LINSANITY! is sweeping the nation, and you're still fairly certain that that's not even a word. That's OK; it's not, really. But every now and then, a figure from the sports world emerges, words are invented (remember Tebowing?), and the athlete in question very quickly becomes impossible to ignore—even for non sports fans. This month, the unavoidable sports guy is Jeremy Lin, a 23-year-old Harvard grad and NBA player.
But Jeremy Lin is so much more than that.
Oh, please. Who is Jeremy Lin?
Jeremy Shu-How Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. Before that, he was playing the NBA's Development League; before that, he was sitting on the bench with the NBA's Golden State Warriors; before that, he was the starting point guard for the Harvard University basketball team; before that, he played high school basketball in Palo Alto, Calif., where he grew up. That is basically his entire life story.
I feel like you're not telling me everything.
Oh, right: He's pretty Christian and certain that his skills are god-given. Remember how everyone freaked out over Tim Tebow because he was so religious? Well, no one's doing that with Lin, and nobody can figure out why.
Isn't it because there's something else to Jeremy Lin?
Hmm... He did get an Economics degree from Harvard. Smart kid.
No, I mean, like, something else. Something noticeable.
Well, now that you mention it, it is extremely rare for a player from the Ivy League to succeed in the NBA. Geoff Petrie was great in the 1970s, and Bill Bradley is something of a New York legend. They were both Princeton guys.
OK, really? C'mon. I mean, I'm talking about the fact that he's Asian.
Ha ha, oh right!
Jeremy Lin is also an Asian-American. This is notable because very few Asians play professional basketball in the United States! Lin's parents, Gie-Ming and Shirley, are Taiwanese immigrants; Lin and his two brothers are first-generation Americans. The Lins came to the U.S. in the 1970s to study at Purdue. Shirley adored Dr. J, and Gie-Ming taught his sons to shoot the basketball like Larry Bird. Jeremy grew to be 6-foot-3, and he helped his high school team win a state title in California.
Cute story. So why is he suddenly the most famous guy in New York?
Lin only became a very relevant NBA player about two weeks ago, when he came out of nowhere to score 25 points against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4. And by nowhere, I mean the bench: He'd only played in six of the Knicks' 19 games before that fateful day, and usually only for a few minutes.
Since then, he has been kicking ass. It's almost superhuman. The NBA's very set in its franchise stars. You rarely see a player dominate games so suddenly and so completely—especially in that player's second year in the league. Lin's rise was especially unexpected: His contract with the Knicks only became guaranteed last week. Before that, his future in the NBA was so uncertain that he hadn't even found an apartment. He'd been crashing on his brother's couch on Manhattan's Lower East Side. (Naturally, everyone found that to be especially humble and endearing.)
Lin's played the majority of the last six games for the Knicks, and he's been a member of the starting lineup for the past five. In that stretch, the Knicks are a perfect 6-0, even without two of their best players (Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire) on the floor for most of it. And in that stretch, Lin's averaged 26.8 points and 8.5 assists a game. Those are very, very good numbers for a point guard. Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers is largely considered the NBA's best starting point, and he's currently averaging 18.5 points and 9 assists a game.
Last night's win (let's just call it a Lin) was especially absurd. The Knicks played a pretty mediocre game against the Toronto Raptors, and everyone who's been fawning over Lin for the past two weeks was going on Twitter to say dramatic stuff like, "The dream is over," or "Told you it couldn't last." But then the Knicks held Toronto to just five points in the final five minutes. Lin scored eight of New York's final 14 points, including a game-winning three-pointer with 0.5 seconds to play. But let's be clear: Lin didn't just score a big basket. He toyed with his defender at the top of the key for a while, and then, cold-blooded as ever, pulled up for a three-pointer, and nailed it. The Knicks didn't even need a three-pointer for the win! But Jeremy Lin does not care, because he is Linsane in the membrane.
Wow! That is LINSANE, even if I don't really know what those numbers mean, or fully understand that new popular phrase yet. So is this guy, like, an All-Star, or whatever?
Well, not yet. There is a definite possibility that his numbers will regress a bit, and that the New York Post will find a new target for terrible puns. But he is very good, and both the NBA and the Knicks are currently reveling in their most favorable marketing opportunity since Yao Ming.
Why is there so much hype, though? It has to die out at some point.
Oh, you know how white people are. We're fairly certain that black people are physically gifted and Asian people are mentally gifted, and it's, like, so wild when those conceptions are shattered by a charming, capable young man who happens to be both! When that kind of thing happens, we're naturally compelled to tweet and write things on Facebook about it. (Yours truly included.)
I guess it's only been 11 days since it started. The response to Jeremy probably hasn't gotten too stupid yet, right?
Oh, it has. It has also doubled back on itself and eaten its own tail. And it can only get dumber from here. You should just join the bandwagon now and enjoy the Linning while you can, or close your eyes and continue to pretend it doesn't exist.
[Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Getty.]