For a few weeks in February, New York City and the NBA were swept up by the phenomenon known as Linsanity. Jeremy Lin, an Asian American basketball player originally from Palo Alto, California was all anybody talked about in the media and on social networking sites. ESPN coverage reported his story and his stat lines for hours on end. He has been featured on not 1, but 2 Sports Illustrated covers this year. In no time at all, he went from a bench warmer to a starter that everybody in the sports world could recognize. No matter where you looked over this span of time, you would find Jeremy Lin.
Why was Jeremy Lin such an incredible story that seemed worthy of our undivided attention?
First of all, he played absolutely brilliant basketball. In his first month of play, he was averaging 20.9 points and 8.4 assists, a stat line that rivaled any elite point guard in the NBA. Also, there was a certain understated confidence to his game. He never lauded his own achievements in post-game victories, but when the game was on the line during their win streak, the ball was in his hands. However, excellent play in the NBA for short periods of time often goes unnoticed. There are several other explanations for why his play began to come under the microscope of ESPN and basketball enthusiasts everywhere.
One answer is that sports enthusiasts always appreciate the underdog. Lin was not always an underdog as he was an outstanding high school basketball player, but powerhouse D1 schools all passed on his talent until he arrived at Harvard. Despite posting very solid numbers in college ball, Lin still went undrafted. He was finally signed by the Warriors, but did not particularly impress his coaches or the fans even when given playing time. He was even sent to the NBA D-League three separate times. After the season, he was released where he eventually made his way to the Knicks. Therefore, his immediate success as a starter was unexpected. He had always been overlooked when recruited and even when given playing time in his rookie year, he did not exceed expectations. People were utterly surprised by this unknown player’s amazing show of skill during these weeks in February and thus his meteoric rise was even more lauded.
In addition, fans of the NBA and sports in general frequently root for players that they can relate to through shared experiences. Lin played at a superstar level, but did not have a ridiculous contract. For this reason he did not seems too elevated above the common fan, which made him relatable. In fact, he was living on his brother’s couch during his first week as an NBA starter. There didn’t seem to be a barrier between him and the everyday fan. Even casual NBA viewers appreciated his success.
Linsanity has died down in recent weeks, but Jeremy Lin’s story provided the NBA with a great boost in popularity among casual fans and also provided many with the opportunity to cheer for somebody who seemed relatable. The 2011-2012 season of the NBA will be remembered by some for Jeremy Lin’s rise to success and the insane media coverage that followed.