Lin is Bigger Than Basketball

Posted: February 24, 2012 in NBA
Tags: , , , ,

Yeah, I know the Heat beat the Nicks last night, and Jeremy Lin had an awful night.  And yeah, I know Jeremy Lin isn’t the remedy for everything that ails New York.

But understand this: the Jeremy Lin STORY is much bigger and more important than basketball. It’s a cultural breakthrough that will resonate for years.

Comparisons to Tim Tebow don’t do Lin justice. That’s about celebritymania in the age of social media and way too much media with way too many talking heads looking for something to say and fill airtime.

Lin is the first Asian-American to make any kind of impact in a true worldwide sport. He has broken new ground. He has convinced millions – billions? – of people they can go where they’ve never gone before; they can do something they’ve never done before.

While this isn’t a story about righting a horrible wrong, it is a chapter in the same book about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball; about Kara Hultgreen, the first female fighter pilot; about Lee Elder being the first black to play in the Masters.

Lin joins other pioneers who went where their kind had never been:

O.J. Simpson doing a national television commercial for a car rental company . . .

Tiger Woods dominating a white man’s sport . . .

John Glenn circling the earth in a space craft . . .

JFK, a Catholic, being elected as our president . . .

Barack Obama . . . Lee Trevino . . . Aretha Gibson . . . Jesse Owens . . . Rosie O’Donnell . . . Wendell Scott . . . Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali . . .

Clearly, the magnitude and significance of their accomplishments vary greatly, but the message is the same. One day, Asia-Americans in the NBA may be thought of as non-newsworthy as Hispanics and Japanese in Major League Baseball; blacks in golf; gays in the military; women in all walks of life.

Perhaps what is most significant about the Lin story is how we all are celebrating his accomplishment. Naysayers are no where in sight. He is seen as the ultimate underdog who reached the mountain top and nothing else. No one is bothered by his skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, politics or nationality.

Being Asian-American is a wonderful afterthought. The only people rooting against him are NBA fans who don’t like the New York Knicks.


  1. Wyman says:

    Although there is a lot of truth in what you’re saying and I applaud you for pointing it out, I want to see if Jeremy Lin comes back next season and plays as well as he has so far this season, rather than judge him on a strike-shortened season, where many of the players may not be in shape or their normal game up to par.

    I hope he is the real deal. I’ve never thought too highly of the NBA draft. Teams draft guys who are immediate failures in the first round and pass on guys, who become stars after getting a free-agent shot at making an NBA team. I was hoping the D-League might change this, but it hasn’t. Instead, we get NBA teams drafting too many kids out of high school, one-and-done players, and underclassmen, who clearly are not ready to compete, as even almost complete players, at the NBA level.

    Jeremy Lin, may ironicly, open the door to many players, who wash-out of the NBA today, from lack of opportunity to develop and show their skills, because of the big guaranteed contracts many players get, which leads to their positions being protected. If so, the quality of play in the NBA may improve, even as salaries go down. We will have to wait and see. Maybe Jeremy Lin was an overlooked superstar guard. Time will tell.

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