Jeremy Lin is currently in charge of New York. You see, I’ve come to accept that some things are bigger than a victory in mid-February basketball. Jeremy Lin, for instance, is bigger than a casual mid-February NBA game. Right now, Jeremy Lin is bigger than Madison Square Garden. So long as his stellar play continues, he will be as big as New York City lets him become. At this rate, the sky is the limit for the young surprise sensation. After beating the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden, Jeremy Lin has become the contemporary face of the storied franchise.
Within a week’s time, Lin has risen to become a household name for the majority of Americans and Asians alike. This intersection alone marks one of the most compelling tales of Jeremy Lin. By becoming a sort of folk hero in such a short span of time, Lin has inspired even the most casual fan to never give up on their dreams.
While Lin comes from Taiwanese descent, and thus has a major market cornered by bringing relevance to the hyper-attentive Asian market for the NBA, he is also only the fourth Asian American basketball player to ever play in the NBA. As a rookie, Lin also denotes the only active Asian American player in the NBA. Lin represents a change of pace from the typical image of what an NBA player is supposed to look and act like.
We’re talking about the third Harvard player to ever play in the NBA. And, out of nowhere, as if out of some weird Asian-produced sports movie about the improbable underdog, the Harvard alumni, who wasn’t offered a scholarship to play at Stanford and was later cut by the Golden State Warriors, is balling his face off in the most professional setting.
Harvard, which has had five more presidents of the USA than players in the NBA, now touts the record holder for most points scored in the first four games as a starter as an alumnus. As an overall player, Lin’s PER rating has been through the roof. Through four games, his pace is above all in the NBA sans LeBron James—ahead of the Kevin Durants, Kobe Bryants and Dwayne Wades of the league.
Perhaps comparably interesting is that Jeremy Lin also happens to be a devout Christian. Lin says that he "plays for the glory of God and one day hopes to become a pastor."
We’re talking about the same Jeremy Lin who was recently cut by the Warriors and now lives on his brother’s couch in the city. How’s that for an image change in the PR of the NBA? We can just ask NFL's Tim Tebow how that worked out.
In his first season as a starter for the Denver Broncos, Tebow generated more hype than ever imaginable while being the subject of Saturday Night Live sketches, T-shirts, talk shows and Internet memes. Tebow may not have been the best player on the Broncos—that would have been their rushing attack or the addition of Von Miller—but he was the face of the franchise because he was a likable and compelling figure to root for.
That’s what Jeremy Lin has quickly become in the major market of New York City. In fact, Lin himself has been quoted as saying that he has "drawn actually a lot of inspiration [from Tebow] just because he’s such a polarizing figure."
In 2012, modeling one’s self after Tim Tebow in hopes of taking off in the sports scene is hardly a bad plan of attack. In his four games, Lin has re-energized a Knicks franchise that was slowly becoming disheartened—re: Mike D’Antoni, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Baron Davis et al. Lin has been called the "new hope" and has been dubbed all sorts of other exciting nicknames in his rise to fame.
While much of the hype is uncertain (will he continue this type of production for more than a week’s time?), I stand confident that Lin is the most marketable player on the Knicks roster at today’s date.
Lin has it all. His name produces a great play on words ("Linsanity," "All I Do Is Lin," etc.), and he is playing in New York City and making the Garden (one of my favorite places in the world for sports) go buck wild. He has beaten John Wall, Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant. He has caused controversy on Jason Whitlock’s Twitter. He has this incredible tribute rap song. And, perhaps most impressive, over the last seven days, he is averaging 28.5 PPG, 8.0 AST, and .575 FG%.
If I’m building my roster, I wouldn’t trust four games of excellence to build my confidence. If I’m marketing my roster, however, my first look goes to Jeremy Lin at this point in time.
I’m sorry, Baron Davis, but your job is lost to the hype machine of the American sports media. Lin is too exciting to see if you’ve recovered, and he’s played too well in the past week. The best way for me to understand it is like this: Who’s bringing fans to the arena?
Lin is the most talked about player in social media right now, and his T-shirts, interviews, posters, masks and signs are commodities just as hot as anything in the American media sans Tebow circa Obama 2008. As consumers of this kind of media, we simply eat this kind of story up. Fans get excited about a change of pace. We love to hold on to something bigger than ourselves. That’s what the sports world is all about.
Still have your doubts? Lin has been mentioned on Twitter more than 140K times in the past week, and since February 4th, stock price of Madison Square Garden has increased 6%, an increase of $139 million. Knicks television ratings are up 66% from last season, and according to Forbes, Lin can be held reasonably responsible for 50% of this (putting his value at $14 million, tied with Kobe Bryant). Sales on the Knicks website have also increased 3000% in the last week. Try and tell me that Jeremy Lin isn't responsible for this.
As much as we like to think that it’s the games that we tune in for, that’s only half of the fun. I loved watching the athleticism of Lin weaving in and out of the lanes, pump-faking, draining three-pointers and celebrating with the swagger of a Harvard alumni in the NBA. It makes me giddy.
But, in all honesty, it’s just as exciting for me to follow the nuances and intricate details of an individual’s story.
At this point in time, Jeremy Lin is the media sensation and the face of the franchise that the New York Knicks ought to ride. It’s as simple as that. Enjoy the hype, and enjoy the most exciting thing to happen to the Knicks since Patrick Ewing last won a championship.
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