Wow. Jeremy Lin, hunh? The twenty-three-year-old, Asian American, Harvard grad who went undrafted, was cut by two teams, and landed on the New York Knicks behind the likes of Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas, and Iman Shumpert… before they all went down with injury and he became the starting point guard. The starting point guard who led the Knicks to six straight victories, capped (for now) by last night’s last second three to take down the Toronto Raptors. He’s had the greatest rookie start (points-wise) of ANYONE in the NBA (including Jordan, Iverson, etc.) and he’s become an absolute lightning rod.
But I still say one thing sets him apart.
Floyd Meriweather says no one cares about Lin except that he’s Asian, saying that there are plenty of players doing what Lin’s doing in the NBA without getting recognized because they’re African American. At one point, various media were opining about how Lin was better than Kobe. Various talking heads were talking about how good Lin COULD BE, as if it wasn’t enough for Lin to just be good RIGHT NOW. And that was before the media got wind of his strong Christian beliefs.
I can’t wait to see what happens. Really. It’s already begun, the inevitable comparisons. Maybe it’s that while Lin has led rookies in scoring over a debut, he’s also set a record for turnovers. Unlike Tebow, he’s actually beaten a good team in the regular season (L.A. is the only team above .500 that they’ve played in that stretch) but like Tebow, he’s padded his stats beating up on the lowly (with Sacramento and New Orleans up next). But seriously, who cares?
Lin has made the Knicks matter again, something that Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony haven’t done. [Editor’s note: why do Anthony’s teams have better winning percentages when he’s NOT on the court? See: Denver Nuggets, Knicks.] I’m no fan of the Knicks but I couldn’t ignore the highlights of Lin’s performances, and finally, intentionally, tuned into a Knicks game the other night.
And Lin flashed that smile, roared with pleasure, and took on all comers. He rattled home dunks, hit threes, and calmly sank free throws. And his team couldn’t have been more united with him as their floor leader. And he played with joy, with passion.
That’s the thing I’ll take away from the phenomena of Jeremy Lin, as long as it lasts. Sure, he’s winning, and elevating his team’s play, but he actually WANTS to be out there. As a thirtysomething who will never dunk, I can appreciate a guy who plays hard and goes after loose balls and the rim as hard as I do at the Y, and seems to be humbly gracious in the truth that he could be sitting at home on his brother’s couch instead of balling in the league. He’s thankful for the opportunity, and he’s living it up, soaking in every minute, for the joy of the game and the glory of God.
Sure, there are other guys with game in the league, but few I’ve seen in twenty years who play with the joy.