There isn’t a doubt that Jeremy Lin is a phenomenon. An Asian Rudy that was cut by two separate NBA franchises and sent to the D-League before being given a chance by his current team to go on to glory to ignite a basketball team, a metropolis, and the whole country? What the fuck? This can’t be real. Aaron Sorkin couldn’t write a better script than this. What he is doing for the New York Knicks and, let’s be completely real here, the entire NBA is nothing short of remarkable. You cannot turn on your TV, log in on a social media website, listen to the radio, etc. without a mere mention of Lin-mania. He has taken this country by storm. People actually give a shit about the New York Knicks! Trust me…that hasn’t happened in a while. However, his potentially far-reaching social impact is what tantalizes me just as much as his influence on the dynamic of the current NBA season.
As a New York Knicks fan, the Jeremy Lin story is by far the most captivating thing that I’ve witnessed in a decade and a half. There have been many Knicks fans who have given up on the team, came back after the Knickerbockers traded for Carmelo, lost interest again after the Knicks started underachieving at the beginning of this year, and now are all lin (try to not dry heave all over your computer screen). The energy and excitement that I feel from fellow Knicker-lovers is something that matches (and may even exceed) the enthusiasm people had for the mid-90’s Knicks teams. In the past 15 years, the only two things that have come anywhere close to this as national stories are the run the Knicks had in 1999 as an eighth seed to almost win a NBA championship and the Melo-drama (I think we’ve all grown tired of the Lin puns so a pun using another player’s name should be a welcome breath of fresh air) of the Knicks pursuit of Anthony. Neither touch what is going on right now. Not. Eve. Fucking. Close. It has captured the imagination of almost every basketball fan that I know and has drawn the interest of people who aren’t even interested in the NBA in the slightest. There are some people who feel that this is a New York media propelled story that wouldn’t have legs if this happened in a smaller market. Bullshit. There are other factors obviously in play here like the underdog story (The general public have a sense of fairness and parity that they love to see be played out.), the numbers that he is putting up, the fact he’s from Harvard (who has produced more U.S. Presidents than NBA players), the fact that he keeps “Linning” (yeah, I went there), the fact that he has brought a charter team from the brink of collapse to looking competitive, and, last but not least, the fact that he’s an Taiwanese American.
So what does a Taiwanese American basketball player on the Knicks have any sort of impact on me other than the fact that he’s on my favorite team? What many of you may not know is that I’m a Muslim brown man. There have been many Muslim basketball players in my lifetime. A lot of them great (Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon), some good to solid (Shareef Abdur Rahim, Larry Johnson, etc.) some shunned (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), and some even nondescript (Tariq Abdul Wahad, Nazr Mohammad, etc. ). I’ve always tried to keep up with all of them. However, there has never been a brown athlete in American professional sports. Not one in baseball, football and there’s definitely never been one in hockey. There has never been an athlete that looks like me. One thing I’ve noticed in sports and in other aspects of this country (like Hollywood, the music industry, etc.) is that after black people start breaking down the walls, the other races start slowly start to break through the pop culture barriers as well. Asians have usually broke down the barrier before brown people. So Jeremy Lin gives me that hope that someone who looks like me will eventually be playing professional basketball. I know, I know. “Why do you care if someone who looks like you is playing basketball?” It’s easy to say that when you’re not Asian or brown. There weren’t many pop culture role models that I was turning to when I was child that looked like me. And there are a few that are in the pipeline (Satnam Singh Bhamara from India and Sim and Tanveer Bhullar from Pennsylvania). Now, I have hope that there will eventually be a brown athlete that breaks through. Jeremy Lin gives me hope that the stereotypes of Asians not being able to ball are slowly crumbling. He also gives me hope that brown people got next.