Lin Is What The NBA Needs

February 12, 2012


Jeremy Lin, the 23-year-old Chinese-American point guard, has taken the NBA by storm. This relative no-name, who came out of nowhere, had been cut by two teams and was sent to the D-League by his current team, the New York Knicks. The Knicks have won the last five games, all with Lin in the rotation –  including four starts. He has averaged 26.8 points and 8.0 assist a game – superstar-level numbers. His 109 points in his first four starts is the most since the ABA/NBA merger—higher than Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan.

The Harvard graduate is one the biggest trending topics on Twitter every times he takes the court. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith even went so far as to say Knicks’ superstar Carmelo Anthony would have to learn to play with Lin—not the other way around. It’s high praise for a player that has only started four games and was recently sleeping on teammate Landry Fields’ couch.

The million-dollar question is will “Linsanity”, as many have called it, last? I think the NBA needs it to continue.

The NBA has long needed a non-black American-born star. Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love is an all-star, but I don’t know if anyone will pay to see him play. The last non-black NBA player that people would have paid to watch was NBA legend, Larry Bird.

Bird actually shared the sentiments I am speaking, back in 2004, in an interview with ESPN.

Bird, speaking on whether he thinks the league needs more white superstars, “Well, I think so,” said Bird, the Indiana Pacers’ president of basketball operations. “You know, when I played, you had me and Kevin [McHale] and some others throughout the league. I think it’s good for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. But it is a black man’s game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American.”

Bird got wildly criticized for the comments, but I don’t think people want to face the truth. The NBA is a black man’s game, but the fan base is mostly middle and upper-class White America. It’s just hard for them to relate to NBA stars that come from different backgrounds than them. White America can’t really relate to the non-black foreign- born NBA players either. They don’t go through the normal American hype-machine that is high school and college sports. There are some NBA superstars that weren’t hyped from high school, but the list isn’t large.

Enter Jeremy Lin, the Chinese-American who grew up in Palo Alto, California. Lin isn’t white, obviously, but he did have a traditional American upbringing. I think fans will be able to relate to this underdog, whom every major Division-One college overlooked. Stanford was right across the street and didn’t think he was good enough. The exciting young point guard just may be what the NBA has been searching for since Larry Bird retired. A non-black American-born star that can play at a high level, relishes being a star, and is a winner.

David Stern is probably somewhere sheepishly grinning thinking about the money Lin will make for the NBA. He will bring more American viewers, as well as the Asian viewers that were lost when Yao Ming retired this past off-season.

Lin also plays for the New York Knicks, a franchise the NBA fans have been waiting to return to the NBA elite. It’s hard to say Lin can do all that after five games, but I’m sure there are some fans hoping the young, exciting point guard has that type of impact.

Lin’s success could have a sociocultural impact as well. It could give hope to American-born non-black athletes that they can make it to the NBA. This may be welcomed, after years of the game being dominated by foreign-born and black athletes. They may spend a few more hours in the gym, as opposed to the batting cage or football field.

Lin is also a devout Christian that wants to be a pastor when his basketball career is over. He could bring in a similar audience to that which Tim Tebow has for the NFL.

The only thing now is can Lin sustain his production – taking into account the return of superstars Amare Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony. If he does continue to play at a superstar level, the Kicks and NBA may have struck gold.

Is Jeremy Lin what the NBA needs?

Follow me on Twitter JeremiahShort26 or email me at 


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