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The unheralded, undrafted underdog story is one that is regularly swept up by all sports fans, yet even in the year of NFL star Tim Tebow none can compare with the unprecedented rise from bench warmer to global basketball star of Jeremy Lin. 23 year old Asian American Lin is shining on one of the biggest stages in all of pro sports in the America’s biggest media market, playing for the storied and long downtrodden New York Knicks in the NBA’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. His remarkable tale is reverberating around the world at an almost Charlie Sheen-esque rate of hype. This “Linderella” story isn’t just a charming headline to sell newspapers on Manhattan street corners—it’s a legitimate sports mania.
Overlooked by top college basketball scouts, economics major Lin was educated at Harvard University, a startling fact for a professional athlete.
Moreover, experts continued to disregard Lin even after an outstanding senior season at Harvard in 2009-10, as none of the 30 NBA teams chose to draft him. He was eventually picked up but subsequently released after brief spells with the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. The Knicks were also about to release Lin until injuries to their established guards forced them to keep him.
As fate would have it, Lin burst forth with a record display of scoring and passing. Lin scored 129 points in his first five starts, more than any other NBA player has ever done in that span. The highlight during this run was a 38 point effort in a victory over Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. No athlete as unknown as Lin has leaped to the fore in major league competition to outdo the best in the profession, led a losing team to victories during his first few starts, and set a city afire with enthusiasm- the Madison Square Garden network and coverage of Knicks’ games are up 70% in the New York market.
One aspect of Lin’s story which is particularly endearing is the racial aspect. In a league of predominantly black and white professional athletes, his pioneering role as an Asian American star is taking a new found place in the NBA, giving hope to younger generations. It is no surprise that Chinatown is enthralled over this unexpected stardom for one of its own. Time Magazine have also acted, putting Lin on the cover of its Taiwan and China issues. Knicks legend and TV analyst Walt Frazier commented “this league is dominated by African Americans. What are the odds of an Asian guy coming on and having this impact? It’s amazing. It’s inexplicable.”
It is unknown how long Lin’s hype and double-digit scoring ability will last but basketball fans will be optimistic Lin’s shining star will not extinguish so shortly after coming into view. Fame has crept up upon Jeremy Lin all of a sudden, yet he remains the second most famous former Harvard student to play basketball- the most famous lives in the White House and is apparently caught up by “Linsanity” too.