Ka to pass on the love.


The campaign is meant to encourage young people to make a difference through acts of kindness. The Jeremy Lin Foundation has even suggested a schedule of when and how to show #ActsOfLove each day from today through April 9.

Watch “Lost for Words” here. There’s also a “Lost for Words” behind the scenes video here.

The video was produced by the Jubilee Project, which has created 120 videos that have raised more than $35,000 for causes ranging from Hepatitis B to Japan tsunami relief. The project was founded by three young Asian American men who wanted to produce videos that inspire others to do good.

Lin also starred in the popular video, “The Last Pick,” (with more than 2.8 million views) produced by the Jubilee Project last year.