How social media has made Jeremy Lin into a larger-than-life hero.
by Matt Domino / @PuddlesofMyself
The Jeremy Lin story has been phenomenal. Through his first six games starting at point guard, Jeremy Lin is the first New York Knicks player to average more than 20 points and 7 assists a game since Michael Ray Richardson in ‘81-82. The only other player to accomplish that same feat was Walt Frazier—who did it twice.
Lin has galvanized the distraught Knicks fans, brought New York’s record to 15-15 and has given the sports world the first sports figure to backlash against since Tim Tebow. In the past week, Jeremy Lin has occupied that strange and precarious position in sports that only Tebow has occupied in the Twitter era: The unlikely hero who is simultaneously loved and hated.
During Tebow’s run this past fall, some people absolutely hated him; and some people still do hate him. These people didn’t like his humility, his praise and open faith in God, the fact that he seemed like too good of a person, and the fact that he didn’t make sense as an NFL quarterback. Tebow’s throwing motion was awful—his passes ugly and near dead—yet he inspired his teams to wild comeback wins and an unlikely appearance in the Playoffs.
The reason people really hated Tebow—why they had to instantly predict his downfall on Twitter—was because they wanted the truth to be revealed. Haters wanted Tebow to be seen as a fraud and a failure; in their minds, they knew first, and wanted the whole world to catch up.
And the same fate may lay in wait for Jeremy Lin.
There are obvious differences between Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow. Lin was never a national standout in college who led one of the most visible teams in the country to a National Championship. Lin never had a back story of great success that was met by a wall of reality when pro scouts and team officials said his game and mechanics would not translate to the pros.
Lin doesn’t look the part of hero like Tebow does. Tebow became an unlikely hero because he wasn’t supposed to succeed in the end. Lin is the unlikely hero because he is Asian, went to Harvard and does not look like a good basketball player.
But there are similarities between Lin and Tebow. Both site God as a reason for success after the game. Both play in cities with proud franchises with outspoken “alumni.” Both remain humble despite their magnified attention during an era of magnified attention, instantaneous information and criticism. And the unlikely success both Tebow and Lin have experienced has led to an increased chemistry between their teammates. In fact, chemistry and belief have become infectious in the wakes of both the Lin and Tebow experiences.
After he led the Knicks to a comeback win over the Raptors on Valentine’s Day by making the game-tying points and game-winning shot, Jeremy Lin broke down the game with grounded intelligence. He did site God for his run of success, but he also spoke to Iman Shumpert‘s defensive impact on the game and how hard the team plays, how they are clicking now. Landry Fields ran by and rubbed his head. The production team cut to an image of Tyson Chandler leading a team huddle after the game ended. There was a palpable sense of the Knicks as a team in the truest sense—something that could not be said two weeks ago.
It’s hard to predict if Jeremy Lin will face the same widespread backlash and hatred as Tim Tebow did this past fall. In the end, Lin is more likeable because of his “out of nowhere appeal.” But we are quick to bring down those we raise up, especially now that Twitter is our main means of communication and allows us to do it so easily. Maybe Lin will save this Knicks team by reminding them what it is to play basketball with no expectations, by playing with joy and enjoying your teammates. Maybe Lin will be the one who ends up saving Carmelo Anthony‘s legacy in the NBA, by his magnified, Twitter-affected influence.
There’s no way to know where the Jeremy Lin saga is going. He’s better than Tebow, but maybe he’ll have the same fate. In any case, perhaps he’s already done the best he can. He’s energized New York fans and made them believe; and by doing so, has possibly altered the career of one of the best players in the NBA in Carmelo Anthony. Only time will tell what happens, which doesn’t mean much in an era where time is irrelevant and alterable with the scroll of a phone.