Jeremy Lin has inspired the masses. I think I have probably seen these Jeremy Lin highlights fifteen or twenty times by now. There's something about the way he captivates the crowd and his teammates that I really love in the video. He is the Harvard Hero. Linsanity. The Shaolin Monk.
It's a great story.
Great story, but it's a little tough to portray a kid who had his pick of Ivy League schools as an underdog. Holding a Harvard Economics degree is a pretty decent plan B if the whole basketball thing doesn't work out.
But an Asian American as a NBA guard?
Playing in the basketball Mecca?
An Ivy Leaguer in the NBA?
That's a little different. Jeremy Lin has been treated as a novelty since his days as a high school ball player—overlooked and underestimated because of the way he looks. He is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. He did not receive one athletic scholarship offer coming out of high school.
To say that race may have played a factor in the way he was assessed is a violent understatement.
So for a guy who has every reason not to be where he is right now, I'm going to go ahead and say that as a basketball player—Jeremy Lin has overcome quite a bit.
The NBA is where some of the most physically gifted individuals on the planet compete at the highest level. Individuals that earn millions of dollars because they, like Liam Neeson, possess a very specific set of skills. We admire and celebrate them, but rarely can we relate to their otherworldly talents.
Its players like Jeremy Lin that come along and humanize the NBA. To loosely paraphrase some Tupac: He is the little skinny dude battling guys three-times his size.
So the events that transpired at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night were nothing short of amazing. There was definitely a buzz in the air. As the game unfolded and Jeremy Lin continued to play out of his mind, you began to realize that this would be the greatest moment of his life. I couldn't help but feel good for the guy.
It was clear that the chants raining down from the Garden were not for Carmelo Anthony, not for Amar'e Stoudemire—not even Boo's for Kris Humphries. The praise was for a young Jeremy Lin, backpedaling his way down the floor after scoring a contested bucket in the paint.
"Jer-em-y, Jer-em-y, Jer-em-y"
The smile he had on his face said it all. He was as dumbfounded as the rest of us, but he was trying his best to hide it. Lin had his very own Jordan Shrug moment (Please relax Air Jordan elitists).
All this for a guy who most would assume is the Knicks' advanced statistician, not on the floor running Mike D'Antoni's offense.
With about two minutes left in the game, the Knicks held a small lead. Lin had the ball just above the three-point line and called for a screen. Tyson Chandler came to give him one, but Lin saw an opening and penetrated the lane. He split two defenders and scored at the rim while absorbing contact.
The building literally exploded. The players on the bench were already on their feet jumping and hugging each other. Jeremy let out a roar—his teammates mobbed him. The crowd was wild. Complete strangers exchanged high fives and danced together in their rows.
The producers at MSG Network were desperately scanning the crowd for shots of celebrating Asian fans—and rest assured that there were plenty. It was freaking pandemonium. Jeremy Lin had lit Madison Square Garden on fire.
Awesome, awesome moment.
After the game he was humble in victory, citing his teammates and dismissing all the praise. It was their third game in three days, and the tired Knicks team needed some kind of spark off the bench. Instead, what they found was a new starting point guard.
The fact that he comes from relative privilege and holds a prestigious degree has afforded him certain luxuries that many who also struggle to break into the NBA do not have. A safety net like that certainly helps along the way—this much is true. But as an overlooked Asian American basketball player, his resolve and determination is inspiring.
Even beyond race and ethnicity, this is a David vs. Goliath kind of story. Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. Hickory High vs. South Bend. The little guy that gets a shot and takes it. Going the distance with the champ. Stepping onto the biggest stage with the brightest lights and not backing down.
It's the kind of story that people in all walks of life can admire and look up to. And for that, in this moment, Jeremy Lin is a special player.
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