Linsanity! What Jeremy Lin Means to the NBA

Linsanity! What Jeremy Lin Means to the NBA

The first Asian American player's storied path triumphs against-and highlights-sports racism

David Leonard

by David Leonard, February 10, 2012

Linsanity! What Jeremy Lin Means to the NBA

in the racial economy.

Evident by ubiquitous media representations of Lin as “the very incarceration of humility” (Farred, 2006, p. 57) and a widely circulated narrative that consistently imagines him as “representative of the Asian immigrant who buys into the Puritan concept of hard work, self-sacrifice, and the honor in labor in order to secure a piece of the American Dream” (Farred, 2006, p.58), his cultural power emanates from the perceived gulf between him and his black peers.  According to Dave Zirin, “Athletes in the eyes of many fans are too spoiled, too loud, too ‘hip-hop, too tattooed, too cornrowed – all of which translates to players are ‘too black’” (Zirin 2004).  In a post-Palace Brawl NBA, the Black body functions as “a site of spectacle,” as “a potential measure of evil, and menace,” necessitating containment and control (Denzin, 2001, p. 7).  Lin provides that needed containment.  The media hype and the widespread celebration of Lin pivots on his Asianness and its relationship the meaning of Blackness on and off the court.

David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is author of After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop (SUNY Press, spring 2012). 

Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter