Well that was fun while it lasted.
Linsanity has left the building, or has at least left Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks decided yesterday to not make a matching offer to their point guard Jeremy Lin and instead let him accept an offer from the Houston Rockets. Normally I wouldn’t pay this much attention because despite my affinity for college basketball and sports in general, I’m just not much of an NBA fan. I was more enthralled with professional basketball when I was in college, as that was the time period that Michael Jordon reigned supreme and even the casual sports fan couldn’t help but getting sucked into his awesomeness. He really was a force of nature that you didn’t want to miss. After Jordon retired, my interest in the NBA slowly dwindled. I might catch a game here or there, but I don’t really pay it much attention. I tend to know basketball players now because of who they have dated; I don’t know that I could name 20 active players without some assistance. I always intend to pay more attention to basketball and hockey every year, but it just doesn’t seem to ever happen. When my friends start talking NBA, I tend to tune out.
Last season, however, I couldn’t help but notice that one name suddenly popped up in their conversations a lot. The sheer frequency of the mentions in such a short amount of time finally made me ask “Who is Jeremy Lin?’ When I was informed that he was Aisan American Harvard graduate who was currently playing for the Knicks, I honestly thought that they were making it up. These were not attributes that one would normally associate with a successful NBA player. But the more they told me, the more intrigued I became – he’d gone from a bench player in danger of being cut to a sudden playmaking superstar that was reinvigorating the Knicks. And he was doing this while sleeping on his brother’s couch every night. People were comparing him to another sports wunderkind – Tim Tebow.
I finally had to see what this was all the hype was about. For the first time in 15 years, I made a conscious effort to sit down and watch a basketball game on television. As fortune would have it, I chose the Knicks/Lakers game, as I know more about the Lakers than I do any other team in the league, thanks to Kobe Bryant and Keeping Up With The Kardshians. I figured if this Jeremy Lin thing was a bust, I’d at least be watching a team I was familiar with. I wound up watching perhaps Lin’s greatest performance – he scored 38 points and seemingly couldn’t be stopped. He made it all look so effortless. Plus he and teammate Landy Fields had a hilariously nerdy pregame handshake. Adorable.
It was a perfect storm for a phenomenon to be born – an underdog story of a player in the largest media outlet who didn’t quite fit the normal mold, seemingly coming from out of nowhere, bringing some excitement to a franchise that wasn’t used to having much to be excited about, during the lull between the end of football and the beginning of baseball. The icing on the cake was that his last named loaned itself so nicely to puns (some more appropriate than others). All the necessary requirements were there for “Linsanity” to sweep the country. People, like me, who don’t pay much attention to the NBA were suddenly more engaged. I was following the box scores to see how he did each night and didn’t complain when other people put on the Knicks game. I was even trying to figure out if I could get down to Madison Square Garden to watch him in action. EVERYBODY knew who Jeremy Lin was. He was the talk of the nation. Jimmy Fallon played a fantastic tribute song to him on his late night show (which I can’t link to because NBC doesn’t leave their videos on line for very long). Ben and Jerry’s even made a limited edition ice cream in his honor:
An ice cream named after you? That is like my dream come true!
It all came to a halt in March when a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Linsanity temporarily faded and I stopped paying much attention to the NBA and the Knicks. My interest didn’t completely evaporate – when it was announced that the Knicks would be playing an exhibition game here in the fall, I was definitely planning on buying tickets. I had no idea that there was the possibility that he would no longer be on the team when that game occurred.
I can’t say whether the Knicks made the right call in deciding to let him go; I’m just not knowledgeable enough to know if this is a big loss or the other considerations that need to be taken into account when weighing this decision. What I read on-line seems to be pretty split on the decision. But I am kind of bummed to see this come to an end. Linsanity can continue in Houston, of course, but it will be different. The Knicks were the “home town” team which played into my interest and I wonder if he’ll receive the same national non-sports media coverage in Houston that he did in New York. It all just feels a little less fun now. I’m definitely less likely to pay any attention to the Knicks; I already had my doubts about the organization after hearing about all the sexual harassment complaints. I’m more likely to throw my allegiance to the Brooklyn Nets – I don’t know anyone on their team other than Kris Humphries (thanks again, Kardashians), but Jay-Z is a part owner and that’s enough for me.
So thanks for making the NBA (briefly)exciting for me again, Jeremy Lin. Best of luck in Houston.