Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rant #676: Lin-Sanity

" ... and we might have seen the birth of a new star in the name of one Jeremy Lin."

Yes, check back a couple of Rants ago--#669--and you will see that I jumped on the Jeremy Lin (#17 in the photo) bandwagon before one was hitched up and sent into the ether.

I said that this guy might be the savior that the Knicks were looking for, only to have him sitting at the end of the bench all along.

And with last night's sixth straight win, this time against the Toronto Raptors on what else, Asian Appreciation Night--punctuated by Lin's game-winning three-point shot with less than a second to play--I think this guy is the real deal.

I did when I saw him in person at Madison Square Garden, and I do now.

Lin's ascent from benchwarmer to multi-media hero is unprecedented. I can't remember another time when such a thing happened, or at least happened with quite the splash that this has created.

Here is a guy who looks like the guy you sat next to in your classes who seemed so at ease in getting all the answers right. He looks like the guy who was your next door neighbor way back when. He looks like the guy who was the last picked to play in pickup games.

But he isn't any one of these.

Everyone knows his name, even if you aren't a basketball fan. People are buying up his jerseys as if he were Michael Jordan. He is on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, and he has ruled the back pages of the New York tabloids for more than a week now.

But who is this guy?

He grew up on the West Coast, and actually, was a fine athlete in high school and college. He wasn't drafted, but managed to work his way onto the radar, and was actually cut by two teams before the Knicks signed him.

And yes, he was slated to be cut by the Knicks before his "coming out party" at Madison Square Garden nearly two weeks ago.

And yes, he is Asian. Not too many Asians play in the NBA. And he is American-born, which makes him a complete oddity, because almost all the other Asian players who have played in the league have actually come from Asia, such as Yao Ming, who was born in China.

There have been a few others, but none of them have made quite the splash that Jeremy Lin has.

And his race is immaterial, really: everyone seems to gravitate towards this guy, who is playing out all of our fantasies.

Wouldn't we all like to be the unrecognized guy who saves the universe? It plays out like a movie, doesn't it?

In 1968, the Knicks made a brutal trade that ended up making the franchise a perpetual winner in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The traded two popular and talented players, Walt Bellamy and Howard Komives, to the Detroit Pistons for Dave DeBusschere. DeBusschere was a superior athlete who also played Major League Baseball, and he was now devoting himself full-time to basketball. He even coached the Pistons briefly, so this guy had a head to go with his hands and legs, so to speak.

In his first game as a New York Knick, he galvanized the Garden crowd to the point that Bellamy and Komives were mere after-thoughts, and the rest is history. With DeBusschere as starting forward, the Knicks won two NBA championships from 1969-1973, and became the hottest ticket in town.

I was actually at DeBusschere's first game as a Knick. I went with my dad, and the Garden was electric.

It was as if everyone knew that this guy was the savior, the guy who would lead the Knicks to the promised land.

Well, I went with my own son to the Garden when Jeremy Lin had his own, rather different entrance into Knicks' history.

It is funny how things work out that way, isn't it?

And the way Lin and the Knicks are playing, I hope this craziness never ends.

It's great for sports, great for basketball, and yes, it's great for me too.

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