From media outlets in New York to San Francisco and everywhere in between, we’ve read the stories. From everyday sports chats to comments by top sports talk radio personalities, we’ve heard the buzz. And from arena signs and celebrity tweets to every seemingly possible pun, few of us have not been affected by this new insanity. Linsanity. As with all major stories, even the most extraordinary, the initial commotion that had surrounded the epic rise of Jeremy Lin has slowly died down a month or so into ‘Linsanity.’ His stellar plays in February undoubtedly lit up the sports world, and although I may not be the greatest follower of basketball, I must admit that I, myself, have also been caught up in all of the hype. With his constantly updated game highlights to the millions of comments on various social media sites, it could be safe to suggest that the phenomenon that has circled around this young Taiwanese-American Palo Alto native has provided a many number of Asian-Americans with a new sense of inspiration.
From the surface, the elements of his story are already compelling. The rise of an Asian-American basketball player with a devout Christian faith who had went undrafted upon graduation from Harvard University was suddenly, filling up the box scores and winning for one of the NBA’s mainstream teams– all while sleeping on his brother’s couch just days before his scheduled release from the team. It really is the perfect fairy tale.
However, the reason that Lin’s tale has resonated with so many (especially Asian-Americans) is not the fact that he went from being a complete unknown to being the top pick of the century in fantasy basketball leagues. The true moment that resonates with us is not his game-winning three-pointer against the Raptors with less than a second to play. Nor is it his 38-point victory over the Lakers after Kobe Bryant had said that he had no idea who Lin was. Instead, the significance of Lin does not just come from being an athlete playing for a team. Jeremy Lin, in a sense, is playing for the whole Asian culture and our representation to the rest of the world. And because of this, Lin’s recent emergence has further resonated and inspired not only me, personally, but young Asian-Americans everywhere.
Given the mindset of society today, it is not a surprise that quite a few hints of racism have been aimed at his growing fame. Unfortunately, Asian-Americans know all too well the feelings of being overlooked in this Western world and I’m sure there are many people with slightly similar stories– filled with the same familiar challenges, perceptions, and judgements he has experienced. But despite the complications Lin has faced along the way, he continues each and every day to not only put up unprecedented numbers, but to capture the imagination of mainstream American culture. The optimist in me hopes that this might be the start of something wonderful and new for Asian-Americans everywhere. Jeremy Lin has, in my mind, truly transcended the game. He has succeeded in getting people to think about more than just hoops– he’s triumphed in making Asian-Americans, like myself, believe that we, as well, can transcend other aspects of society. And that alone is the greatest gift of all.
Here are a couple of thoughts: