The last time I wrote about Jeremy Lin, it was when he was still a junior at Harvard, enduring racial slurs and taunts everywhere he played.
Now, of course, he’s gone from novelty act to legit sensation for the Knicks:
As I write this, I’m watching Lin and the Knicks hold off the Lakers. Whether or not they win the game tonight, and no matter what happens when Anthony returns to play in a week or so, Jeremy has proven there’s a place for him in the NBA. And watching him play tonight, I find myself surprisingly moved. Sure, that’s partly because I’m a big old sappy softie who cries while watching sports movies, for God’s sake, but it’s also because Lin’s is just a great story.
I can’t help but think about all the times he’s walked into an arena or a locker room knowing that his opponents — possibly even his teammates, before they get to know him — are ready to dismiss him. He’s probably done it time and time again. Even I am surprised by his success, and I’ve been following him since his junior year. I never saw him play against really tough NCAA opponents. I didn’t know if he could make it in the NBA.
And I admit, I’ve always sort of thought that there are things that Asian Americans can’t do. Or don’t do. Playing in the NBA used to be one of them.
Jeremy Lin is awesome, he clearly works hard and has talent to match, and I’m honestly not trying to portray him as some kind of victim. I am positive he has never seen himself that way. I mean, he’s out there right now beating Kobe Bryant. But sometimes you don’t realize the power of some of these stereotypes, these invisible barriers, the ones we all imagine are there, until you see someone like Jeremy Lin tearing them down. He’s doing it with style.
Update: NOT ONLY did the Knicks BEAT the Lakers (making this former Oregonian oh, so happy), Jeremy Lin DOMINATED the game with a career-high 38 points. He’s scored more in his first three NBA starts — all in the past week! — than any player since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976. New Yorkers love him! Asian New Yorkers most of all. Linsanity is for real!
In the streets outside the Garden, people were shouting “JEREMY LIN!” at the top of their lungs, and chanting, over and over, “MVP.” It’s hard not to feel like this isn’t a watershed moment. Hard not to feel like this is historic. Hard not to think that we’re at the cusp of an actual tectonic shift in the culture, when an Asian American “kid” could be the unquestioned king of one of the most storied franchises in sports, the guy that every guy in the room wishes he could meet and every kid in the room wants to group up to be.