The sample size is growing.
For a fair-weather, casual or diehard fan, Jeremy Lin is dominating the news cycle.
Whether it’s a toe-to-toe showdown with Kobe Bryant, going punch-for-punch with the defending champs or just taking care of business on the road.
Lin’s fourth-quarter pull-up 3-pointer over Dirk Nowtizki sealed a thrilling, 104-97 comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.
This multifaceted story has been so easy to understand yet so complex to predict, mutating and evolving day-by-day.
Between winning a state championship his senior year at Palo Alto High School in California and his late-December signing with the Knicks, Lin was turned away and dismissed by heaps of college and NBA teams.
Lin’s turbulent journey finally took a turn On January 20, less than three weeks ago, as Lin was riding the bus from Erie to the Portland Exposition Building – the countries second oldest arena – in Portland, Maine to take on the Maine Red Claws in the NBA’s Developmental League.
On that same night the Knicks woefully fell 100-86 to the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping to 6-9.
For all we know, Lin may very well have set the 3,100 seats on fire as he recorded 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 12 assists, finishing with a triple double.
Ironically, building its team in an antithetical way – frontcourt heavy in a backcourt league – New York was saved by the antithesis of its superstar city when Lin was recalled by the Knicks on January 23.
Three week later, Lin was being criticized by several of the Mavericks players prior to undoing their every double-team and mad-blitz, eviscerating every scheme they threw at him before yet another electric, sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden: basketball’s greatest theater.
Every lapse in judgment of Lin’s talent over the years brings to note a familiar Confucian adage: There is beauty in everything. But not everyone sees it.
What they all missed was not just a transcending basketball player, but perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a second chance, to find an emissary to rebuild the bridge once constructed by Yao Ming, leading to an Asian community growing faster than Lin’s stat line.
Since the mid-90′s, David Stern and the NBA have been searching for a way to cultivate the Far East. There is an astonishing appetite for basketball in China that began with the arrival of Ming as the first overall pick in the 2002 draft.
Ming’s retirement this past summer has left a huge void to fill, and Jeremy Lin’s opportunity to fill that void is fueling the momentum of this runaway train.
Lin’s impact on the Knicks is rippling through the league like no player since LeBron James, with infinitely more potential.
But it’s not one particular facet that drives this vehicle: it’s the Harvard thing, the unathletic guy on the end of the bench, the journey through the D-league and yes, his Asian-American descent.
Lin’s statistics have been staggering, but the cultural implications he carries with him as an Asian-American are shattering.
So much in sports is identity, and Lin, who had none other than a how-to YouTube video, is now in position to forge potentially the greatest one of all.
It cannot be overstated: this is not the cute Time Tebow story. There is no magic to this, no elephant in the room. There is no uncertain expiration date hanging over it.
Shooting streaks will come and go but Lin’s poise, court vision and feel for the game are unmistakable.
All of which gives him the opportunity to make this a global sensation.
With the Knicks ridden by injuries, if Lin did not get his chance three weeks ago against the lowly New Jersey Nets, he likely would have been cut.
Now he is pleading with the media to leave his family alone in Taiwan.
While Lin’s body of work is still microscopic, it did not take Ming long, either, to prove that having an impact off the court counts just as much as your presence on it.
Despite only eight years in the league, Ming will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, whether it is as a player or a contributor.
Ming did not just boost the sale of Rocket’s jersey’s overseas. He brought them Kobe, Shaq, Duncan, Iverson and McGrady while opening the doors for LeBron, Carmelo, Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade.
This came to fruition during the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, China – Ming’s home country – when Ming, injured at the time, refused to miss their game against the USA.
The arena was sold out and filled to capacity with fans of both countries. Energy was running rampant. On China’s first possession, Ming came off a high pick-and-roll and drained a 3-pointer (can be seen at 1:52).
The roof caved in and the walls came down. As the crowd exploded as ebullient as any, before inbounding the ball, Team USA paused. These players, All-Stars at every level of their careers, did not know what to do.
According to Yahoo Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, Kobe Bryant described that pause as feeling honored.
“Yao built this bridge for all of us,” Bryant said after the game.
Ming was the NBA’s 7 foot 6 inch connection to the Far East, and what Lin lacks in height he makes up for with substance, humility and a staggering level of self-awareness.
With the rare ability to remain so grounded, Lin has the opportunity to become another derivative of Ming’s once great cultural connection.
According to the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, there are 15 to 20 million Chinese Americans and millions more of East Asian descent in the country. Its educational and financial demographics have made it a marketers dream.
Ming brought thousands of new fans to Rockets games. Now, Ming’s absence has become detrimental to the Rockets organization. Since his last full season, Houston’s average attendance has dropped from 17,482 to 13,823, the second lowest in the league.
Much like Ming, Lin is bringing fans to the NBA stage in droves, and is providing a league desperate for a new spectacle with a global sensation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Lin has propelled Madison Square Garden Co. to an all-time high share price. Shares of MSG rose $1.12, or 3.6 percent, to close to $32.27 on Monday, and as much as 9.2 percent in the last six days.
Several Asian TV outlets have picked up games and the prices for Knicks tickets have skyrocketed, not to mention have been blacked out on its local Time Warner Cable provider.
While the sample size is still small, there is no reason to begrudge Lin’s stardom as many did with Tebow.
There’s no use in throwing hypotheticals, the classic “what-if” around, either. Of course, the what-ifs are countless in this particular case. But sometimes, as strange as they might seem, these things happen the way they’re supposed to happen.
And right now, Jeremy Lin is happening everywhere.