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NBA's Jeremy Lin: "Dota 2 is more than just a game"

Professional basketball player Jeremy Lin speaks to onGamers about his love for Dota and his appearance in Valve's "Free To Play" documentary.

Last week Valve's Free To Play Dota 2 documentary was officially released to the world to rave reviews from those within the Dota community, and in the larger gaming sphere. The documentary was seen by over 5.5 million viewers in its opening weekend of release, making it one of the most watched debuts of any documentary.

Featured early on in the documentary is Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin. Lin, a professional basketball player who graduated from Harvard and has worked hard to get to where he is in the NBA after going undrafted in 2010, is an avid Dota player.

Lin's longtime attraction to Dota has been known to the public for several years, having installed the Dota 2 beta during his injured downtime while playing for the New York Knicks. Lin told SGamer last year about his favorite heroes being Spirit Breaker, Phantom Assassin, Tide Hunter and Ogre Magi.

While Lin leads his Rockets team in the second-half of the NBA season to a top playoff spot, he spoke to onGamers about his favorite professional Dota player, the future of eSports and how his love for Dota has lasted over a decade.

"I started playing Dota 1 when I was a Sophomore in high school", Lin told onGamers. "I started playing Dota 2 when it came out and I've been playing it until now. Nowdays I actually don't play a lot, I've only played a couple times in the last month, but normally I'll play 2-3 times a week."

In the documentary Lin says that "Dota is a way of life". Lin explains how Dota has not only been a competitive experience for him, but one that's helped him connect to family and friends over the years.

"What I said by that was just to me, it's more than just a game", he says. "To me, my brothers and friends, we have a group of five that always love playing together and we've all been playing together since our sophomore year of high school. So when I say it's a way of life, it's more than just a game, it's a chance for us to play and catch up on life. It's something that's been really incorporated into our lives for years and years, consistently, no matter where you are."

"I went to college on the East coast, the guys moved all over the United States, but we still play. We have guys in Central, Eastern, and Pacific time zones so it's bigger than just a game to us."

The work ethic, dedication and drive needed to be the best is something Lin sees in both professional basketball and Dota players. As team games, Lin draws parallels between the two.

"I think it's very similar when you want to go professional in any type of competition. It takes a ton of work, it takes a lot of strategy, it takes a lot of commitment and takes a lot of discipline", he says. "So I would say Dota and basketball are actually kind of similar in the fact that they're 5 on 5 games. In basketball you have the point guard, the wings and forwards. In Dota you have three categories too; agility, strength, and magic/intel. You definitely have to understand the game and work on it, hone your skills."

Lin, an American of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, says he has no attachment to either the Chinese or American teams. Lin says his favorite player is actually Free To Play co-star and International 2011 Champion, Na`Vi's Danil 'Dendi' Ishutin.

The man Lin and his teammates must answer to, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who recently joined Major League Gaming's board of directors, has said previously that pro gamers are athletes. Both Morey and Lin have high hopes for the future of eSports and players such as Ishutin.

"Hopefully Dota will kind of take a rise like poker did", Lin says. "You saw that as just a card game and then it went big, started showing up on ESPN and then the World Series of Poker became this big thing."

"I think video games and Dota is definitely on that path. You look at Dota The International or some of the other tournaments, those things are getting streamed globally and there's definitely a huge fan base for that."

In his off time Lin runs the Jeremy Lin Foundation, which aims to help underprivileged children in the Houston area and country wide. While Lin loves gaming, he's happy to keep the kids outside for now.

"Right now I'd like to run around and play sports. In general, kids are growing up on technology and already have enough entertainment. Not to say that video games can't be used in the future."

Watch Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at 9:30 PM PST.