Like everyone else, I’m writing my take on the topic, especially since so many reporters have hit me up over the past week to talk trends. If you happen to have stepped away from the NBA for a week, welcome back and prepare to have your entire world flipped upside-down. By the end of January, the New York Knicks were once again floundering in the Eastern Conference and headed toward a prolonged stretch without top-scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Things were looking bleak until they caught lightning in a bottle with point guard Jeremy Lin.
(Caption: The New York Post has declared today VaLINtine’s Day!)
I love this kid’s story! Lin, an undrafted free agent, was waived by my Golden State Warriors (not so much in love with this part) and picked up by the Rockets. The Rockets cut him the day before the season started, but he was soon signed as a backup point guard by the Knicks three days later. Lin wouldn’t get his big break until February 4th, when he recorded 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists against the Nets. Five stellar games later, and more importantly five wins later, #Linsanity was born!
(Caption: #Linsanity isn’t just an American craze. He’s even graced the front page of today’s Toronto Star ahead of the Knicks game against the Raptors tonight.)
There may be a few things you don’t know about the Knicks’ latest sensation. Here are five facts about Jeremy Lin!
1. He’s A Local Kid
Jeremy Lin grew up in StubHub’s backyard in nearby Palo Alto, California. He led Palo Alto High School to the California Division II State Championships in 2006 when he was a Senior, and was named the Division II Player of the Year. He was also named the San Francisco Chronicle Player of the Year. The most impressive part of all of this? He had a 4.2 GPA!
2. Harvard Isn’t A Basketball Hotbed
Despite all his high school accolades, the only Division I offer he received was from Harvard. Since Harvard is a part of the Ivy League, that “offer” did not come with any tuition scholarships. Even worse, the Crimson had never won an Ivy League title in its program’s history and was notorious for having a low emphasis on collegiate basketball. But even in the midst of this seemingly difficult situation, Lin thrived! He even got the attention of Hall of Fame UCONN coach Jim Calhoun who said Lin “really knows how to play” and could start on any team he’s coached. Although Lin had success, his NBA prospects were dim. The last Harvard player to play in the NBA? Ed Smith in 1953.
3. First Taiwanese-American in the NBA
As expected, Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft, but was eventually signed by the Warriors. I remember he had somewhat of a cult-following around the Bay Area and was immensely popular. He got his first moment of playing time in a memorable season-opening game of the 2010-2011 season when they finally put Lin in to a standing ovation. By making the Warriors, he became the first NBA player born in America of Chinese or Taiwanese decent.
4. He Was Almost Cut
Reports showed that Lin was on his last leg with the Knicks. With several players due to come back from injury and a Feb. 7 date looming which guaranteed Lin’s $788,000 contract for the entire year, Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni was planning on waiving Lin. The Knicks were 8-15 before their game with the Nets and a loss would have dropped them behind their New Jersey brethren in the standings. It was in this small window that Lin made the most of his opportunity! After that huge game, he followed it up with impressive performances and wins over Utah, Washington, the Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other player in NBA history has ever scored 20 points and recorded 7 assists in each of his first four starts. I think the Knicks will guarantee that contract now.
And, a story that is now legend: after he was signed by the Knicks to a 10-day contract on Dec. 27, Lin spent his time in New York crashing on his brother’s couch! Teammate Landry Fields tweeted this picture of that infamous couch and said “Let the bidding begin!” He should put that couch up for sale on eBay.
5. Probably Couldn’t Happen Anywhere But the NBA
We’ve had some pretty crazy sports stories recently, but I haven’t seen anything quite like Linsanity. Of course, the fact that Lin plays in the media capital of New York probably helps spur this hype, but it reminds me a little of Tebowmania. Even then, we all knew Tebow from his days winning National Championships at Florida. Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere! There was an interesting article that ran yesterday in the Chicago Tribune that argued Linsanity would never happen in MLB. The position is because of the recent steroid issues in the MLB, any meteoric rise would instantly be met with heightened scrutiny. They make an interesting point. I’m sure all baseball fans remember fondly the Fernandomania craze of 1981, when Dodgers’ pitcher Fernando Valenzuela burst on the scene, but when Jose Bautista came out of nowhere and belted a league-leading 54 home runs with the Blue Jays in 2010, he was instantly met with cries of “What are you taking!?!” and failed to generate much buzz.