Monday, February 13, 2012

Knicks For The Lin

I’m not sure how big this story is for the average citizen yet. For basketball fans—and for sports fans in general, I think, especially now that football’s over—it is the story. For New Yorkers, it has taken over their lives, as far as I can tell. (There were 43 mentions of Lin in The New York Times on Wednesday when he was featured in a front page article, and there were 88 mentions of him in yesterday’s Sunday edition, in which there were no fewer than 4 articles about Lin.) The whole thing’s reaching a Tebowesque fervor.

I find myself checking to see if the Knicks are playing each night, and if they are I turn the game on or, if I’m away from a tv, I incessantly check the box scores with the Gametime app. At this early point in the season I’m even more interested in the Knicks than I am in my beloved Celtics.

The Linsanity (yes, that’s a word now) started out small, with his having one good game off the bench—something that could be dismissed as an aberration. Next were two extraordinary performances in a starting role. The excitement started to build, but it still felt a little like much ado about not a whole lot.

Then came the Lakers game on Friday. Before the game I told a friend that Lin was either going to have a great game or a hideous one, that it’d be one or the other. It turned out to be the former as Lin willed the Knicks to victory, outscoring the second greatest player of all time, Kobe Bryant. It was quite a week for the phenom: Three career games for a player who didn’t have a career three weeks ago.

My favorite highlight from that game is the three Lin hit in the fourth quarter that put them up by 14. It was off an offensive board by Jared Jeffries, who kicked it out to Lin in the corner and proceeded to take himself out of the play to signal a three to the Madison Square Garden crowd before Lin even shot the ball. That is some crazy confident chutzpah right there.

A couple nights ago he beat the T’wolves with a gutsy drive to the hoop as the clock was winding down. The Knicks are on an undeniable 5-game winning streak, and it’s all because of Lin. (I guess that should be a 5-game linning streak.)

Everybody loves an underdog story, the meteoric rise, the out-of-nowhere success story. We also like to vicariously experience another’s success, and Lin makes it easy to do so. He doesn’t look like anyone else on the court. He makes the league equivalent of minimum wage. He doesn’t have that super flashy game we’ve come to expect from even mediocre players in the NBA. He’s all fundamentals, armed with nothing more than preternatural court vision and a quick first step. It’s easy to picture him as nothing more than the best player at the local rec center, going from schooling former high school stars to outplaying the best players in the world. A win for him is a win for us, in a weird way. (Only in professional sports can a Harvard graduate be an avatar of the everyman, but there you go.)

So until the other shoe drops, we’ll keep rooting for him. It’s been a wild ride so far . . . I kinda hope it continues. Just as long as they lose to the Celts if they meet in the playoffs.


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