Room for Linprovement
It has been a mere three weeks since his first blowout game against the New Jersey Nets, and Jeremy Lin has already become arguably the biggest story in basketball since LeBron James and “The Decision.” Or dare I say, even bigger.
Following the aftermath of a surprising string of consecutive performances with 20 or more points, including the game winning shot against the Toronto Raptors, “Linsanity” has irrefutably seized the attention of not only the nation, but also of the world.
In only the three-or-so weeks that he has started for the rejuvenated New York Knicks, the media has already broken down and revealed nearly every aspect of Lin’s game, background, and personal life at an abnormal rate, even by their own obnoxious standards. In the last month alone, he has appeared on the cover of TIME and Sports Illustrated — twice. He has been talked about on nearly every news and sports program on air, both comedic and legitimate.
And of course, what package from the press would be complete without a rumor of him dating Kim Kardashian?
Nearly everything that could be said about the Asian-American phenom seems to have already been said. His deep faith and corresponding comparisons to Tim Tebow. His YouTube appearances on the “Linternet” alongside Kevjumba and Nigahiga. The “Lintelligent” Harvard star, without a scholarship out of high school, undrafted out of college and discarded to the D-league by three NBA organizations, only to debut his “Lincredible” skill on the great stage of Madison Square Garden. The perfect “Linderella” story that “Linspired” the masses.
Oh, did I mention the excessive wordplay on his name?
And now, 12 games later, with the characteristic vigor and exhaustive intensity of today’s media, the narrative of Jeremy Lin has nearly been wrung dry. The articles have begun to dwindle. The news coverage has begun to subside. And with the recent pounding by Miami last Thursday, in the midst of an already compressed NBA schedule, the gradual curbing of Linsanity’s momentum was unfortunately something to be expected.
Yet through the craze of Linsanity’s impressive run, a much darker part to this fairytale has seemingly slipped beneath the scathing glare of the press’ attention — or perhaps it was done so out of good interest.
For the first Asian-American starter to ever play in the National Basketball Association, Jeremy Lin and his rapid ascension to superstardom has not come without the ever-burdening issue of race.
Fortunately, Lin’s arrival into professional basketball was not met with the same adversity as, say, Jackie Robinson’s entry into the MLB. Lin has not been assaulted — other than by throngs of screaming fans, perhaps — and as far as I am aware of, no Knick, nor any other NBA player for that matter, has refused to play alongside him because of the color of his skin. Therefore, in such extreme respects, the rise of the New York point guard provides an optimistic spot check on the progress that racism has made through the blemished course of American history.
Still, that is not to say that there is an absence of such animosity. Some make the case that the reason for Lin’s talent having gone unrecognized and unappreciated for so long is due to the prevalence of ethnic discrimination in both the NCAA scholarship selection process and the NBA draft in a predominately Asian-free sport. Lin has also faced derogatory slurs from stadium crowds and media alike. In fact, an ESPN reporter was fired recently for publishing the ill-advised headline, “Chink in the Armor,” although it was evidently in reference to the Knicks’ first loss since Lin joined the starting roster rather than a play on Lin’s ethnicity.
Regardless of whether that be true, the meteoric rise of Linsanity and the diverse public reactions he has received over the past few weeks has revealed a stark glimpse of the complex and reclusive, but still very real beast that is racism in modern-day America. From what Stephen Smith of ESPN First Take aptly called this country’s “heightened sensitivity” to anything remotely racially offensive, to Floyd Mayweather’s infamous tweet, to the “Linfatuated” crowds of Madison Square Garden, it is clear that although the situation has certainly come a long way, it is still far from being perfect.
Benjamin Hong is a second-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.