I wrote about Jeremy Lin a few weeks ago. At the time, the biggest story in sports had put together three straight gems, garnering attention from all corners of the globe. Many, including me, didn’t see it lasting much longer. It simply seemed too good to be true, a blip on the radar, a fluke occurrence.
After all, the first three games of Linsanity came against NBA bottom feeders who were probably as caught off guard as the general public. Moreover, after three stellar games, the Knicks’ secret weapon wasn’t much of a secret anymore. Teams knew they couldn’t take him lightly. They planned their games around stopping him. If this wasn’t enough pressure, Lin’s next game was a nationally-televised one against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the toughest outs in the league.
Talk about having the cards stacked against you. So how does Lin respond? Well, to the tune of 38 points (vs Kobe’s 34) in a seven-point win over the visiting Lakeshow. With all due respect to LeBron James, he outdueled the GOAT, rising to the occasion like few thought he would.
Since then, Lin has kept it up, putting together a string of seven strong games, including a game-winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors and a 28 point, 14 assist, five steal effort against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
If it wasn’t clear before, it sure is now: Jeremy Lin is for real.
I’ve never done this before but I though I’d revisit some of the claims I made about Lin a few weeks back, with the benefit of hindsight. Let’s dive in.
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.
Can you hear the sarcasm in my voice? While I didn’t come right out and say it, the underlying message here was that the gushing praise for Lin by the sports fans and the media was too much, too soon. While he definitely deserved some attention, the coverage, in my opinion, was a wee bit over the top. Especially after only three games. Now, two weeks later, after Lin led the Knicks to nine wins in 11 games, I humbly stand corrected. The kid was worthy of the hype.
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.
I got some flak for this sentiment but I will stand by it. Even looking at recent history, this is not the first time that someone’s race has elevated their personal story. Part of the media’s strategy to lure viewers or readers is to seek out people who stand out in our world. Trailblazers, if you will. When you’re the first person to do something, you can be sure the press will come knocking.
One of the reasons that society gravitated toward the Barack Obama story the way they did was because he became the first African-American president. Tiger Woods whipping the field at the 1997 Masters became a much bigger story because a black athlete was dominating a historically white sport. Ditto for the Williams sisters in women’s tennis. What this says about us as a society is a completely different discussion. But we, as a society, are not blind to race. It matters. It’s out there whether we want to talk about it or not.
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.
Luckily, this never had a chance to materialize because Lin amazingly kept on having good games until his most recent effort against the Miami Heat. But hey, it’s LeBron and Wade so we can cut him a break. I think everybody can agree at this point that Lin is the real deal and the word “bust” should continue to keep a safe distance away from Linsanity.
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.
Oops again. And…38 points later, my prediction falls flat.