There is something undeniably cool about Jeremy Lin.
Whether it’s his ability to drop three pointers over seven-foot-tall MVP Dirk Nowitzki, outduel a superstar drafted when he himself was eight years old, or break scoring records set by Shaquille O’Neal, Jeremy Lin has become a global fascination, and deservedly so. Lin’s style of play is entertaining to watch not because he relies on freakish athleticism or unconventional tactics, but because his cerebral approach to the game reveals a presence of mind that is all the more extraordinary given his status as an outsider to the National Basketball Association establishment.
Watching Lin is particularly enthralling given the story surrounding the athlete. In a league that largely designates its superstars by their senior year in high school, it is refreshing to see an athlete succeed so profoundly after going undrafted and flirting with irrelevance for a year. However, beyond the conventional story of an underdog’s tenacity is the undercurrent of once-in-a-generation improbability. Regardless of his skill, Lin probably would not have seen professional play if not for a perfect storm of circumstance; the sheer implausibility of Lin’s story is not lost on fans, who recognize that in nearly no other context would the phenomenon that is Linsanity even exist.
Lin’s humility is another aspect of his story that only strengthens his appeal as a model athlete. He credits every victory to his team, refusing to define himself as an individual success story even as the world continues to do so. We somehow doubt that Lin will ever schedule a variety hour if he ever decides to sign with another team. His off court persona, as well as his cooperative style of play, has fostered a long overdue discussion on sportsmanship and respect in an NBA dominated by big personalities and egos.
Another welcome consequence of Lin’s success is the increased national attention paid to the Harvard men’s basketball team. Coach Tommy Amaker’s program is at a historic level of performance; Jeremy Lin’s success as a player only helps highlight the effort that has gone into transforming a previously anemic program into a nationally ranked one. In a conference as oft ignored as the Ivy League, this renewed interest is especially significant.
On a more local note, Jeremy Lin’s sudden success is exciting because of the accompanying increase in sports enthusiasm and school spirit here at Harvard. Lin’s play has energized a college community at times apathetic toward the achievements of its athletes. It’s a testament to the staying power of Linsanity that commentary on his play has joined concentration and hometown as part of the obligatory Harvard introductory conversation. That comedians like Stephen Colbert now give us underdog status when referring to being a Harvard alum as “coming from nowhere” is only icing on the cake.
We would be remiss not to mention Lin’s impact on race relations and his inspirational position in Asian-American community. Intentionally or not, Jeremy Lin breaks thicker barriers with every game he plays. His transformational story is all the more remarkable because it dismantles previously held notions of racial spheres. Linsanity is truly a cross-cultural, convention-defying sensation—one that we hope to see continue.