Wednesday, February 15, 2012
America loves the underdog. And, right now, they can’t get enough of Jeremy Lin!
This fantastic Cinderella story continues to get better by the day as the New York Knicks’ rookie point continues to “wow” crowds in the Big Apple and throughout North America.
Tuesday night in Toronto was one of the latest examples of “Linsanity” on display. With his team down by as many as 15 points in the second half, Lin helped lead the Knicks back into the game scoring 12 of his 27 points in the 4th quarter including the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining. That shot even brought the Raptors’ fans to their feet who gave Lin a roaring ovation.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Lin who scored 38 Friday night at Madison Square Garden and was the best player on the floor in a game that featured Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was asked before the game what he thought of Lin and he said, "I don't know anything about him." I'll bet he was singing a different tune after leaving the Garden last Friday.
Yes, Jeremy Lin’s story transcends sports. For his is not a story of your typical road to NBA stardom. It is, in fact, the farthest thing from it.
Back at Palo Alto High School in California, Lin was nothing more than a 6-foot scrawny kid who probably weighed 150-pounds soaking wet. For that reason primarily, he garnered very little attention from division one basketball schools.
Lin wanted to play college basketball at Stanford University in his own backyard but they wouldn’t even give him so much as a sniff. But there were two schools that had more than a passing interest in his talents – Brown and Harvard.
Coast Guard Academy men’s basketball coach Kevin Jaskiewicz , then an assistant at Brown, noticed Lin out in Las Vegas and knew the kid was special. “His physical stature was nothing to look at,” said Jaskiewicz. “He was this scrawny kid who didn’t fit the prototype of a division one point guard. But when you watched him play, you could see how talented he was. He was very unselfish about getting the ball to his open teammates, but he also showed how he could control the ball and control the game like all great point guards do.”
Brown was actually Lin’s first official visit to a division one school, before even Harvard. While on campus, he played with some of the Brown players but didn’t necessarily stand out according to those who played with him. Maybe he was overwhelmed being a high school senior and playing with college players. Or maybe he was just being an unselfish player which was his trait.
Whatever the case, Harvard stepped up its pursuit of Lin and he decided to forego four years in Providence in exchange for four in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“It’s too bad he didn’t come to Brown,” Jaskiewicz said. “He could have been the heir apparent to Jason Forte who was one of our all-time greats.” That could have been 8 great years of point guard play for Brown fans to enjoy.
None-the-less, Lin matriculated to Harvard where he had a solid 4-year career. He wasn’t drafted by an NBA team because, again, he didn’t fit the prototype.
You see, the NBA like all pro sports league, can stereotype certain players. Despite what they might see with their very own eyes, the facts tell them something different.
“I look at a guy like Kurt Warner and compare Jeremy to him,” said Jaskiewicz. “How could so many NFL GM’s miss on Warner?”
Here’s how. The NFL wants their quarterbacks to be 6’-5” and 215 pounds. They want their quarterbacks to have a rifle for an arm. Warner didn’t fit that mold coming out of Northern Iowa. The same goes for Jeremy Lin.
While 6’-3” isn’t big by NBA standards, it is acceptable for the point guard position. But Lin didn’t have the solid, muscular frame they’re looking for. Even worse, he didn’t play at a high-major program like Syracuse or UConn, he played at a low major in Harvard in the Ivy League which doesn’t send players to the NBA. Never mind that he scored 30 on Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies in a non-league game while playing for the Crimson.
Oh, by the way, he is also of Asian descent (Taiwanese) and, in case you didn’t notice, the NBA isn’t exactly chalk full of players of that race.
But Lin has overcome those stereotypes and is now the #1 attraction in the #1 city in the world. And his ascension is also paying big dividends for the NY Knicks.
Not only is the team undefeated (6-0 at the time of publication) since he assumed a spot in the starting line-up, TV ratings on the MSG Network for Knick games is up 70% since his arrival, traffic on the team’s website is up 550% and MSG stock (the company that owns the team) is up 10%.
Talk about having a major impact.
Many question how long Lin can continue this high level of play and whether or not he's just a "flash in the pan?" Not Jaskiewicz. "As good as he was in college averaging 16-18 points per game, I think he could be even better in the pros," he said. "The NBA game is more suited to his style. It's wide open and the people he throws the ball to can finish."
What makes this such a delicious story for the average sports fan to devour is the fact that this is the complete Cinderella story package. Humble kid who was overlooked in high school, college and even the pros (he was cut by both Golden State and Houston) who is making it big.
When he arrived in New York on a 10-day contract, he was sleeping on his brother’s couch because he couldn’t afford a place to live in Manhattan. Six games, 161-points (26.8 ppg) and 51 assists (8.5 apg) later, he now has a contract worth $762,195 which is the league-minimum for a player in his second year.
He also has his own apartment to sleep in at Trump Towers where he now spends $3,800 per month to rest his head.
He earned it.