Jeremy Lin: Bigger Than The Knicks, Bigger Than The NBA

OPINION

 @Gooch700
on February 21 2012 2:03 PM

Jeremy Lin did not play all that well Monday night. In fact, he fouled out of the game, which the New York Knicks lost to the New Jersey Nets.

Carmelo Anthony’s much-dreaded return to the lineup from injury probably did not help Lin’s game -- still, ‘Linsanity’ scored a respectable 21 points, made nine assists, grabbed seven rebounds, had four steals and only three turnovers.

Moreover, according to ESPN, over the past 10 games, Lin is averaging 24.6 points per game and 9.2 assists per game, with a field goal percentage of 0.497 (which means about half of his shots are seeing nothing but net).

Incidentally, while the Knicks have lost only two games since Lin started, they are still at 16-17, which likely means they will struggle to make the playoffs this season.

Yet, none of this really matters to Lin’s tens of millions of fans around the globe.

Aside from a handful of hard-core New York Knicks fanatics who have supported the club through thick and thin since the championship days of Walt Frazier, no one much cares anymore if the Knicks win or not.

All they care about is that Jeremy Lin excels and dazzles the crowd with spin moves, slam dunks and lots of jump shots.

Sure, it would be nice if Linsanity were accompanied by Knick victories, but it’s not really even necessary.

Lin has done something that is almost unheard of – he went from being a nobody to a global icon (in a matter of one week). Not even Michael Jordan could accomplish such a feat.

Lin is now much bigger than the Knicks and even bigger than the NBA.

I know people in Manhattan who love Jeremy Lin who simply do not care about the NBA or sports in general. He has become a completely new kind of idol and celebrity.

Jeremy Lin, with his utterly captivating and unique back-story (Asian-American, Harvard graduate, etc.), has drawn tens of millions of fans around the glove simply because of who and what he is (not who he plays for or who pays his salary).

In a sense, Lin may now be trapped by his sudden, dizzying fame.

He can’t really top what he has already done unless he accomplishes something freakish and extraordinary like scoring 100 points in a game or curing cancer or something.

In the last week, his legacy has already been established and sealed -- Asian-American super-celebrity; destroyer of stereotypes and a new model for 21st century manhood.

Where does one go when one has already reached the summit of global fame so quickly?

Lin can name his own ticket now – he doesn’t really even have to play for the Knicks anymore. He is like some cartoon superhero that can do no wrong and enjoys powers that mere mortals cannot even dream of.

But I don’t think Lin is like that – he won’t coast on his instant fame. He likely wants to work harder and become the best point guard he can be and try to help the Knicks (who are a long way from contending for a championship) get better.

But he may not be able to pursue such a mundane and dreary trajectory as that.

After this season is over, Lin will be offered obscene amounts of money, not only by the Knicks to a long-term contracts, but also by deep-pocketed corporations desperate to exploit his global brand, by Hollywood, by book publishers, perhaps even by the Chinese government, who reportedly want him to play for their basketball team in the London Olympics.

After all that, how can he possibly remain “just another teammate” (even with his well documented humility and spirituality)?

No, it can’t be done. Lin is a bigger star than anyone right now – his fame will likely keep growing as long as he plays well (or even decently).

It won’t matter if the Knicks win or not, because, quite frankly, no one really cares about the Knicks.

It’s Lin's world – the other Knicks (and the rest of us) just happen to live in it.

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