What makes the story of the 23-year-old New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin a special one? More importantly, why should we care about him more than the recent trend of hysteria surrounding Tim Tebow? Both have a great deal of similarities. Both had doubters, took their respective sports by storm, both single-handedly blew up social networking sites and turned mediocre teams into championship contenders. In many ways, however, Lin is so much more than Tebow.
Tebow was a highly-touted football player coming out of high school, albeit not at the quarterback position. He received a Division I scholarship to play for the University of Florida, a perennial football powerhouse. He won a national championship in 2006 as a backup, then again in 2008 as the starting quarterback. Tebow won the prestigious Heisman Trophy in 2007, the first sophomore to receive the award. Tebow would eventually be drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. After a shaky first season, Tebow was named the starting quarterback early into his second season and led the Broncos to a playoff berth and a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Jeremy Lin was an outstanding high school basketball player in northern California, however, his dream schools, Stanford and UCLA, wanted him to walk-on instead of giving him an academic scholarship. Walking-on means that if he wanted to play at these schools he would not have been guaranteed a spot on their roster; he would have had to prove himself without a scholarship. Lin ultimately decided to play for Harvard, a university known more for producing presidents and computer geniuses than professional athletes. Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but Lin was guaranteed a spot on their roster.
Lin graduated from Harvard in 2010 and entered the NBA Draft…but no one took him. He was eventually signed by the Golden State Warriors and was subsequently waived the next year to free up salary space. He was then claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets and then waived again 12 days later. Three days later, Lin was claimed by the New York Knicks to be their third-string point guard after a slew of injuries.
Lin played sparingly throughout the season, not scoring more than nine points in a game. But after an injury to the Knicks’ star forward Carmelo Anthony on Feb. 4, it was Lin’s time to shine and he didn’t disappoint the Madison Square Garden crowd. Lin brought the Knicks back to take down the New Jersey Nets that night with 25 points and seven assists, and he has started every game since. Since then Lin has owners and general managers around the league scratching their heads, wondering how they all missed this guy. He averaged 24.6 points per game and 9.2 assists per game in the 10 games since he has been given significant playing time.
More impressively, the Knicks are 8-2 in those 10 games, and even more impressively this has all been done without Anthony who has been out with a groin strain and power forward Amar’e Stoudemire who has only played in the last five of Lin’s game due to a death in his family (numbers are due to change). Lin has revitalized basketball in New York; he has saved Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni’s job and has the Knicks on the cusp of a playoff berth.
Tebow was supposed to succeed. He has had his doubters, but he also had supporters. A quarterback drafted in the first round is supposed to lead their team to playoff victories, especially a team with an above average defense and good players surrounding him. Sure, not many people thought that a Tebow-led Bronco’s team would win their division and a playoff game. I’m sure head coach John Fox was confident as well as his teammates. No one had any confidence in Jeremy Lin. He wasn’t supposed to even be playing professional basketball. The last Harvard alum to play in the NBA was in 1954. The odds weren’t against this guy, no one even thought to place a bet. Not to mention that Lin is performing well in one of the most demanding cities in sports, as opposed to Denver in Tebow’s case.
Injuries landed him in a game that didn’t matter, the Knicks were dead anyway, who cares? Jeremy Lin cared. You can’t help but want to use phrases like “silence the critics,” but you can’t because no one was talking in the first place. He enamored the critics, gave them something to talk about and put New York basketball on the map for the first time since Patrick Ewing. Jeremy Lin is bigger than Tim Tebow, he’s bigger than LeBron James right now. He even has fans begging for a Carmelo Anthony trade. Regardless of what you call him, Linsanity, Super Lintendo, Lincredible, Linsane in the Membrane or even #Linning, Jeremy Lin is the greatest story that sports has seen in a very long time.