posted 2012-03-07 20:28:55

Linsanity: Expectations and Racial Undertones

Hunter students react to the Knicks and Jeremy Lin

Wen Hao Wang, Staff Writer

Basketball fanatics and non-fanatics alike at Hunter College are marveling at Jeremy Lin’s rise from obscure bench player to the Knicks’ newest star.

For many, expectations of Lin were low. This offseason, he was cut by his hometown Golden State Warriors after one season. Soon after, he was picked up by the Houston Rockets, but he was soon cut again. When the Knicks claimed Lin off of waivers on Dec. 27, he was fourth on the depth chart for point guard.

However, another reason exists for the surprise of Lin’s success – he does not fit the typical profile of an NBA player. Lin is the first American-born player of Taiwan- ese or Chinese descent, and one of only a few Ivy League players.

“The reality is that he was not given as much credit as, say, African-American athletes, because he’s Asian,” said senior Nauroze Mir. “It comes down to stereotyp- ing.”

“Asians aren’t usually seen as athletic or part of the NBA,” said senior Victor Kim.

Despite Lin leading his Palo Alto High School to the California Championships, Lin received no college scholarships. And despite being named twice to the All-Ivy League First Team, he was overlooked by NBA scouts.

Thus, no one saw it coming when Lin rescued the Knicks from a two-game losing streak, scoring 25 points and finishing with 7 assists and 5 rebounds in a 99 - 92 victory over Nets on Feb 4. In the next two games, Lin was the starting point guard. He again surpassed the 20-point mark in both games, helping the Knicks record a 99 - 88 victory over the Utah Jazz and 107 - 93 victory over the Washington Wizards.

The fervor of the crowds chanting “Je- re-my!” and t-shirts that read, “Welcome to the Jeremy Lin Show” are evidence of Lin’s wide support.

For all the increased following, Mir, along with Hunter junior Kimberly Chen, expressed disapproval that people seemed to be jumping on the Knicks bandwagon due to Lin’s emergence.

There is more here than meets the eye, as Chen cautioned. “Focusing too much on his race can be a bad thing,” she said.

At its lightest was a sign from a white Knicks fan at Madison Square Garden that read “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Point Guard.” At its worst, it amounted to racial slurs.

Most recently, it amounted to contro- versy in a headline that read, “Chink in the Armor,” on ESPN.com. The headline was in reference to the Knicks’ first loss with Lin as a starter, but can also double as an ethnic slur. ESPN has since fired the writer of the headline and suspended an anchor who used the same slur on TV.

Mir wants the focus to be more on Lin’s talents and less on his background. “I don’t think that Jeremy Lin is great because he is the first Asian. I think he is great because he has great court vision, he’s smart when he plays, and he’s smart in general. The Knicks need a good point guard and Jeremy is the answer to that calling,” he said.

Ultimately, for some Asian Americans, such as senior Patrick Lee, Jeremy Lin is a role model. “Sports are one of the areas where you succeed based on merit and skill – some- thing that Lin proves to have,” he said.

“But it is important to acknowledge race,” he added. “Jeremy breaks stereo- types and helps Asian-Americans get wider recognition.”

Eventually, Lee hopes race will not be a focus. For now though, it remains an issue. A recent episode of Saturday Night Live opened with three sports reporters discussing Jeremy Lin using Asian stereo- types. Then, when a fourth reporter began talking about other Knicks players using African-American stereotypes, the other reporters became offended.

While the racial implications of “Lin- sanity” can be debated, the point guard’s skills cannot. Mir recalled the third quarter of a recent matchup against the Washington Wizards, when Lin stunned John Wall with a crossover dribble and maneuvered into the lane for a thundering slam dunk. His friend couldn’t resist chim- ing in: “Who says Asians can’t drive?”