This column is a day late, and while I could use my screaming infant as an excuse, or chalk it up to the slackness that lurks in the heart of every writer, I'll say it plain: Jeremy Lin has killed basketball writing. At least for now.
The undrafted Harvard guard isn't just a Cinderella story, or the one time in a million that the New York hype machine was right. He isn't a flash in the pan, or a shooter with a hot hand bound to cool down. Lin is good, possibly darn good, and a key piece for the New York Knicks going forward. But for now, as long as he's playing like a superstar, it's impossible to even say where his ceiling (or bottom) is.
Any argument you can make, he'll upend the next day. The Lakers game, instead of exposing him, saw Lin take his game to even greater heights. Last night, he gutted out 27 points and 11 assists before winning the game on a buzzer-beating three, knocking off the Toronto Raptors with a performance that felt like a resourceful star wringing the most out of an off night.
On Saturday, Lin went for 20 in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves with some terrible shooting. It looked like he was finally coming down, made mortal. In Toronto, he proved that he can make the most of a rough night, and then capped it off with exactly the kind of shot his game had been missing.
Jeremy Lin isn't just defying expectations or suffering from insanely good luck. He is growing up in public. If your job is to try to make sense of the NBA—what's happened and what's coming next—he's also a freaking nightmare.
At this point, there's little for any self-respecting basketball writer to do but throw up his arms and watch. This isn't a Tim Tebow situation, where there is a legitimate controversy about either a new sensation's play or his worldview. Lin can play, and he has yet to use his success as any kind of platform. The cheerleading, already endless and deafening, hardly needs any professional joining its ranks. And even his cultural import to Asian Americans has become a given.
There's no argument to be had, no point to be made, no bone to pick. Lin is, for lack of a better word, on a journey, and we're all spectators in the most literal sense. All we can do. Pundits, be still. For once, media, fans and even politicians (oh, it's coming) are all in the same seats. What's more, even those brave enough to hazard an article face a truly baffling pushback. As fellow NBA blogger Rob Mahoney put it, "No one wants to read anything else about Lin but all anyone wants to read is stuff about Lin."
Jeremy Lin seems like a perfectly nice, cuddly young man who makes Kevin Durant look like a bloodthirsty jerk and legitimately does make the likes of Steve Novak and Landry Fields much better. Maybe they are emboldened by his achievements. Maybe they figure that if he can do it, they can, too.
But the most startling thing about the Jeremy Lin saga is that, for the moment, the kid is bigger than basketball. That’s the kind of high praise I only reserve for LeBron James, and even then it’s meant in more of the metaphysical sense.
Anyone attempting to talk about the NBA inevitably funnels back to Jeremy Lin. The rest of the league might as well be invisible. His games are the only essential viewing, his stat lines immediately embossed as landmark achievements. We can’t stop following Lin’s story as it unfolds, a dynamic that just doesn’t come into the picture with most NBA stars.
The NBA is all about consistency, an overly long season during which the best players put in work night after night. Lin started out as a welcome relief from that grind, that monotony that nevertheless makes the league what it is: a large sample-size where sustained excellence is hard to dispute. Lin is doing things that challenge this view. He came out of nowhere, and with each game, he has done things that have made it harder and harder to dismiss him.
Lin is changing the way we watch basketball. Each game is an event, but not as a make-or-break test of his merit. We legitimately want to see what happens next, but in the context of a long, sustained campaign. Jeremy Lin has turned the drab regular season into a breathless, edge-of-your-seat affair. He’s here to stay, for sure. The question is, will we ever be able to do more than just watch?
More to the point, has he saved anyone but himself and the Knicks? It’s possible that Lin didn’t just ruin basketball writing, but actually nullified the entire rest of the league.