That’s the headline that has been dominating US sports media outlets over the last two weeks. It’s the story of Jeremy Lin, who has gone from no-name bench warmer to star quicker than you can type ‘#Linsanity’ into Twitter and see the millions of results.
Lin is a Taiwanese-American - the first American of Chinese/Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. Californian born, he graduated from Harvard and left college undrafted. He was cut by two NBA teams before signing with the New York Knicks in December 2011.
Jeremy Lin’s real journey to stardom began on 4 February (U.S. time) against New Jersey.
Lin had been signed by the Knicks as cover for the injured Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis, and had played in only nine games for the Knicks before the game against the Nets at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Lin came off the bench to play at 36 minutes. He scored 25 points and recorded seven assists, five rebounds and two steals while leading the Knicks to a win.
It seemed, at the time, like a flash in the pan. A one off performance against the worst statistically ranked defense of the last 20 years.
How wrong that assumption was.
Two nights later against Utah, again at the Knicks’ home court, Lin earned his first career NBA start off the back of his performance against the Nets. He scored 28 points and recording eight assists while playing 45 of a possible 48 minutes.
New Yorkers were completely enamored with their new star, who spent the nights sleeping on his brother’s couch because he couldn’t afford to pay rent.
He continued the hot streak against the Washington Wizards, recording his first double-double of 23 points and ten assists, leading the Knickerbockers to their third win in a row.
The biggest test in Lin’s fledging career was still to come when, on 10 February, 14-time NBA All Star and 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant, would spearhead the Los Angeles Lakers’ attack at Madison Square Garden.
Enter, Jeremy Lin.
Lin recorded a career-high 38 points and added seven assists on top of that, along with a highlight reel lay-up to give the Knicks their fourth consecutive win.
After the game, Kobe Bryant had some endearing words for Lin.
‘Players don’t usually come out of nowhere, if you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. But no one ever noticed.’
Bryant isn’t the only one with high praise for the 23 year old. Knicks’ centre Tyson Chandler said Lin is the real deal.
‘He’s not a fluke. You can tell when a guy isn’t really that skilled but is just having a good stretch. This guy is skilled. He’s fast. He gives the defense a problem, and he’s really crafty at the rim.’
By this stage the concept of ‘Linsanity’ had spread all over America’s biggest city, the league’s entire franchise and the whole world – and sports fans everywhere were sent into a basketball-induced spin.
Lin’s biggest moment to date came in a game on 14 February against the lowly Toronto Raptors, which is hard to believe considering the events that came before it.
The game was tied at 87 apiece with Lin in possession of the ball for what would be the last shot of the game. Lin, not a noted jump shooter, was expected to drive into the lane or pass to an open man.
Unexpectedly, he advanced the ball from half court with just six seconds on the clock before he isolated himself against Raptors’ point guard Jose Calderon and pulled up to drain the game winning three-pointer with 0.5 of a second remaining.
That 27-point performance saw him break the record for the most points scored by a player in their first five starts since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, ahead of Hall Of Fame players like Dominique Wilkins, Dan Issel and Shaquille O’Neal.
The Knicks’ first loss after their miraculous seven-game streak came on Saturday (our time), as they fell to the lowly New Orleans Hornets. Lin struggled with eight first half turnovers, but recorded numbers of 26 points and five assists to keep the doubters at bay for at least one more game.
That next game came on Sunday night this week (Monday morning Australian time), and Lin was back to his best. Twenty-eight points, a career high fourteen assists, and five steals in a win over defending champion Dallas Mavericks, the best team New York have faced during their stretch with Lin in the line-up.
In the game’s biggest market, a little known Ivy League graduate has become a star. Whether Lin continues to perform this way or not, it is truly a story for the ages, a classic underdog battle and a testament to hard work and perseverance paying off.
His performances may not always be ‘Linsane’, he may not lead his team to ‘Lins’ every night, and the novelty of the puns will wear off (most likely after this sentence), but Lin looks to have a bright future in the NBA, if not a ‘Lincredible’ one.