This past week, the NBA was graced with an Asian-American sensation who single-handedly made the New York Knicks relevant again. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this phenomenon to be Jeremy Lin.
Forget about the Tebow comparisons. Forget about Mayweather’s ignorant tweets about the real reason for his success. And forget about all the awful Lin puns that have flooded Twitter and Sportscenter over the past few days. This kid’s story is improbable, unprecedented, and extremely worth all the coverage. Why? There are a few reasons.
First of all, Lin’s rise to stardom came out of nowhere. He didn’t get major looks as a Harvard graduate, he got passed up by the Warriors and the Rockets who were set at the starting and backup guard position, and he was on the cut line with the Knicks before his breakout game against the Nets. But thanks to his perseverance and hard work over the summer, Carmelo Anthony’s suggestion to D’Antoni to play him, and maybe a little divine intervention, Lin got his opportunity to shine and took full advantage of it.
Lin quickly proved he’s the real deal, working the pick and roll effectively with Tyson Chandler. He attacks the basket with speed and has the ability to finish when he’s given a lane, but he’s also proven his capability to hit jumpers or dish it to the open man off the screen. When he should have had a down game, he dropped 38 on Kobe and the Lakers. When he should have crumbled under pressure, he confidently hit the game-winner against Toronto. When Lin’s numbers should have gone way down because of Stoudemire’s return, they didn’t. And although a lot of Knicks fans fear Melo’s return I’ve gotta believe the addition of such a capable scorer will only strengthen the team, provided that Lin continues to facilitate on offense. But since the Knicks were dysfunctional because they lacked a true point guard, I think Lin is the missing piece to the puzzle that unleashes Amare and Melo like they were supposed to from the beginning.
Aside from the X’s and O’s, this kind of story is unprecedented because no one has ascended to the spotlight that fast and that successfully in any profession, let alone an Asian American in the NBA. And while Lin’s ethnicity adds to the appeal of this developing story, it’s not the sole reason for its intrigue. Yes, it’s a compelling story because he is the first Asian-American since Yao Ming to get attention like this, but ask yourself this question: Would Lin’s story still be interesting if he were black? Or white? Or any other race? Your answer should be yes.
The real reason is people love cheering for the underdog, especially when he’s a humble and God-praising kid like Jeremy Lin. In this past week, he’s made the Knicks and the whole NBA more newsworthy, even for people with little interest in sports. People want to believe in the unlikely hero, but the fact that Lin’s talent is not a fluke means Knicks fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.
A week ago, the Knicks were barely playoff contenders, D’Antoni’s job was in jeopardy and Carmelo and Amare were universally seen as big mistakes for the franchise. Now the Knicks are the most compelling team to follow in the NBA and have won seven straight. Linsanity is a rare, happy sports story that is unlike any other we’ve seen in the NBA, which is why I hope the best is yet to come for the Lin Dynasty.