Linsanity!! If you haven’t heard of Jeremy Lin, you must have been hiding under a bomb shelter.
Not since the stretch of games that Yao Ming had during his rookie season has there been such a buzz for an Asian athlete in major league sports in America. I remember in my early 20s watching Yao struggling through his first few games, I cringed when I saw how fragile and soft Yao was initially; he was afraid of contact and had a hard time adjusting to the pace and power of the NBA. Sportswriters quickly declared him a bust and was dubbed a stiff – a Chinese version of Shawn Bradley by the media. Charles Barkley made a bold statement to Kenny Smith on Inside the NBA “If Yao ever scores 19 points in a game, I will kiss his[Kenny Smith's] ass.” (see video)
Soon after, something incredible happened. He had a breakout game against Kobe and the Lakers scoring 19 points on 10 of 10 shooting on an array of post moves. I remember watching that Lakers game and the following game versus one of the top teams in the league, the Mavericks where he scored 30 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. I was elated, I was thrilled not just because I am Asian but it is an incredible story of how one person can struggle through adversity and have the whole Universe doubting him yet he came through because deep down inside he believed he could. He had a memorable stretch of games where he broke Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie FG% record and provided many with glimpses of greatness.
He went on that year to average nearly 14 points and 10 rebounds, named an All-star and was one of the top rising centers in the league. Throughout Yao Ming’s career I followed nearly everyone of his games. He was inspirational to me, just as Michael Jordan inspired myself and many other kids growing up. He went on to put up solid numbers and had some memorable games in a career hampered by injuries which forced him into early retirement. I will always hold him to a pedestal for how he transcended the sport and how he inspired me.
The story of Jeremy Lin is in essence very similar to that of Yao Ming. In a lock-out shortened NBA season, I had lost interest in the NBA – too many players playing for the wrong reasons. The contract disputes between the NBA owners and players for the second time in the league’s history had turned me off the sport. I had been a huge fan of the NBA since the early 90s with the likes of Jordan, Pippen, Magic, Barkley, Kemp and other marquee players yet in recent years my attention has been turned from the NBA to the UFC. I’m a much bigger fan of MMA now than basketball as I believe as a sport, MMA is still in it’s infancy and many fighters fight for passion and not for money.
However, in recent weeks my interest in the NBA grew again because of one person, Jeremy Lin. Here’s a skinny Asian kid who’s a Harvard graduate and was undrafted – no one gave him a chance. He was cut by two teams early in his NBA career and was buried deep on the New York Knicks roster until a series of injuries and bad performances by the teams PGs gave him an opportunity he has yet to relinquish. I’ve certainly never heard of him until the game against the Utah Jazz in early February. At the time of the Jazz game he had scored 20+ in two straight starts and led an injury depleted Knicks team without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to consecutive wins. I was still not convinced and put it down to his opponents not knowing who he is and not giving him enough respect. Against John Wall and the Wizards, he proved he can go up against a top-flight point guard and perform as he scored 23 points and dished out 10 assist while captaining his team to a three-game win streak. Then came a nationally-televised showdown against the Lakers where he outscored Kobe and notched 38points while bringing electricity to Madison Square garden. That day he made believers out of everyone including me. He followed it up with two huge come from behind wins against Minnesota Timberwolves and the Toronto Raptors in which he came up with clutch shots and plays ; game breaking free throws and a game-winning three in each respective game.
I am now a believer and will look forward to more inspiring, passion-filled plays from this kid who is spreading the word of God. Dear Jeremy, whatever happens in the future, whether you live up to the hype or you come crashing down from this joy-ride, thanks for taking me on an inspirational journey of how one person can give many so much joy, excitement and belief.
Forget about being Asian,White or Black for a minute. This is a Rock Balboa, underdog , rags to riches story that every human can relate to because every one of us has struggled through life but he shows us if we believe in ourselves, our dreams and never give up, we will find our way because there’s a God in every one.
I’d like to leave you with the following quote:
“the role of human imagination is to conceive of all these delightful futures, choose the most amazing, exciting, and ecstatic possibility, and then pull the present forward to meet it. That is what we do.” -Jason Silva
Check out the Top 10 plays by Jeremy Lin as of February 15th.
Update 20 Feb: After a subpar game with 9 turnovers versus the lowly Hornets, Lin ran the show against the Mavericks and made believers out of the defending world champion Mavericks. He finished with 28 points and 14 assists and got plenty of outside help from the newly acquired JR Smith and sharpshooter Steve Novak. Yeah baby and take that Shawn Marion!! In the past week he’s gone from benchwarmer to getting the attention of Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. What a story!