Six starts. Six wins. Suddenly, the same Knicks that were in “crisis” mode, according to head coach Mike D’Antoni, are now a major threat in the Eastern Conference.
With the help of Jeremy Lin–who essentially came out of nowhere–the Knicks have climbed their way back to .500. I’ve been watching professional basketball for almost my entire life, and I have never, ever seen something that comes close to the phenomenon that is Jeremy Lin.
Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976.
Lin has done it all in such a short period of time. A career-high 38 points. A career-high 13 assists. A career-high 44 minutes. He even hit a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left to beat the Raptors in a wild Air Canada Centre. Naysayers will be quick to point out his high turnover ratio; optimists will point out his flawless win-to-loss ratio.
Whatever it is, it’s working. All the Knicks seeming to be doing these days is just LINning and LINning. In fact, he’s been so good so fast, the NBA has already added him to the Haier Shooting Stars Challenge and the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend.
It’s truly an amazing story–from being cut by the Warriors, to being cut by the Clippers (could you imagine Lin feeding Blake Griffin alley-oops all game?!), to almost being cut by the Knicks while he’s sleeping on his brother’s couch. Teams even passed over him twice when he was a free agent–Lin literally could have landed anywhere in the NBA at any time.
It’s a media frenzy not seen since…well, Broncos’ QB Tim Tebow earlier this season. But still, so many puns and Twitter hashtags have been created over the past week; #LINNING, #LINception, #LINsanity, #SuperLintendo, #WinForLIN, #LINderella, #LINYourFace, #VaLINtinesDay, #LINLongAndProsper, #AllIDoIsLINLINLIN. My favourite? “Who says Asians can’t drive?” Is it racist? Absolutely. But it’s hysterical, and it shows you just how far everyone is willing to go to get In On Lin.
What’s even more fun is watching the excitement and energy that the Harvard graduate brings to the hardwood. He’s only been known to the general public for a week-and-a-half, and he’s already getting consistent “M-V-P” chants from the Madison Square Garden faithful–an award that Lin could potentially earn come the end of the 2011-12 season.
There’s one fool-proof way to see if someone is worth all the hype. Especially as a point guard, does that person make those around him better like a point guard is supposed to do? In Lin’s case, absolutely. Guys like Bill Walker and Steve Novak–names even some hardcore fantasy ballers aren’t familiar with–are becoming household names. These same Knicks were also without F Carmelo Anthony and F Amare Stoudemire during the emergence of Lin, and these two are among the most dominant players in the league. Believe it or not, their absence is a blessing in disguise–it has allowed Lin to truly spread the ball around without having to worry about Amare and Carmelo each getting their 20 someodd shots per game. By having their top two scoring options out of the lineup, Lin could truly distribute the ball equally among his four teammates on the floor, creating a balanced offence.
Here’s where it gets even more thought-provoking. Lin’s surfacing came when the Knicks were out of options, and D’Antoni chose to throw Lin to the wolves, days prior to deciding whether or not to release him entirely. Just as Lakers’ G Kobe Bryant said, the talent is always there, but sometimes, you just need the opportunity to succeed. And it’s absolutely, 100% true. There are countless examples, too. Miikka Kipprusoff’s trade from the Sharks to the Flames helped blossom him into one of the league’s best. James Harrison was undrafted out of Kent State in 2002. Hell, Antonio Gates wasn’t even drafted out of Kent State because he didn’t play football. Now, he’s one of the best tight ends in NFL history. Tom Brady’s emergence from behind Drew Bledsoe with the Bills. Warren Moon began his Hall of Fame career in the CFL. The list goes on. Anyways, my point is this: Lin’s story is obviously a unique one, but how many other stars are lurking in the shadows? Sometimes, the opportunity is simply not there for an athlete to truly demonstrate their skills. Who could be the next frenzy?
Whether you’re a fan of Lin or not, take a step back and watch your surroundings when he’s got the ball in his hands. The NBA, the world of professional sports, and the world outside of athletics need more feel-good stories like Jeremy Lin’s. Logically, there’s absolutely no way that Lin can maintain this pace for the rest of the season, let alone the rest of his career. But for now, while it lasts, sit back and enjoy the ride. Stories like this only come around once in a blue moon.
Call it whatever you want–LINsanity, LINning or LINception.
Whatever it is, the Jeremy Lin story is the most fun, refreshing story in the NBA in a very, very long time.