The Jeremy Lin Phenomenon
He's already captured the heart of Madison Square Garden, with the fans going full throttle on chants of "M-V-P," after Lin's exquisite performance at the Garden on Monday night against the Jazz.
Has New York ever fallen in love with a guy who came from nowhere so quickly? As an avid New York sports fan, the only person I remember coming this close was Joba Chamberlain during his electric rookie year. Lin's story, however, and his good-natured attitude toward the games are much more refreshing than Joba's. In fact, we may be looking at the NBA's version of Tim Tebow.
Here is the story of Jeremy Lin, the first American NBA player of Taiwanese descent and a budding star for the New York Knicks.
How did the Knicks find him?
Simply because no one else wanted him, and the previously struggling Knicks had no one else to turn as their starting point guard. Even while he was getting recruited for college basketball, the colleges in his backyard wouldn't offer him an athletic scholarship. He wanted to go to Stanford, Cal, or his dream school, UCLA. These schools would only allow Lin the "opportunity" to be a walk-on, while Harvard was one of two schools to offer Lin a definite roster spot on their basketball team. Lin eventually wound up attending Harvard, and even Harvard initially called Lin's high school basketball coach saying they weren't interested in him.
Lin, a true underdog, stepped up big time in college, which began his journey to NBA stardom.
In Lin's sophomore year at Harvard, he was named to the All-Ivy League Second Team, averaging 12.6 points a game. He didn't stop there. In his junior and senior seasons, he was a unanimous selection both years for All-Ivy League First Team. In his junior year, he was the only NCAAB Men's player to finish in the top ten in his conference for scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocked shots, field gild percentage, free throw percentage, and three point shot percentage. This guy was Mr. Versatility at Harvard. He was also gaining notoriety around college basketball by being one of the eleven finalists for the Bob Cousy Award (college point guard of the year). He graduated Harvard with a degree in
And yet, despite his fantastic collegiate career, Lin did not get drafted by an NBA team.
He was cut by multiple teams and was even sent to the D-League (basketball's "minor leagues"). No one took a chance on him, and as little as a week ago he was just another benchwarmer for the Knicks. The Knicks didn't want to play Lin. Coach Mike D'Antoni thought if he played this guy this early in a season of such high expectations, he would get fired instantly. Lin finally got his chance to play significant minutes on February 4 against the Nets, and the rest is instant history.
Lin finished that game with 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and a +13 rating. What the last stat means is that when Lin was on the court, the Knicks outscored the Nets by 13 points. That was the highest plus/minus rating on the Knicks that game, higher than superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, and higher than the two point guards previously ahead of him on the depth chart, Iman Shumpert and Tony Douglas.
The timing was right. Knicks fans were out of patience with Douglas since he couldn't distribute the ball effectively, and while Shumpert is showing promise in his rookie season, his field goal shooting numbers have been abysmal. Lin offered the Knicks and their fans a point guard who could actually play the position, and a person that the fans could fall in love with.
In the next game two days later, Lin got his first start against the Jazz. In the words of the famously articulate Knicks announcer Walt Frazier, Lin was "swishing and dishing" and "winning and grinning". With his 28 points and eight assists, he finished with the highest points/assists combo for a point guard's first start since New York's favorite GM (sorry, had to include that one) Isiah Thomas in 1981. Not Stockton, not Kidd, not Nash had a better first start than a guy who wasn't even drafted! The Knicks beat a good Jazz team that night without their two superstars (Stoudemire was out due to his brother's death, and Anthony was out due to injury), with Lin leading the way. Had the Knicks started one of their other "point guards," they would have gotten destroyed. It's amazing how much one player can make a difference, right?
If you love sports, you have to love stories like this: an athlete who just needs an opportunity and then completely runs away with it. Call it "Linsanity" or "Linning", but definitely expect this fun ride to continue. While some Knicks fans may be going too far with the mantra of, "Who needs superstars?", it looks like the Knicks have finally found the point guard they so desperately needed. With Jeremy Lin's cultural impact and his rising popularity (especially on Twitter, where he's been trending worldwide after each of his past three games), ESPN may be asking, "Who needs Tebow?"
And it looks like Lin has finally found a team that actually wants him to play for them.