We Love Lin, But At What Cost? Is The Legacy Worth the Paycheck?

Written by NYPress on . Posted in Lifestyle, News Our Town, News Our Town Downtown, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, Sports.


New Houston offer makes one New Yorker wonder if Lin, despite huge fan base, is worth it

It’s a bit of an odd thing to begin with— Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity” legacy. How often does 25 games started, one insane week, and post-season injuries and irrelevance constitute one of the most-talked-about monikers in all of sports?

photo by DvYang

Doesn’t Derek Jeter have a legacy, too? One with five World Series rings, over 2500 games, and a captaincy over the most famous sports team on earth?

So how is it that both of them have what we call a “legacy”? How is it that right now, Jeremy Lin is on the cover of ESPN.com, while Jeter, who is actually in season, and cruising to yet another AL East title, is by the wayside?

This isn’t a comparison between the two, because that’d be Linsane. But it’s a realization that this Lin attention has an extremely odd quality to it. And that’s a good thing. But now it might be over. Is that a good thing?

During the most fervent moments of “Linsanity”, New Yorkers sipped on Lintinis and Lin & Tonics, while  the Nom Wah restaurant in the heart of Chinatown held viewing parties in the midst of Time Warner’s inability to strike a deal with MSG (leaving 2.5 million New Yorkers without him, according to the Huffington Post). It was almost pandemonium. Insane, if you will? But it wasn’t always like that. And with the rush of enthusiasm that hit New York so quickly, it can be a bit hard to remember the spunky reserve that sat, all-day-in-all-day-out, at the edge of the New York Knicks bench.

For years Jeremy Lin was unremarkable. A Harvard star, but without the NBA size (Lin is listed generously at 6’3, 200 pounds), Lin went undrafted in the 2010 draft and floated around the NBA’s D-League (Development League), eventually landing on the Golden State Warriors roster. There, according to basketball-reference.com, he played in 29 games, averaged a meager 9.8 minutes per game, an even more meager 1.6 assists per game, and an even more meager 2.6 points per game.

He eventually was cut, and was picked up perfunctorily by New York.

And then, it was practically instant.

When Lin hit major minutes in the Knicks’s lineup on February 4, it marked the beginning of an 7-game win streak that carried until the 14, and, with some help from the symbol he represented —”an Asian-American in the NBA?! and he’s good?!” were the thoughts of many— marked one of the quickest rises to fame in recent sports history. Quick enough to be quantified.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (who cited a social study by company General Sentiment), in the days between Feb. 6 and 14, Lin’s Twitter account, @JLin7, was the most-mentioned NBA player in social media. Based on the study, Lin was mentioned 2,610,684 times on Twitter in that timeframe— more than second-most Lebron James, whose regal handle @KingJames, has almost 5.5 million followers.

But it wasn’t just NBA-related. During the same time, Lin was mentioned more than an account whose following amasses near 18 million people. Said handle is that of our President, Barack Obama.

And it was more than just numbers on a relatively new social media sensation. Lin was a symbol for Asian-Americans across the globe. Lin stood brighter than usual because of his NBA-unique ethnicity.

Glancing quickly at a March Yahoo! blurb, Lin is the second-best Asian-American player to ever play in the NBA, and this without ever completing an entire NBA season.

According to the list, Lin is second behind Yao Ming, a similar sensation during much of the 2000s. The other two on the list? Yi Jianlian and Rex Walters. Who?

But the amount of  followers James has, despite Lin’s week of fame, outnumbers Lin’s by 4.5 million people, and symbolizes how Lin was possibly a bright flash in an otherwise disappointing Knicks frying pan.

If it wasn’t for the Knicks’s penchant for signing starpower rather than a full squad (i.e. overpaying Amar’e Stoudemire, whose knees (and defense) are so shaky that they were actually denied insurance and letting fan-favorite Landry Fields out of their grasp), maybe there wouldn’t be so much attention. Maybe the over-the-top contract, $25 million/3 years, from Houston, which would, after accounting for luxury tax, would cost the Knicks $30 million in the third year alone, would be recognized as a cost unpayable.

New York and its vast Asian-American culture birthed Lin’s story, but is now making it pretty tough for the Knicks avoid appearing loyalty-less.

But, like mentioned before, what’s the middleground between salary requirements and what makes so many New Yorkers so happy?

There are guys on the Knicks better than Lin. Carmelo Anthony is widely considered one of, if not the, best pure scorers in the NBA. Iman Shumpert is a quickly-developing shooting guard. Heck, you could even argue goggle-clad Stoudemire still has more in the tank than Lin.

But how much do stats and reps matter over a guy who only “Lin, Lin, Lins!” games?

According to a February WebProNews article, during Linsanity’s birth week, MSG (the host-channel for Knicks games) ratings increase an outrageous 87%.

A whole lot of attention for a week’s worth of winning, but then when Lin got hurt in late March, and subsequently sat for the season’s duration (including the playoffs) Lin was a large part forgotten.

Is all the new hoopla just a result of the suffocating New York publicity? Is a guy who means so much to Asian-American communities worth the money to make the fans happy? What does he mean to Asian-American communities? Is he even actually good? Will he even stay healthy?

One New Yorker, and probably to the frustration of many New Yorkers, hasn’t fully bought into Linsanity, and thinks Marcus Camby, Ray Felton, and Jason Kidd, are a step in the right direction for a franchise whose volatile, multi-coached, multi-chaptered season was a mess.

And now we wait to see what the Knicks think.

by Nick Gallinelli

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