The NBA and all its fans are happily captivated by “Linsanity.”
The Jeremy Lin phenomenon has been the biggest story of the month, as the undrafted Harvard grad is the type of underdog story we all tend to cheer for. Add in the fact that in his short time in the spotlight, he’s already accomplished what no Asian-American player has accomplished before, and it’s easy to see why everyone roots for the kid.
Well, not everyone. There’s always someone that has something negative to say, even about great stories like this one. The latest detractor is Floyd Mayweather.
Last week Mayweather tweeted:
“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”
Sorry, Floyd, but they actually don’t do what he does every night. Lin is the first NBA player to score at least 20 points while giving out seven assists in his first four starts. This is the first time he’s ever seen meaningful NBA playing time, and he’s already won Eastern Conference player of the week honors.
WATCH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE OF JEREMY LIN:
In the New York Knicks 92-85 point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, he outscored Kobe Bryant — who just moved to fifth on the all-time scoring list — 38 to 34.
There’s no doubt — Lin is getting unbelievable hype right now and part of the reason is because of his Chinese and Taiwanese heritage. But he deserves it and there’s nothing wrong with it. Race matters.
Earl Lloyd, the league’s first black player, was recently honored for breaking basketball’s color barrier in 1950. There was a time when black players couldn’t play the game professionally — and were no doubt elevated and celebrated when they did get an opportunity to shine and prove their worth.
Lin is not Earl Lloyd — but in a similar vein, he’s making the most of an opportunity – which is what sports is all about.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating an athlete because he’s doing something well and is of a different race than most of the other players. African-Americans have long held up Tiger Woods in golf, and to lesser extents James Blake in tennis and Jozy Altidore in soccer.
Chicago Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine is known as “The White Mamba.” He’s cheered by both home and away crowds. It has nothing to do with skill level, but rather he’s white and generally fun to watch.Yao Ming brought incredible exposure and attention from China. If not for Ming, the NBA wouldn’t have become as global a game as it is. Every year that he played, Ming was voted into the All-Star game as a starter, due to the huge influx of Chinese votes.
Jeremy Lin’s success is huge for the game’s reputation overseas – especially after Ming’s retirement.
Ming wasn’t the best player each season, and there were some seasons he didn’t deserve to be on the All-Star team. But it didn’t really matter. Helping to grow the game and creating a Chinese star in the process was good for basketball.
It’s only been five games, so obviously the Lin story may not last for a full season. What Mayweather discounts though is that one of the main reasons Lin is getting all of this attention isn’t just because he’s Asian. It’s also because he’s leading a Knick team that has won five straight games and is re-energizing the city.
The Knicks are a fanbase that have been waiting for a contender for years. Getting perennial all-stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have done surprisingly little in even getting the Knicks back to respectability.
With Anthony and Stoudemire out, Lin has captured the hearts of fans in the most notable city in the world. So yes, Lin is getting attention because he’s Asian. But if any player were doing what he was doing, for this particular Knicks team, at this particular time, they’d be getting hype too.
Rather than disparage Lin, we should be celebrating him. His is the kind of story that can help us see and use race positively rather than view it as a negative.
And if he really is getting all of the hype because he’s Asian, maybe we should start seeing it as a good thing.