Making Sense of Linsanity
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law
Like lots of kids who loved basketball, I dreamed of playing in the NBA. Nothing about those dreams were remarkable—they were the cookie cutter fantasies of any adolescent basketball junkie, a paradigm of delusion masquerading as ambition. “Dream-Selwyn” could run like Pippen, jump like Jordan, shoot and dribble like Allen and Iverson, and all the while look on the outside like the same scrawny little Chinese kid who was so skinny his friends in high school called him Rex (short for anorexic—my friends were unimaginative, and dumb).
Dream-Selwyn would have wiped the floor with Jeremy Lin. I’m sure of it. But unlike my basketball avatar, Jeremy Lin is real. Jeremy Lin can play. Jeremy Lin looks more like me than any of my childhood basketball heroes ever did. Somehow this matters. To me, and to many others, it’s all that matters.
Race has a long, rich history of being the great unequalizer, a coefficient as irreducible as the atom and fixed to every variable of individual, unbalancing the universal equation of human relations. The story of Jeremy Lin is a story of race wrought in the cathedral of sports, couched in fast dashes to the basket, dagger threes, daring lob passes, and across the country, a swell of pride fifteen million strong. He went to Harvard, a school that has produced more U.S. presidents than NBA players. He was undrafted. He was cut twice and about to be cut a third time when he had his breakout game. He crashed on his brother’s couch because he didn’t have the money or the job security to get his own place. This is Jeremy Shu-How Lin: second-generation Taiwanese American; son of Gie-Ming and Shirley Lin; and star point guard for the New York Knicks.
“Chink in the Armor.” A tweeted joke about Lin’s “two inches of pain.” This too is Jeremy Lin—not Jeremy Lin the person, but Jeremy Lin the symbol. It isn’t his fault, but he still has to carry it. Lin is no Jackie Robinson. He is not a hero. But his significance is heroic. His feats are joy. When Floyd Mayweather opined on Twitter, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian,” he was right. Lin is a good player. He is Asian. He came up in a world that wasn’t and made it in his own skin. My skin. So cue the hype. It doesn’t change a thing.