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Knicks’ Lin living out every kid’s dream

February 14th, 2012 · 4 Comments · Blog

At heart, most of us are benchwarmers, waiting for our chance to shine.

Drift back to your high school days and do the math. We had something like 1,200 kids in our school. I wasn’t going to make one of the 10 spots on the basketball team, let alone the starting lineup. Never stopped me from shooting hoops in the neighbor’s driveway and pretending I was one of the hometown Seattle Supersonics.

I grew up with an active sports imagination, catching a pass from Dennis “D.J.” Johnson and launching a deep 3, a la Downtown Freddie Brown. I tossed baseballs up to myself and peppered them around the backyard as if it were the Kingdome (yeah, not the fabled venue most kids probably aspired to, but when in Seattle …). Who’s never imagined the euphoric high of blasting a towering shot into the lights, like Roy Hobbs in The Natural?

Hobbs was nothing more than an unwanted warm body, riding the pine while his team faltered. Pop Fisher, manager of the New York Knights, refused to play him. Wouldn’t even let him jump in for batting practice. When Hobbs finally got his chance, he became an instant sensation, cracking home runs and selling newspapers.

No one likely referred to Jeremy Lin as “the Natural” before this month. Despite starring in high school and leading Palo Alto High to a 32-1 record and a California Div. II state title as a senior, he was regarded with such skepticism by college recruiters that instead of full rides he was offered opportunities to walk on. Stanford University, his hometown dream school, extended one such lukewarm invitation, as did UCLA. He wasn’t quick enough or flashy enough to invest a precious scholarship in. Lin, a star in the classroom as well as on the court, wound up at Harvard, where he rewrote the Crimson record book and led his team to unprecedented success, both within and outside the Ivy League.

After being bypassed in the 2010 draft, he scratched and clawed for an opportunity in the NBA, hooking on with his hometown Golden State Warriors, where he made history and spawned a cult following as the first U.S. born Asian in the league. He shuttled between the NBA D-League and the Warriors bench, finding his way into 29 games and tallying at total of 76 points.

When NBA camps opened last fall after the long lockout, Lin was waived by the Warriors. Three days later the Houston Rockets claimed him, only to drop him again two weeks later, on Dec. 24. Merry Christmas, Jeremy, we don’t need you.

The Knicks snatched him up two days after Christmas, weighing him as a potential backup to the backup of the backup point guard. He would play if everyone else got the flu. Or more likely, if he were sent back to the D-League, which he was on Jan. 17. Following a breakout game for the Erie Bayhawks, Lin was back in New York, still riding the pine, but close enough to again feel the sweat dripping off his superstar teammates in the huddle.

With the Knicks on a putrid skid, having lost 11 of their past 13 games, a desperate Coach Mike D’Antoni left Lin on the court a little longer than usual in a Feb. 4 game against the Nets. The contest was the tired team’s third in three days, and the fresh Lin played so well it became impossible to pull him off the floor. He finished with a career-best 25 points while dishing out seven assists in 36 minutes.

Then the Linsanity hit. Two nights later the young guard was in the starting lineup for the first time in his career, going for 28 points and eight assists as New York overcame a Carmelo Anthony injury to notch a 99-88 victory over Utah. Lin started the next three games for the Knicks, now without Anthony as well as the team’s other superstar, Amare Stoudemire, out on bereavement leave. He carved the Washington Wizards for 23 points and 10 assists, torched the Lakers for 38 points, and led N.Y. to its fifth straight win with 20 points and eight assists against Minnesota.

I hate the modern NBA and I say, wow. Just wow. Man oh man, what a story.

Never mind Floyd Mayweather citing race as the reason Lin is leading off SportsCenter every night. To me this has nothing to do with his Taiwanese heritage. It’s all about the way he’s taking advantage of his opportunity.

Jeremy Lin is every kid in America right now.

After waiting game after game, sending mind waves to the coach, “put me in, put me in, I can do this,” finally our call comes. The chance to be a hero is at hand. We drive the lane, toss up a shot, it falls. The crowd roars. We launch a jumper that finds net. With every score the cheers gain volume. We ride off the floor on the shoulders of our teammates, victorious.

We’ve all dreamed it. Jeremy Lin is living it.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Vicki

    Where there is a Lin, there are thousands of others that will never get off the bench. There are a million reasons why and most of them unfair. At best we can learn from it. Yes sports is unfair. Life is unfair. In a world where now every kid gets a trophy, everybody’s a ‘winner’ and the fat kid gets an A in gym, that’s the least we can do for our kids.

  • James Bailey

    Vicki, I guess that’s why his story is so interesting/inspiring. At some point most of us have been that kid on the bench, or the kid that wasn’t even good enough to sit the bench. Most of the guys who get shuffled between the NBA and the D-League (their minor leagues) wind up getting cut and playing in Bulgaria or something. They don’t become stars like Lin did. There are probably a lot of college coaches out there who wish they had given him a chance as well. He was sure better than any guard we had at NC State when he was in school.

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