“People gravitate toward one part of his story based on their own story, based on what’s important to them,” said Peter Chin, a Washington area pastor. “There’s a lot of reasons to be compelled by this because there’s something for everyone.”
Lin’s tale of woe and redemption has been difficult to miss: scholarship-less out of high school, he went Harvard. Team-less after the NBA draft, he bounced around the league. Jobless at the start of 2012, he’s now a bona fide star. The NBA emerged from its messy labor strife last year facing an uncertain future, and at the season’s midpoint, Lin is suddenly the league’s biggest hope.
In the Knicks’ most recent game — a 100-85 victory over Sacramento on Wednesday evening — Lin lobbed an alley-oop pass toward the hoop, and fans jumped from their seats. For a second, it felt like Madison Square Garden was lifting off the ground. And it’s true, New York — the city’s basketball diehards and novices alike — are intoxicated with “Linsanity,” floating together, enjoying this unlikely trip and hoping they never have to come down.
“The fans are on fire,” Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said.
“It’s really indescribable,” guard Landry Fields said.
“It’s a lot right now,” Lin conceded last week. “I think I’m getting used to it a little more.”
A unique intersection
Lin has played significant minutes in the past seven games, and the Knicks have won them all — even without star forward Carmelo Anthony. Fans tune in around the globe to watch the player who’s burst onto the public consciousness like few before him.
“At this point, it’s pretty clear he’s bigger than sports,” said Mike Yam, an ESPN sportscaster.
The crowd at Madison Square Garden wears masks depicting Lin’s face. They wave the Taiwanese flag and hold signs celebrating “Super Lin-tendo,” “To Lin-finity and beyond,” and “Lin-sync.” He’s quickly become a rallying point, dribbling a ball at a unique intersection where culture, religion and sport meet.
Yam went to a New York bar Wednesday night, talking to Asian Americans as they watched Lin and the Knicks. Their reactions, he said, weren’t like those of typical sports fans. “There is a glow they all have,” he said. “This is one of their own really making them all proud. Yao Ming was big, but he was from China. Jeremy Lin is Asian American, and there’s been no one like him before.”
Lin was born to Taiwanese parents whose roots stretch to China, he graduated from an Ivy League school, and he openly shares his faith. Despite his unlikely trajectory, his success is perched on familiar pillars for many Asian Americans.