On July 20th, 2010, Jeremy Lin, was signed by the Golden State Warriors. After being undrafted coming out of Harvard University, the 6’3 point guard dazzled in the NBA summer leagues, including going toe to toe with the NBA’s 2010 first pick, John Wall in a summer league game against the Wizards. An American born to Taiwanese parents, his exciting and ferocious play in 5 games has turned Jeremy Lin into a fan favorite even before having an official NBA team. This, for more reasons than the average NBA fan would understand, matters.
Basketball to me has always been my favourite sport for a number of reasons. There’s pace, there’s drama, there’s tension, but most importantly, it is the most vicarious sport. Everyone has their inner athlete, or at least their yearning to become one, even though a majority of us are not athletically gifted. We go to playgrounds and rec leagues, trying an Iverson crossover, a Steve Nash behind the back, or a Lebron crab dribble drive (that’s called less and therefore easier to perform). Those who are lucky can pull off a Hakeem (and now Rondo) Dream -Shake, or God-forbid even dunk once in a while. We try these moves because we all want to be these athletes, and even though we can’t string all these athletic gifts together, we dream. It’s why we watch basketball; so that we can live vicariously through these amazing physical specimens that do what we cannot. They defy gravity. They will themselves to greatness.
This is even more important for the banana community.
There’s no arguing around it; Asians are generally less athletically gifted than most other people, and those that are are usually deemed finesse players (like in baseball), are gifted in sports that do not require pure athletic power (such as racquet sports), or need to be trained non-stop by their Government to produce results (diving, skating and gymnastics). Even back at Boston University, there was a rec league for Asian players 6’0 and under (which is about 90% of us). We need more than most others to live through our television sets, because if we can’t do, we can watch, and feel like we are taking part in something bigger than ourselves.
This is where Jeremy Lin comes in.
Yao Ming was no doubt one of the largest factors in marketing NBA and the sport of basketball to Asia, and specifically China. But even before Yao was drafted, people joked about how he was a creation of the Chinese Government, just a way to manufacture a player into the NBA like they have done in other sports. Even to some of his most die-hard fans, we were proud to finally have a Chinese star in the NBA, but didn’t really believe that a regular Chinese person ever could unless we were 7’6, never mind being put under a state controlled farm system. And this is why Jeremy Lin matters. A division II state champion in high school, Lin has always been about proving that Asians can play, and more importantly, showing that this sport can be had by the new breed of banana’s (whether it be ABC, BBC, CBC or other westernized Asians). Despite never getting a Division I scholarship or being drafted by an NBA team, Lin is trying to overcome stereotypes to realize his dream in the association, entering with a chip on his shoulder like many other Asian athletes may have had. Though he will not create a basketball buzz like Yao did back in 2002, he does have a drive and slash game that relies on his athletic gifts that previous Asian players like Yi Jian Lian, Yuta Tabuse and even Yao himself do not have; the type of game that fans of the game watch basketball for. Though he will not break all Asian stereotypes (there’s a joke I’ve heard a few times about how Asian parents wouldn’t let their children become athletes unless they graduate 4 years from an Ivy League school first), he will be an important stepping stone in proving that Asians have got game too, whether it be in dominating all-star games or contributing 10 minutes off the bench. And we all should be watching.
Just a little less vicariously this time.