Jeremy Lin: A great story saddled with unfair expectations

Kobe beat me to it.

Moments after deciding to write about Jeremy Lin, the point guard for the New York Knicks, I googled his name only to discover that Kobe had already chimed in on the matter.

And he stole the words right out of my mouth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the next big thing in the NBA.

For those who don’t know, Lin, who was playing in the D-League a fortnight ago, has enjoyed three consecutive impressive games and is, all of a sudden, the NBA’s new golden boy and the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Here’s a (G-rated) transcript  of Kobe from Yahoo! Sports:

“I don’t even know what the [fudge] is going on. What the [fudge] is going on? Who is this kid? I’ve heard about him and stuff like that, but what’s he been doing? Is he getting like triple doubles or some [stuff]? He’s averaging 28 and eight? No [stuff]. If he’s playing well, I’ll just have to deal with him.”

In my opinion, Kobe is the ultimate competitor in the league today. Like all elite athletes (the Michael Jordans, the Tiger Woods’, the Roger Federers), Kobe has that winning gene. When he strides onto the court, you know it’s on. He’s ready to battle for 48 minutes. Kobe, the epitome of consistency and longevity, will praise a fellow competitor. But that praise must be earned.

Speaking of longevity, Lin has had three good games. Three! So did we really expect Kobe to say anything different when asked to comment about a kid who, over the past two years, has been dropped by two NBA teams and was playing for the Erie BayHawks less than two weeks ago?

Nope. Not a chance.

For the record, I am not hating on Lin. The 23-year-old American of Taiwanese descent and Harvard grad has played three fantastic games: 25 points and 7 assists, 28/8, and 23/10, all of them wins.

Has Lin become the feel-good story of this shortened NBA season? Without a doubt.

Asian-Americans finally have an NBA player to call their own. Harvard, who hasn’t churned out a professional basketball player since the 1950s, now has a notable one to support. Christians around the world will be drawn to Lin, a devout believer who wants to one day be a pastor. China, the most populous country in the world and one absolutely in love with basketball, will make efforts to catch Lin vs. Kobe tonight, as well as every subsequent game he plays. I am a Canadian with a Chinese mother so I can definitely feel the pride.

Jeremy Lin is good for the growth of the international game. Jeremy Lin is good for the city of New York. Jeremy Lin is good for dreamers and underdogs around the world. Jeremy Lin is a big draw for Ivy-Leaguers, Christians, Asian-Americans, and anyone else who can’t contain a smile when good things happen to good people.

In other words, it’s all good.

My only problem is that the amount of press and attention given to Lin has not been proportional to his accomplishments. I’m sure many in the media, even those who are guilty of prematurely hyping up Lin, would agree with me. Even TMZ got caught up in “Linsanity.”

So why has three games caused such a huge buzz?

Maybe it’s because Lin stands out in a league dominated by African-Americans. Maybe it’s because this is all happening in New York City, romanticized as the city where dreams come true. Maybe it’s because he’s been sleeping on his brother’s couch for the past few months. Maybe it’s because Ivy League schools are associated more with books and brains than basketballs and brawn.

If a black kid put up three consecutive games like Lin did in say, Milwaukee, would we be talking this much about him? Would I be writing this blog post? Would that player have his own catchphrase?

It’s a fair question to ask.

No matter the reasons, the pressure heaped on this kid after such a short time is almost palpable. It simply doesn’t seem fair. In this fast-paced world of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, we seem to have lost some of our perspective.

The catchphrases “Linsanity” and “Linsane” became common expressions after one good game. There are Jeremy Lin rap videos on YouTube. At the time of writing, Lin is the top story on ESPN.com.

In this age of instant gratification, we can tear down our heroes as quickly as we build them up. And that’s what I’m worried about. Let’s say Lin has a poor game tonight. I can almost see the hashtag: #Linisabust. And that, once again, would be entirely unfair.

It’s sad to say (and I sincerely hope I get proven wrong) but tonight may just be the night that Lin comes back down to earth. His past three games have come against the Nets, the Jazz, and the Wizards, hardly elite teams in the NBA. Tonight’s game will see the Knicks host Kobe and the Lakers at MSG.

Despite all the gushing praise, one thing that can’t be denied is that Lin won’t average these numbers the rest of the season. He simply will not. So when he does eventually put up a stinker, let’s try to keep things in perspective, sort of like Kobe would.

Nobody’s perfect, no matter how much we’d like them to be.

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