Jeremy Lin: Rise to NBA Stardom Mirrors Obama's Ascent to the Presidency

Geoff RatliffContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2012

Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin
Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy LinChris Trotman/Getty Images

Somewhere in a Hollywood pitch meeting, the following scene has probably played out:

Lowly Studio Employee: I've got a great idea for our next big movie!

Studio Executive: This better be good.

Employee: A promising young, minority, Harvard grad improbably rises to the top of his profession, becoming the first of his kind to achieve this historic feat, and immediately becoming America’s media darling. 

After a brief run of improbable success, our protagonist gets his first taste of adversity, after which people immediately begin questioning his ability to prosper over the long-term given his sudden leap from the proverbial minor leagues to the world’s biggest stage. 

A series of almost predictable racial incidents involving the media ensue, and the story climaxes with the new star facing the toughest challenge of his career while still trying to prove that his popularity and praise are well-deserved.

Studio Exec: You’re seriously trying to pitch me an Obama story now? You’re fired!

Employee: Obama? I’m talking about Jeremy Lin.

Studio Exec: I always knew I liked you kid! 

You knew it was coming. Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise to NBA glory has Barack Obama written all over it. Political leanings aside, the two Harvard alums’ respective rises to power have been eerily similar.

Barak Obama
Barak ObamaAlex Wong/Getty Images




Just as Obama preceded his surprising run to the Presidency with successful tenures as a law professor at the University of Chicago, and a brief stint as a U.S. Senator, Lin had a long track record of success on the hardwood leading up to his starring role in the hoops capital of the world (regardless of what ESPN’s Scoop Jackson says about Chicago holding this title).

Even after a standout career at Palo Alto High that included a California Division II State Championship, first team All-State honors, and Division II Player of the Year honors as a senior, Lin received no Division I scholarship offers at the collegiate level, eventually making his way to Harvard where he enjoyed a standout career, just as Obama shined as a Harvard law student. 

Despite his success at the collegiate level, even earning Ivy League Player of the Year recognition, Lin went undrafted in 2010, but was signed by his home town Golden State Warriors, really more as marketing gimmick than anything.

They were hoping that his local roots, and the Bay Area’s large Asian population would serve as a big draw for the team, but they somehow forgot to actually evaluate his talent as a basketball player.

The rest of his story to this point has been told many times, but now that Lin has suddenly grabbed the spotlight, he is finding, much like President Obama, that being the new hope of a desperate nation—in this case Knicks Nation—isn’t all it's cracked up to be, and the expectations set by his surprising early results will be almost impossible to live up to.

New York Knicks vs. New Orleans Hornets
New York Knicks vs. New Orleans HornetsChris Trotman/Getty Images


Last Friday’s ESPN headline flap overshadowed the basketball-related questions that arose out of the Knicks’ first loss since Lin’s arrival. And the initial seven game win streak that occurred under his leadership masked some deficiencies within the team’s makeup. 



Once that first loss occurred, and Lin revealed some flaws in his game, the haters came out in droves, much like Obama’s bashers seek every opportunity to point out perceived failures in his ability to lead. Right or wrong, the weight of the expectations alone have to be taxing on Lin (and the 46 minutes per game certainly aren’t helping).

Last night’s home loss to the Nets—the first game back for All-Star Carmelo Anthony since he started this craze by urging coach Mike D’Antoni to give Lin a chance—has only emboldened those who question his ability to co-exist with Anthony, concerns that are premature given the one-game sample size.

Those same doubters will be watching closely on Thursday night as the new look Knicks travel to South Beach to take on the reigning Eastern Conference champion, and prohibitive 2012 title favorite, Miami Heat. While it will undoubtedly be a major test for Lin and the Knicks, they will be left in an impossible position regardless of the game's outcome. 

A win will send New York fans and the media through the roof, serving as a cautiously optimistic sign that the Knicks can contend for a title this season. A loss will convince many that the Lin Dynasty was only a dream, a feel good story that never had a chance at a spectacular ending. But the truth is somewhere in between. 

Three games with the Knicks’ full complement of players—and only 11 games into the Lin era—will hardly be enough to give us an accurate assessment of the team's prospects for this season, or Lin’s future as an NBA player. A playoff berth is likely, just as a solid career as a starter is certainly within Lin’s grasp.

I’ll leave the prospects of four more years for Obama to the political pundits, but I’d be shocked if Lin doesn’t have at least that long left in his NBA future.

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