In most cases, I leave the NBA columns to my more basketball-savvy Emerald sports colleagues. But taking a stab at the Jeremy Lin story is too tempting to pass up.
First, some important background about my history with Mr. Lin. Jeremy grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., and attended Palo Alto High School. I grew up in Los Altos, Calif., one city and a ten-minute drive away. As a result, I admit to feeling a special sort of bond with Mr. Lin (and would claim to have dunked on him in a pickup game only to have the tape confiscated a la the Jordan Crawford/LeBron James incident, but that wouldn’t be true).
Anyway, for those who’ve been out of the country or are still in the midst of a Tim Tebow-inspired ESPN boycott, here’s the nuts and bolts of the Lin story: Despite leading Palo Alto High School to a California Interscholastic Federation Division II title as a senior, Lin had a difficult time finding a college that wanted him. Stanford, Lin’s dream school which is literally across the street from Palo Alto High, passed on Lin in favor of a guard from Chicago, Da’Veed Dildy (who?). Cal, UCLA, USC and every other Pac-10 program did the same. Not even second-tier programs like the University of San Francisco, Fresno State or Santa Clara offered Lin a scholarship. @@http://www.gostanford.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/dildy_daveed00.html@@
So Lin chose Harvard and blossomed into one of the better players in college basketball. Nonetheless, Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft. After a strong performance in the summer league, he signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors, and got limited minutes with the Warriors in 2010-2011 in between three stints in the NBA Developmental League. @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/jeremy_lin/bio.html@@
After the lockout ended this past offseason, in early December, the Warriors waived Lin. He signed with the Houston Rockets but was waived by them too. With injuries to guards Iman Shumpert and the recently signed Baron Davis, the Knicks added Lin for guard depth and, after another stint in the D-League, Lin’s epic run started on Feb. 4 against New Jersey. @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/iman_shumpert/@@ @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/baron_davis/@@
Some have compared Lin’s meteoric rise to that of Tim Tebow. They shouldn’t. Tebow was a five-star recruit and a Heisman Trophy winner. Even though he had plenty of detractors, Tebow was a first-round pick, a player who signed a five-year contract worth up to $33 million before he took an NFL snap.
Lin is truly a sports rarity, an afterthought turned star, third-string point guard turned King of New York. Other undrafted players have starred in their respective sports, but I can’t recall any situation that transpired in the manner Lin’s [email protected]@umm…Tony Romo? http://www.tuffstuff.com/news/football/from-nobody-to-somebody-overnight-tony-romo-is-here-to-stay@@
As such, there have been approximately 1,234 stories written on the Lin sensation in the past few days. But, and I know it sounds cliche, my favorite part of Linsanity is, as ESPN announcer Mike Breen said during the Lakers/Knicks game on Friday, that it serves as a reminder of why we love sports.
As a sportswriter, it’s easy to become cynical about the teams we cover. The job’s nature lends itself to skepticism. We try to be impartial and unbiased, and to do so, we attempt to suppress our inner fan. I know I have at times become jaded about some of the Oregon teams I’ve covered.
But if the Knicks, a team that looked headed for irrelevance and destined to finish in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, can be resurrected, why should we dismiss other teams that are struggling but still have potential?
For instance, Oregon’s women’s basketball team will host a top-five Stanford team tomorrow. The Ducks will be heavy underdogs to the Cardinal. Similarly, given their current Pac-12 standing, Oregon is unlikely to qualify for a prestigious postseason, barring a miraculous run in the Pac-12 tournament.
Lin’s remarkable story serves as a reminder that while neither of the aforementioned feats is likely, at this level, they are possible. A little-used walk-on could explode onto the scene and provide an unexpected boost. Point guard Nia Jackon’s knee could make make a drastic improvement, giving Jackson the spring and quickness she had last year. One of Oregon’s several true freshmen could finally put it all together.
And that’s why we watch.
Eventually, we’ll all probably revert back to our old grizzled selves, just like Lin’s production will probably decrease once Carmelo Anthony returns to the Knicks’ lineup. In the meantime, Lin’s startling rise is a is reminder about the joy of sports, and why we devote so much time following and covering them. @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/carmelo_anthony/@@