I’m all about this Jeremy Lin story. I’m an NBA die-hard and I love what’s happening in New York’s Madison Square Garden right now. Nevermind that I’m a Sixers fan, and therefore am not really trying to see good things happen to the Knicks—but this you have to love. Jeremy Lin is a sensation. Everybody got on board as he came out of nowhere to turn around what had been an under-achieving franchise.
Sunday’s win over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on national television —the Knicks seventh in the eight games that Lin has started—officially means that “Linsanity” coverage is front and center—and not going away. The Northern California native racked up a team high 28 points and 14 assists while Spike Lee sat in his (in)famous courtside seat wearing Jeremy Lin’s #4 Harvard jersey.
This kind of thing has happened before; players lead their teams to victory all the time. But, unlike most national sportswriters and definitely unlike everyone that covers basketball on ESPN, I’m not afraid to admit that the fact that Lin is Asian is part of what makes this so intriguing. He’s the first American-born Asian payer in the League and I like that. There is no need to compare his game to Yao Ming or Yi Jianlian (that’d be hard since Lin is a point guard and those two are big men) because his game is more like a kid who grew up playing on courts in California than against international competition as early as the age of 14. You know what I’m talking about; doesn’t give up his dribble; not afraid of contact; could use some work on his jumper… he’s a Cali kid.
So, last week when Floyd Mayweather tweeted, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise,” you would think he had said that we should bring back concentration camps. Everybody jumped on Floyd calling him everything from racist to “scared to fight Pacquiao” while insisting that the Lin hype had everything to do with his performance and nothing to do with his race, but I’m not so sure Floyd was that far off base.
The Jeremy Lin hype machine started after just one game. No matter how good someone is, no one else gets the airtime Lin’s highlights got after just one game. Sure, he had been cut from two teams and was fourth on the Knicks’s depth chart before injuries forced Knicks head coach Mike D’Antonio to play him. He played his college ball at Harvard and the Ivy League hasn’t had a player in the NBA since Chris Dudley retired in 2003— but none of that stuff is so unheard of that we need 10,000 puns based on Lin’s name.
What makes this a story is that the guy is Asian. We’re not used to seeing Asians on the basketball court.
Jeremy Lin is the biggest covered story in sports right now. Yes, he’s doing his thing; but in my opinion, it’s irresponsible for national analysts (and Spike Lee) to jump up and act like that fact that Lin is Asian has nothing to do with it. When a person of any race breaks through as the first of their race to do something, it is a story, whether it’s sports, politics, business or even space travel.
Every major media outlet in the country has covered him extensively. Let me be clear: Jeremy Lin is a very good player and is clearly the key to the Knicks turn-around this season. The problem is the fact that This kind of over-coverage can only lead to a loud thud when it all comes crashing down.
Even this past Sunday when Lin led the Knicks to victory, in a different game the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off an amazing feat. In their overtime win against Denver, Kevin Durant had a career-high 51 points, while Brian Westbrook dropped 40 and Serge Ibaka recorded a triple-double. It marks the first time in NBA history that a trio of teammates combined to score 50 points, 40 points and record a triple-double, but news of Jeremy Lin leading the Knicks over the Mavericks dominated the night’s sports coverage.
In his first five games as a starter, Lin scored 25, 28, 23, 38, 19 and 27 points with a game-winning three-pointer with less than one second left on the clock. That’s outstanding, true, but it’s not like these are once in a lifetime stats. We’ve seen those point totals before. We’ve seen point guards lead their team to victory before and Lin’s numbers don’t necessarily equate having your jersey become the number one selling jersey in the NBA. Jordan scoring 63 or Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 for that matter, are once in a lifetime. Didn’t Kobe drop 81 on the Raptors one night?
THE NBA is one of those rare institutions where Black people are considered in the majority. No one looks twice when a Black player has double-digit assists or hits a game-winner at the buzzer, or hits a three-pointer and opens his mouth to reveal a Now and Later-stained tongue; but, for Jeremy Lin all of these things are treated as minor miracles. Much of the coverage about Lin calls out others for racist remarks and images, while these same sportswriters, in all their Linsanity, fail to realize that the fact that they are covering him as much as they are, is in itself, feeding the racist machine.