Last week Thursday, basketball sensation Jeremy Lin suffered his worst game as a starter as the Miami Heat limited him to just 8 points and 3 assists and forced him into 8 turnovers. While this doesn’t mean he’s not as good as previously thought, it makes him a little more human and forces the hype to die down a little. I don’t have anything against him because he’s been so humble and decent and he’s been consistent enough to be more than just a flash in a pan. His rise in the past 2 weeks has been unbelievable, from putting up last-second game-winning threes,scoring 38 on the Lakers, regularly posting up 20 and 8, and playing well even when they lose, leading the Knicks to go 9-3 since his first breakout game Feb. 4 against the Nets. The few games when he didn’t score that much were ones when he got taken out in the 3rd quarter because the Knicks were up by 20-something. Granted some of those teams the Knicks played were weak, but are they really so weak a guy can come out of nowhere and make it look so easy, even amid a media spotlight so unrelenting and persistent and not even limited to his continent? And this isn’t even including the stupid media puns about his name, including the obvious and popular one which is kind of a ripoff of the nickname of a former Toronto Raptors star.
Here’s a few observations about Jeremy Lin:
-China has got to be wondering why for all the big men, the Yaos, the Wang Zhizhis, they’ve had play in the NBA, they have never had a guard anywhere as good as Lin. Can you imagine if China had a Jeremy Lin playing point guard alongside Yao in his prime? Now, not only is Lin blowing up the NBA, but his parents are Taiwanese, for goodness sake.
-There’s no doubt that Lin has become incredibly popular with Asian-Americans and Asians. It’s not surprising. There are hardly any popular full Asian-American athletes (so sorry, Hines Ward, Tiger Woods, Johnny Damon et al don’t count though Dat Nyugen would), especially in team sports. The NBA is one of the most popular leagues in North America, and the world. Then Lin’s success itself is a good story, whether he was white, black or Latino. But what strikes me is that the enormous pride in Lin by his fellow ethnic Asian-Americans also demonstrates that there’s a kind of insecurity among this community. I’m not American but I can understand why they would feel pride in Lin. But I find it hard to believe that Asian-Americans still haven’t been able to overcome barriers in sports or other forms of pop culture like movies and music in America. I’m sure that Asian/Chinese people elsewhere such as in Trinidad probably harbor this insecurity but in North America, Asians have definitely got the numbers to break out and be successful in many areas.
-Despite both of his parents being from Taiwan and his Taiwan relatives boldly proclaiming his “Taiwaness” as opposed to being “Chinese”, Lin has wisely sidestepped this political and sociocultural minefield. I believe he’s even said that he’s from Taiwan but he’s proud of being Chinese. I know he’s not claiming to be from China, but at the same time, it means he’s not willing to disclaim any association with China. It’s kind of hilarious how obsessive Taiwan, and China to a lesser degree, has been over claiming Lin. Which brings me to my next point.
-One of the really great things about Jeremy Lin is how humble and decent seems. Even from his high school photos, he doesn’t seem like the ultracool jock athlete who feels he’s better than everybody around him. He’s this gawky, slightly nerdy-looking guy who just happens to be a great ball player. It’s ironic because his humble and down-to-earth nature very likely would not help him fit in in a Taiwan where style is much valued over substance.
Switching to a Chinese ahtlete, UFC 144 wasn’t very good for Zhang Tiequan as he was knocked out by a great right overhand punch from his Japanese opponent Issei Tamura in the second round. It wasn’t going well for him before that. This is Zhang’s first loss by knockout but he is now 2-3 since fighting in the US. It also wasn’t a good event for Japanese fighters as big names like Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto all suffered losses.