And that’s when it happened.
With Lin directing traffic, the Knicks started sharing the ball more. Moving. Passing. Scoring. Chest-bumping in midair. All because Lin is a stutter-stepping, stopping, popping, player making the Garden go mad with noise and belief.
“He’s unified the team,” former Wizard Jared Jeffries said. “He’s given our team a new energy.”
Who knows if Lin one day becomes an elite point guard in the NBA, whether a returning Anthony and Stoudemire and their need for the ball even allow that. Who cares? One week in, it’s still worth asking: How did an undrafted Harvard economics graduate become the marquee billing on a Friday night at Madison Square Garden involving the Knicks and Lakers?
Lin didn’t merely overcome basketball-pedigree stereotypes to make it to the NBA; he overcame ethnic stereotypes, which sadly have manifested themselves in Asian slurs across the Internet since his breakout performances the past week.
Less offensive was the white kid with the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Point Guard” sign, which drew a few glares at Verizon on Wednesday night. So did G-Wiz, the team’s mascot, while karate-chopping a cinder block marked “Knick” at midcourt. (The team said this was coincidental and part of the blue furry beast’s usual schtick.)
The flip side is the outpouring of racial pride and identification for millions of Asian Americans, who dreamed the NBA dream growing up and had to deal with the reality that the few players of their ethnicity who had played at the highest level professionally were from overseas.
To them, Lin, California-reared and Harvard-educated, is in effect Yao Ming with a crossover, who just happens to speak perfect English.
“I think there’s a parallel with Allen Iverson, where he was like 6-foot and under and he become people’s favorite player because of that,” said Joe Kim, another fan of Lin’s who lives and works in Washington. “Now we have someone we can relate to with Jeremy Lin. He’s not fast. He can’t jump that high. But he has that IQ, that presence. I think a lot of kids imitate that and can relate.”
Added Lee, his friend from Harvard, “You look at the folks in the crowd: It’s not just Asian-Americans. People of different backgrounds are supporting this guy. I think he inspires all of us, regardless of our race, to believe that anything is possible.”
He’s dominating Internet traffic. He’s outplaying Deron Williams, Devin Harris and John Wall. And some guy in the lower bowl of the arena is turning a tired Asian stereotype on its head.
Indeed, who says Jeremy can’t drive toward the rim?
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.