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Who the hell is Jeremy Lin?

Knicks' Jeremy Lin, left, chases the loose ball.AP Photo/Jim Mone
Expert
13th February, 2012
25
2861 Reads

These types of stories are pretty rare in the modern era. A kid no one had even heard of a couple of weeks ago is now the talk of the sporting universe, and rapidly emerging as a legitimate superstar.

His name is Jeremy Lin, and he has become the epitome of the term ‘overnight sensation’.

Lin plays point guard for the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association (NBA), and his meteoric rise over the last two weeks has been dubbed ‘Linsanity’ by the media.

And make no mistake about it, it has definitely been insane.

I’ve been watching the NBA for 30 years, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Players don’t just become stars like this. It just doesn’t happen. If you’re good, people know about you. It’s that simple. It’s almost impossible to be good and unknown.

Yet almost no one had ever heard of Lin until a few weeks ago, and he certainly appears to be good.

Lin was undrafted coming out of college. Not surprising, since he attended Harvard, a school more renowned for its academic credentials than its athletic pursuits. In fact, Lin had a G.P.A. of 3.1 and majored in economics.

However, his dream was to play in the NBA, no matter how unrealistic it seemed.

And it certainly seemed unlikely when Lin was cut during the pre-season by the Golden State Warriors, and then again by the Houston Rockets, before latching on with New York. Yet even the Knicks were recently close to severing ties with him.

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In the Knicks first 23 games of the season, Lin only saw action in 11 of them, and generally only for a couple of minutes.

However, with the Knicks in big trouble in the standings, along with injury concerns, New York coach Mike D’Antoni rolled the dice and inserted Jeremy Lin into the line-up, hoping the youngster could provide the ailing club with a spark.

What happened next has well and truly exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The Knicks are currently on a five game winning streak, and Lin has been on fire, averaging 26.8 points per game, and 8 assists. His play is the talk of the NBA, and his sudden success was punctuated by a stunning performance on a nationally televised game on ESPN against the Los Angeles Lakers last weekend.

It was widely assumed, especially by me, that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, probably one of the top 10 players of all time, was going to annihilate Lin in order to send him and the media message. Lin had received a great deal of media coverage and Bryant and his healthy ego tend to take such things personally.

Instead, it was Lin who made a statement, announcing his arrival as a true star and justifying all the hype by dropping 38 points on Kobe and the Lakers.

I was a cynic before the Lakers game. And a convert after it. Lin made me a believer.

He has a high basketball IQ, youthful enthusiasm, a flair for the dramatic, tremendous poise for someone so young, and an impressive array of skills. Most importantly, his teammates seem to love playing with him, and he makes them better players.

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As the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, Lin ascension is re-opening doors in Asia that some feared to be closing in the wake of Yao Ming’s retirement.

He’s become an instant fan favourite at Madison Square Garden, and an internet sensation, increasing his Twitter followers from fewer than 10,000 to nearly 200,000 in the week since taking over the starting job. More people have mentioned him on Twitter than LeBron James.

His No. 17 Knicks jersey is the league’s top seller over the last nine days. And New York is rolling.

It’s a story more befitting a Disney movie, and another reminder that just when you think you’ve seen everything in sport, along comes a Jeremy Lin.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanOak.