“Linsanity” was a phenomenon unlike any New York City had seen. Where does Jeremy Lin fit into the Brooklyn Nets’ future as he fights to come back from injury?
Most revolutions start quietly. A signature here, a phone call there. For Jeremy Lin, It was a lay-up on a cold night in New Jersey of all places.
With three minutes and thirty-five seconds left in the first quarter, a man few in the basketball world were familiar with checked in at center court of Madison Square Garden. Waived by the Warriors in December (Mark Jackson, then in his first year as the Warriors head coach, would later admit he never watched Lin attempt so much as a lay-up), Lin was picked up by the Knicks two days after Christmas 2017. Lin had played sparingly to that point (just six minutes per contest). Expectations were low.
Jeremy Lin turned the corner early in the second quarter for his first bucket. A lob to Tyson Chandler for a crushing dunk closed the period. Lin had registered six points and three assists, but the raw numbers don’t adequately describe the impact his energy was having on both ends. Adrenaline had been mainlined into the Garden.
Lin checked out of the game with 25 points, 7 assists and, most importantly, a win. Most NBA analysts thought it was a flash-in-the-pan, but the big nights kept coming, including 38 points on Kobe Byrant and the Lakers and a walk-off game-winning three on the Toronto Raptors:
Lin racked up numbers in Mike D’Antoni‘s system, finishing the month with averages of 20.9 points, 8.4 assists and 4 rebounds per game. A combination of Lin’s exciting play, the New York spotlight, and the Knicks actually winning games (seven in a row, nine of eleven after Linsanity started) catapulted the unassuming point guard into the center of a media feeding-frenzy.
By the end of February 2012, the undrafted ivy-league graduate was one of the three or four most recognizable basketball players on the planet. “Linsanity” indeed.
You Had To Be There
On every corner of every developing country, there’s an insufferable expat telling complete strangers some version of the following: “it’s nice now, but it was so much better ten years ago.” I hate that person. Listen as my self-loathing hits a crescendo: Even though we’re only six years removed from Linsanity, you really had to be a basketball fan over a certain age to fully understand how incredible it was.
Jeremy Lin graced the front cover of Sports Illustrated, Time, and just about every publication in America. It was impossible to avoid him. Time magazine went as far as to include Lin in the publication’s annual “100 most influential people” list, claiming:
“(Lin)…debunks and defangs so many of the prejudices and stereotypes that unfairly hold children back. He’s dispelled the idea that Asian-American guards somehow couldn’t hack it in the NBA — and that being a world-class athlete on the court is somehow at odds with being an excellent student off the court.”
While the writer is underselling how incredibly difficult it is to be both a world-class athlete AND an excellent student (let alone a Harvard-level student), the notion that Jeremy Lin debunked a lot of stereotypes is very real. Asian-Americans have long been under-represented in the major American sports leagues. Lin was tangible proof that it was more than possible.