Let me first start off by saying that I must commend myself on being able to incorporate the website name and the word Lin together in a headline (self promo). That being said I want to contribute to the Jeremy Lin bandwagon and how this could be the game changer the NBA desperately needs.
In a day in age when every news outlet leads off with what everything seems to be going wrong in the world, it’s been a somewhat sigh of relief to turn on Sportscenter and see what J. Lin pulled off the night before. It’s been incredible following the journey these past few weeks, where every game night feels like a championship game in itself. But as we cling to the bottom line to see his stat lines and desperately wait to see his highlights, we might be ignoring the impact that this young man can have on the growth of this great game of basketball.
The stars seem to have aligned perfectly for #17. An Asian-American, Ivy league graduate, cut twice, couch sleeping kid from Northern California is not only the talk of the great city of New York but also capturing every headline possible pertaining to the NBA. You can’t write a better movie script than that, he really is the American Dream. But he could be something even bigger, something even greater on the grand scale of things; The Next Chinese Dreams.
As of late; China is the hot button topic in the basketball world. It’s easy to see why, with a population of over 1.3 billion people (the U.S. pop. is only 310 million) and a growing middle class of 250+ million people, Jeremy Lin will be the biggest ambassador of our game since Yao. How about this fun fact, there are over 300 million consumers that verbally say that basketball is their sport of choice in China—300 Million!!! Think about that number and the impact the game will have. Forget sneaker sales and NBA jersey purchases, think about how many more kids will pick up the same ball that we did and begin to grow a passion for our great game. Jeremy has begun to awaken that sleeping giant, drawing in new Asian fans and relighting the fire in the old ones. The Chinese government has pledged to build over 800,000 courts throughout the country to promote basketball. Yes, you read that right 800,000. How many kids on those courts will be pretending their #17, launching 3 pointers against Kobe at the Garden? Super LinTendo (his favorite nickname) is exactly what our great game needs in order to keep growing and expanding throughout the globe.
I had the opportunity to work the Foot Locker House of Hoops opening the past few days in Orlando during All Star Weekend. That Saturday was filled with the biggest names in the game. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant; but which guy sparked the greatest interest from the crowd? I’ll give you one guess, the talk of New York himself, Jeremy Lin! Who did his entourage include in the caravan of black SUV’s? It wasn’t his agent, wife, girlfriend, or his handlers. It was his mom and his siblings, with a camera in tow. He gracefully took the stage and answered all the clichés questions about whether or not he expected to be here etc. What really stood out was the fact that even through his whole world had changed in the past two weeks; the one thing that didn’t change was Jeremy. He kept a cool tone on the mic, always complimenting his teammates and never taking praise for himself. What does he think of all this attention he’s been receiving the past few weeks? He hopes that people will start to recognize how good the New York Knick’s can be. Whose Jeremy Lin’s favorite hip-hop group? Don’t know, he doesn’t really listen to hip-hop; he’s more of a Christian Rock type of guy. Once and awhile he’ll pump a little Drake through his headphones with the encouragement from his teammates.
As soon as the crowd appearance is over; does he head to his caravan and depart? Nope, he walks off stage through the crowd and walks straight through the Nike Tunnel, gazing at the set up the same way the rest of us did, admiring the display and must have shoes from All Star Weekend. From there he walks through Foot Locker and 20 minutes later him and his entourage (Moms and them) leave with a few bags of custom socks and t-shirts.
Did he take the private door through the back of Foot Locker? Nope, he walked through the crowd again but this time #24 from the Los Angeles Lakers was on stage doing his appearance. Kobe see’s Lin in the backdrop walking through like a kid slipping in late to class hoping the teacher doesn’t call on him. Kobe stops mid sentence talking about his new shoe “Woah speaking of Jeremy here he comes now, this kid’s having a hell of a year isn’t he?”
Do you know what Jeremy Lin was doing 364 days prior to this? He was an on court assistant during the All Stars Skills Challenge. Like Jay Z said “I went from Marcy to Madison Square”, from a nobody to a somebody. The least likely basketball route possible to the Mecca of all things hoop – from the Ivy league to Madison Square Garden. Dropping 38 at the Garden, doing Nike appearances, getting called on by Kobe, and still just a regular hardworking kid.
We emulate the greatest sports superstars for two reasons, one because of how different they are compared to us mere mortals (360 windmills, foul line dunks, and alley oops) and on the contrary because of how closely they sometimes remind us what its like to succeed on work ethic, luck, and a dream. How every once in a while we see somebody that reminds us of, well us.
I’m not sure how long this flame will flare for, hopefully for a very long time. But one thing I truly do hope is that he can continue to grow the game. That he continues to be a “baller” on his own terms. For most of us in life, the road is full of obstacles along with right and wrong turns. One thing is for certain, no road is ever predictable and certain, but with hard work, preparation, and determination when our number is called; we will perform and shine in “our moment”
It takes a lot of this…
Jeremy Lin – Sometime last year in a gym working out
To get to THIS………Jeremy Lin – 2012 NBA Game Winner…
Steve Thomas is Marketing and Program Director for US Junior Nationals