WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: Jeremy Lin #17 o...

Not getting much bench time these days. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I haven’t followed the NBA much since Magic.  I don’t mean the Orlando Magic, even the vintage variety with Shaquille O’Neal tearing down baskets (literally).  I mean Magic Johnson, who retired (for the first time) nearly twenty years ago.

Since then, I followed Isiah Thomas and the bad boy Pistons for a while, and then followed Alonzo Mourning for pretty much the duration of his career.  But my interest in the NBA was in a gradual decline and dropped to almost zero by the time Alonzo retired.

After all these years, I once again have an interest in the NBA.  Not because of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, but because of Jeremy Lin.  I’m getting live in-game updates of Knicks games.  The Knicks.  I’ve never been a fan of the Knicks, and they have often been on my “hated teams” list.

As a high school player, Lin was the player of the year in his state.  His state wasn’t Iowa, Idaho, or Montana.  It was California.  The most populous state in the nation.  And yet, the scholarship offers didn’t come  No interest from his dream school, UCLA.  No interest from hometown school Stanford.  So Lin packed his bags and traveled cross-country to his fallback school.

When was the last time you heard Harvard referred to as a fallback school?  But for Lin – talented both on the court and in the classroom, Harvard wasn’t where he wanted to be.  He wanting to be banging bodies with the hoops stars at the big schools, proving his mettle on the big stage.  Instead, he became a big fish in a small pond, starring for Harvard – and facing racist commends from opposing crowds and at least one opposing player.

The Harvard grad couldn’t find a job immediately after graduation.  He finally latched on with the Golden State Warriors in 2010 and played sparingly.  He was waived before this season began and claimed by the Rockets, who had him for twelve days before waiving him themselves.  Then the Knicks gave the Jeremy Lin carousel a spin.

Last year, Lin played a total of 284 minutes and scored 76 points.  Prior to February 4, Lin had played a total of 43 minutes this year and scored 27 points.  Then came the Linsanity. Crippled by injuries and running out of players, the Knicks were forced to play Lin. The results:

Date Min Pts Ast Reb TO
Feb 4 36 25 7 5 1
Feb 6 45 28 8 2 8
Feb 8 36 23 10 4 2
Feb 10 39 38 7 4 6
Feb 11 39 20 8 6 6
Feb 14 43 27 11 2 8

He sealed the Feb 11 game from the free throw line (after a lackluster second half performance) and won last night’s game in dramatic fashion by drilling a three pointer with less than a second to spare.  In addition to skills, the guy has ice in his veins.  He’s still a bit turnover-prone, but I’d expect those numbers to come down a bit when he gets used to the game a bit more.  And the most important statistic of all?  The Knicks are 6-0 in these games, rising from the ashes of a 8-15 start to pull to within a game of .500 at 14-15.  The Knicks are now firmly in contention for a playoff spot – something that seem an impossibility ten days ago.

Why is everyone suddenly a fan of Jeremy Lin?  It’s not because he’s Asian-American.  While that’s unusual in the NBA, it’s not the reason.  It’s because Lin is the consummate underdog, proving that he can play once the coach finally gave him the ball.  Seriously, when he went head to head with Kobe Bryant last Friday, was anyone actually cheering for Kobe?

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Kurt Wa...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

You know who he reminds me of?  A guy who played football in one of the largest cities in his state, was passed up by the two largest universities in the state, starred at the state’s 1-AA school and bounced around football’s minor leagues before getting the ball due to a teammate’s injury – and then excelling once he had the opportunity to play.

Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.  Hy-Vee’s most famous former employee – Kurt Warner.
 

 

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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