No 17

A lit­tle more than two years ago, a Chi­nese-Amer­i­can bas­ket­ball player en­tered his 39th NBA game. At the end of the game, New York, the world and sports writ­ers would have a new word: “Lin­san­ity”, Jack Freifelder re­ports from New York.

China Daily (Canada) - - IN DEPTH -

Lin­san­ity What was it? “Lin­san­ity: (noun.) The state of ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing bas­ket­ball phenom Jeremy Lin — a point guard for the New York Knicks, the NBA’s first Chi­nese-Amer­i­can player, and a gift to sports head­line writ­ers every­where.” — The blog Break­ing Copy. What hap­pened to it? “New York Knicks fans awoke to the head­lines none wanted to see: “End of the Lin,” “Lin is Gone” — for many the loss of star point guard Jeremy Lin felt like a be­trayal. The Knicks con­firmed that they wouldn’t match the Hous­ton Rock­ets’ three-year, $25 mil­lion of­fer for the 23-year-old.” — Fox Sports, July 19, 2012

It has been two years since “Lin­san­ity’’ ruled New York City. Lin — the Har­vard Univer­sity grad­u­ate who slept on his brother’s couch in the city be­cause that was all he could af­ford — came off the bench of the New York Knicks on Fe­bru­ary 4, 2012.

More than 19,000 fans packed Madi­son Square Gar­den that night to watch the Knicks and the New Jersey Nets. The Knicks had lost 11 of their last 14 games.

“When [the Knicks] fell be­hind 30-20 at the end of the first quar­ter … all seemed lost,” Will Leitch wrote in a story for New York Mag­a­zine. “And then coach Mike D’An­toni got des­per­ate. He had no choice. There was no­body left, and noth­ing was work­ing. And just like that: Lin­san­ity had be­gun.”

When the buzzer sounded, Lin had helped guide the Knicks to a 99-92 vic­tory, tal­ly­ing 25 points, seven as­sists and five re­bounds.

“It just hasn’t re­ally sunk in yet,” Lin said af­ter that game. “I’m still kind of in shock by ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. I’m just try­ing to soak it all in right now.’’

Lin’s out-of-nowhere per­for­mance cap­tured the city and be­yond. In China, the world’s sec­ond-largest NBA mar­ket, Lin brought a re­vival of the NBA not seen since the exit of Yao Ming in 2011.

Lin­san­ity sparked higher ticket prices at the Gar­den and helped boost the share price of the Madi­son Square Gar­den Com­pany’s stock. Puns ga­lore

Head­line writ­ers, es­pe­cially on the city’s tabloids, used ev­ery pun and su­perla­tive they could dream up. “Lin­cred­i­ble!” shouted The New York Post. “Lin and a Prayer” was the page 1 head­line in The Daily News; on the back page: “Just Lin Time.”

And on the sports web­site Dead­spin: “It’s the per­fect be­gin­ning of what could ei­ther be Knicks fans’ lat­est colos­sal dis­ap­point­ment or the league’s fa­vorite mar­ket­ing fig­ure since Yao Ming.”

Lin­san­ity was on a roll. Overnight T-shirts and hats with “Lin­san­ity’’ and/or Lin’s photo on them hit the mar­ket.

Mitchell Modell, owner of the Modell’s sport­ing goods chain in the New York City area, told CNBC that it ac­quired some 168,000 Lin and Lin­san­ity items within 48 hours, in­clud­ing blank T-shirts, jer­seys and tow­els, and then paid print­ers to put Lin’s num­ber and name on them.

“We had to tie up ev­ery lo­cal printer,” Modell said. “We put ba­si­cally a lock on ev­ery­thing Lin in the en­tire coun­try.”

And more was in the works: Per­fume. Tow­els. Mugs. Socks. Un­der­wear. San­dals. Hats. Vi­sors. Af­ter-shave. Cell­phone cases. Head­bands. Even fire-re­tar­dant pa­ja­mas for tod­dlers.

Even Lin him­self wasn’t go­ing to be left out of the mar­ket­place.

Af­ter his fifth game, when he scored 20 points and made eight as­sists, he filed to reg­is­ter a trade­mark for “Lin­san­ity’’ with the US Patent and Trade­mark Of­fice.

“We laid out a strat­egy and moved for­ward with it in 36 hours,” Pamela Deese, a part­ner in the in­tel­lec­tual property group at Arent Fox, in Wash­ing­ton, told the New York Times. “You have to be able to pivot quickly, as they say in bas­ket­ball.”

Lin­san­ity was a craze made for the tabloids, but the Times also added to the fer­vor.

On Fe­bru­ary 28, un­der the head­line “A New De­sign for Jeremy Lin Gear’’, the news­pa­per said that “the voting booth was now closed’’ for read­ers to sub­mit their de­signs for Lin T-shirts, hats, jer­seys or other goods.

“A New York star on the scale of Jeremy Lin calls for a graphic treat­ment that is both taste­ful and rev­o­lu­tion­ary, like Lin him­self. So far, the de­signs out there fall short. We asked our read­ers to help us ad­dress the prob­lem by sub­mit­ting their own de­signs….’’ said the Times’ story. The paper said 10 fi­nal­ists had been selected by its mag­a­zine’s de­signer di­rec­tor.

The week be­fore, on Feb 19, the news­pa­per’s me­dia colum­nist David Carr wrote about other fall­out from the Lin­san­ity craze un­der the head­line “Me­dia Hype for Lin Stum­bles on Race.’’

“Un­for­tu­nately for Lin and the rest of us, the over-the-top cov­er­age that fol­lowed ended over the line, ex­pos­ing un­der­ly­ing racist tropes that still lurk in the id of Amer­i­can sports jour­nal­ism, and by ex­ten­sion, the rest of us,’’ wrote Carr, not­ing that the New York Post tabloid used the “un­for­tu­nate’’ head­line “Amasian!”.


still kind of in shock by ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. I’m just try­ing to soak it all in right now.’’ JEREMY LIN

“The com­bi­na­tion of Lin’s eth­nic­ity and ac­com­plish­ments cre­ated some ex­cess, but no one could have pre­dicted how low it might go,’’ Carr wrote, point­ing out that an ar­ti­cle on sports chan­nel ESPN’s mo­bile site “re­cy­cled an an­cient and bla­tantly of­fen­sive eth­nic slur.’’ “ESPN quickly changed the head­line and has fired the per­son who wrote it, but not be­fore all but ru­in­ing a sweet sport­ing story.’’ And he added: “The real story is more com­pli­cated and in­ter­est­ing than the one that lived in punny, lazy head­lines: Lin is a proud Chris­tian, which brings in the heart­land. As an Asian Amer­i­can, he rep­re­sents the tri­umph of the im­mi­grant.’’ The start

The Jeremy Lin-NBA story started on July 21, 2010, when he signed with the Golden State War­riors, be­com­ing the first Amer­i­can­born Chi­nese player in the NBA. Iron­i­cally, his first game with the War­riors came dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of Asian Her­itage Night on Oc­to­ber 29, 2010.

Born and raised in Cal­i­for­nia to par­ents who em­i­grated from Tai­wan and whose an­ces­tors came from the east coast of the Chi­nese main­land, Lin was en­cour­aged by his par­ents, Gie-Ming Lin and Shirley Lin, to play bas­ket­ball since his child­hood.

As a se­nior at his high school in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia, Lin had cap­tained his team to a 32-1 record. When he grad­u­ated, Lin sent his re­sume and a high­light video reel to all the Ivy League schools and a hand­ful of other uni­ver­si­ties.

Har­vard and Brown Univer­sity ac­cepted him, but nei­ther could of­fer a sports schol­ar­ship, and Lin chose to at­tend Har­vard.

His play as a se­nior in col­lege earned him some recog­ni­tion but few saw Lin as much of a pro prospect. Nonethe­less, when he grad­u­ated from Har­vard in 2010 with a de­gree in eco­nom­ics and a 3.1 grade-point aver­age, he chose to en­ter the 2010 NBA draft. But his name was not called on draft night, and as an un­drafted prospect, Lin’s chances of play­ing in the NBA were slim at best.

Be­sides Lin, only three Har­vard play­ers had ever played pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball.

In a five-game stint at the 2010 NBA Sum­mer League, Lin played 18 min­utes a game for the Mav­er­icks, gar­ner­ing the at­ten­tion of a num­ber of NBA clubs, in­clud­ing his home­town team, the Golden State War­riors.

Four weeks af­ter be­ing snubbed at the 2010 NBA draft, Lin had his first NBA con­tract, though it was par­tially guar­an­teed. How­ever, Lin re­ceived min­i­mal play­ing time through­out the rest of the sea­son.

In July 2011, the NBA’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment ex­pired. The re­sult was the league’s fourth lock­out, which lasted 161 days. Some play­ers used the break to play else­where, with the Chi­nese Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (CBA) serv­ing as one of the out­lets. Lin fol­lowed other NBA stars play­ing for the CBA; but played only three games with the Dong­guan Leop­ards.


s story gave and continues to give hope to any­one who is as­pir­ing to rise from ob­scu­rity to the moon.’’ DR. RICHARD LUST­BERG SPORTS PSY­CHOL­O­GIST

On De­cem­ber 27, 2011, Lin signed with the Knicks.

He to­taled 136 points in his first five starts, in­clud­ing a ca­reer-high 38 points in a vic­tory over the Los Angeles Lak­ers on Feb 10. Lin’s tally in that span was the most by a sin­gle player since the NBA merged with the Amer­i­can Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (ABA) in 1976, out­pac­ing the likes of NBA icons Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan — among many oth­ers.

Nathaniel Jue — a writer for the Bleacher Re­port, a sports-fo­cused dig­i­tal me­dia com­pany — said the tim­ing of Lin’s emer­gence helped fill the void cre­ated by Yao’s re­tire­ment in July 2011.

“China has been anx­iously await­ing the emer­gence of a player to keep their in­ter­est in the NBA,” Jue wrote in a Fe­bru­ary 2012 ar­ti­cle. “With­out Yao, how would China stay in­volved … Jeremy Lin.”

On March 18, Dr. Richard Lust­berg, a psy­chol­o­gist, wrote on his blog Psy­chol­ogy of Sports of Lin:

“Many can­not help but re­late to some­one who came from out of nowhere and showed them all! Be­ing un­der­val­ued and mis­judged is not un­com­mon. Add on the Asian pride fac­tor and it is a real feel good story to me. And it sells pa­pers, jer­seys and tick­ets which is good for the econ­omy. What could be bad?’’ But the end of Lin­san­ity was on its way. Af­ter a game against the Detroit Pis­tons in March 2012, Lin had an MRI that re­vealed a small menis­cus tear in his left knee. Rather than risk­ing additional in­jury, Lin sat out the rest of the sea­son.

A full month af­ter Lin was side­lined, his No 17 jersey was still the sec­ond-high­est sell­ing one in the NBA, out­selling fel­low Knicks team­mate Carmelo Anthony, ac­cord­ing to ESPN.

Though the Knicks went on to make the play­offs in 2012, Lin­san­ity flick­ered out shortly af­ter Lin’s in­jury and move to the bench.

In July 2012, Lin be­came a re­stricted free agent and opted to test the free-agent mar­ket in lieu of choos­ing to re-sign with the Knicks.

He signed a con­tract with the Hous­ton Rock­ets for three years and $25 mil­lion a few weeks later. And on July18, a Times’ head­line summed it up: “Lin Is Gone, and So Is the Buzz’’ As for all those T-shirts and other garb, a head­line on TIME Mag­a­zine’s web­site said:

“These Prices Are Lin­sane! Fire Sale Be­gins for Jeremy Lin Knicks Mer­chan­dise’’

“T-shirts that once sold for $25 will go for $5, jer­seys that re­tailed for $90 will prob­a­bly be dis­counted by at least 50%,’’ the ar­ti­cle said. “The NBA Store, mean­while, has cut the price of many Lin Knicks’ items in half: T-shirts that orig­i­nally sold for $19.99 now avail­able for $9.97, and $59.99 jer­seys are cur­rently ad­ver­tised at $29.97.’’

Evan Jack­son Leong — a doc­u­men­tary maker and a grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Angeles (UCLA), with a ma­jor in Asian Amer­i­can Stud­ies — chron­i­cled Lin’s jour­ney from Har­vard to his de­but with the Knicks in Lin­san­ity, which pre­miered at the 2013 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val. ‘The same kid’

Through all the me­dia cov­er­age, Leong said the thing that res­onated most with him was Lin’s abil­ity to stay true to his char­ac­ter.

“He def­i­nitely ma­tured be­cause of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties above and be­yond play­ing bas­ket­ball, but I’m ac­tu­ally re­ally proud he’s the same kid I met five years ago.”

“Go­ing through all the lows and neg­a­tiv­ity … that’s what kept him sort of hum­ble in my per­spec­tive,” Leong said. “Bas­ket­ball is not life and it’s not ev­ery­thing, but [Lin­san­ity] has given him some­thing to lean back on the rest of his ca­reer. It’s an awe­some mo­ment to re­mem­ber for the rest of your life.”

As for Lin, who de­clined re­quests for com­ments for this story, he has set­tled into a backup role on the Hous­ton Rock­ets. The team’s ac­qui­si­tion of James Harden and Dwight Howard, two of the league’s most well-known su­per­stars, gave the Rock­ets a leading tan­dem, mak­ing Lin a sixth man.

Lin’s abil­ity to score off the bench al­lows him to “still show flashes of ‘Lin­san­ity,’” ac­cord­ing to ESPN NBA an­a­lyst David Thorpe.

“He can get rolling with his shot, but those chances for him to do that are more rare now,” Thorpe told China Daily. “Lin’s job is to score off the bench and play tough on-ball de­fense. He is likely go­ing to be a sec­ond-unit player for his ca­reer, but he looks like a team player to me.”

“Hous­ton is a real ti­tle con­tender and that is what they need from him,” Thorpe added.

Lust­berg, the sports psy­chol­o­gist who asked “What could be bad?’’ about the Lin­san­ity craze on his blog in March 2012, looked back at it all on Novem­ber 15, 2013, with Jeremy Lin: Lin­san­ity Was In­san­ity.

“Lin’s story gave and continues to give hope to any­one who is as­pir­ing to rise from ob­scu­rity to the moon. But as usual we tend to take things a bit too far when it comes to our psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional needs.

“Our need for the Jeremy Lin’s of the world re­flects our grow­ing hunger to both cre­ate and dis­charge emo­tions at a rate and pace that is too quick for us to process, set­ting off a con­tin­u­ous need to cre­ate them, use them, and then search for the next fix cy­cle,’’ he wrote.

“Per­haps when all is said and done we can learn from Lin­san­ity in the sense that people who are down and out can still rise up and achieve, while at the same time tak­ing pause to look long and hard at what the neg­a­tive ef­fects of our need to fill our psy­cho­log­i­cal needs has on us all.’’

Con­tact the writer at Jack­freifelder@chi­nadai­


New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin drives past a Los Angeles Lak­ers player at Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York City, where the “Lin­san­ity’’ craze be­gan on Fe­bru­ary 4, 2012.

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