Jeremy Lin Fever – Catch It
As if it hasn’t already, the Jeremy Lin hysteria is about to hit a fever pitch on Friday night when Lin’s Knicks host Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at the Garden. That place is going to be rocking and my buddy and fantasy competitor David Chang, celebrity chef and owner of Momofuku restaurants, will be in attendance. Perhaps no one is as big a Lin fan as Chang, but I somehow got Lin off the wire before he could get to him. Chang was quoted in the New York Times on Thursday, saying that Lin’s emergence has been “the most important event for Asian-Americans in sports history,” and he agreed to expand on those thoughts for me to print here, since Lin is not only the talk of New York, but the NBA right now. We play in both a fantasy hoops and baseball league run by Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, and are in negotiations on a mythical deal that would send Jason Heyward to me in exchange for Lin in the first ever cross-sport fantasy trade.
Here we go.
"I'm about to freaking cry watching this guy," is what my buddy said about Jeremy Lin as we watched the Knicks take out the Bullets (Wizards) on Wednesday. I'm prone to hyperbole, but I believe Lin is as close to Fernandomania as we will ever get for Asian-Americans. Strip away race and that he bleeds crimson...what matters is that he is a shining example of what makes sports wonderful. Mike D'Antoni likened Lin to Secretariat, but I’m thinking he’s more Seabiscuit - the scrappy, resilient underdog that makes stuff happen, no excuses, and is accountable for his actions.
Let’s take a look at the most notable Asian-American athletes that have come along before Lin. I'm sure I'm missing some, but here’s my list. NFL players Haruki Nakamura, Kailee Wong, Scott Fujita and Patrick Chung don't count because they broke my heart. Manny Pacquiao may be the best pound-for-pound, but is also not on my list. Eugene Chung, a first-round draft pick by the Pats, was a 6'6” 330-pound monster, but also a bust. Another Hokie bust was Ed Wang.
In what I like to call the genetic glandular anomalies, I always wondered why every Asian NBA player had to be seven-feet tall? Wang Zhizhi is probably my favorite giant. Yao Ming was bred to be an NBA superstar, but at 7'6”, even Shawn Bradley had a longer career. Yao was awesome, but how could he inspire any normal-sized kid to play like him? I had massive hopes for Yi Jianlian, especially since he was last seen playing for the Bullets (Wizards). He is also a seven-foot giant, but has speed, quickness and raw talent – like the Tony Mandarich of the NBA. And then there’s Seung-Jin Ha - A Yonsei University product that played like two games in the NBA. Sun Yue was the shortest of the group and was like 6'5” when he was just 18. I thought he was going to be a nasty combo-guard for the Lakers, but no bueno.
While there were plenty of disappointments, there have been some success stories as well. There’s tennis phenom Michael Chang, who was amazing in the Finals of the French Open, but had just one Grand Slam title, which he won when he was just 17. I remember watching that match early in the morning in 1989 when I was a kid and seeing my parents whooping it up, and it made me strangely curious as to what was going on. But he wasn't McEnroe in the end, and well, I'm just biased. Chang wasn't going to be the Fernando Venezuela of tennis.
Back to the NFL, Dat Nguyen actually exceeded expectations for the Cowboys. I hate Dallas, but had to root for them when Nguyen played. Surprisingly, the NHL has also incubated some good hockey players. Richard Park had a nice run, and I’d watch games with my dad when he’s playing. Even back when Jim Paek was like a fourth-line defenseman for the Penguins, we would watch them beat the Caps in the playoffs.
Anyway, I've always maintained that one day it was going to happen in the NBA, the sport where I feel the best athletes in the world play. I just never dreamed it was going to be Jeremy Lin who would turn real life into fantasy basketball. I thought Golden State signed him as a marketing gimmick. And when Doc signed him off waivers in our league, I was crushed. But that's why Doc is God when it comes to the NBA. It's only been three games, but Lin has already changed the world.
P.S. Dear baby Jesus; please make sure Kobe gets posterized by J-Lin tonight.