Commentary: the unusual superstar that has spawned “Linsanity”


by Aaron Reiss
Eagle Staff

One win was a fluke. Two wins in a row was curious. The third win in a row came against the Washington Wizards, so who really counts that?

Winning four games in a row however, against the Los Angeles Lakers on national television on a Friday night by upstaging Kobe Bryant, that is when Linsanity became a full fledged sports craze.

The epic of Jeremy Lin is one that defies cultural boundaries. The Harvard University graduate who was overlooked as a basketball player his whole life by college recruiters and NBA scouts has flipped the sports universe on its axis while taking the NBA by storm.

In the week that Lin became the shining light leading the New York Knicks to five consecutive victories, his jersey became the top selling in the NBA. The Legend of Lin also scored the most points of any NBA player in his first five starts in NBA history.

However, while almost everyone would love for this fairytale story of the scrawny, over-looked, Ivy League educated Asian kid succeeding in the NBA to continue, odds are it will not.

Carmelo Anthony and his ball-stopping, isolation style of play will most definitely put a damper on Lin’s unprecedented run of gaudy statistics.

Regardless of what lies in Lin’s future as a player however – fingers crossed its got All-Star written in it, odds are it is bright to say the least – he has already left an indelible mark.

As an Asian-American myself, Lin plays the role of something far greater than Savior of the New York Knicks’ season.

By not looking inherently Asian, I often hear people make the typical Asian jokes with no filter. The “good at math” and “overly strict parent” stereotypes are as strong as ever.

If any further proof was needed, ESPN ran a headline for Lin’s first loss as a starter on their mobile website using a racial slur.

They have since apologized, but the fact that this happened in the first place only further proves the point that what Lin is doing is not widely accepted. It does not fit the cultural boundaries that society feels comfortable within.

What makes the story of Jeremy Lin so, Linspirational? It is the fact that he does not break the stereotypes, but rather affirms them, and then goes beyond them.

Who says that it is bad to do well in school? Certainly not Lin.

He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and a 3.1 GPA at Harvard, where he earned a degree in economics while simultaneously building the foundation for a now nationally ranked Harvard basketball program.

What makes Lin’s improbable run so great is not that he was not offerred an athletic scholarship coming out of high school, or even he was undrafted out of college despite putting up 30 points on Kemba Walker’s UCONN Huskies and was a two-time All-Ivy League selection.

No, what makes the Jeremy Lin story so great is that by leading the New York Knicks and upstaging Kobe Bryant he proves that there is more to being Asian than the jokes entail.

It is this transcendant element to his story that has brought the unlikeliest of basketball fans to their computer screens and televisions, as they watch Linsanity unfold.

It is also that Lin is of a different mold. He is not Yao Ming.

Yao Ming, while he had his doubters (Kenny Smith, I’m looking at you) was expected by many to be good. After all, he was the first pick in the NBA draft and is 7’6″ tall. Lin, on the other hand, went undrafted and is average in size for an NBA point guard (six feet, 200 pounds).

Being Asian-American is not the same as being from China, Vietnam or Lin’s parents’ native Taiwan.

Native Asians do not hear the jokes growing up around other Asians.

Jeremy Lin is not Yao Ming. Yao Ming is not Jeremy Lin.

Yao blazed the trail; Jeremy Lin is paving it.