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The Ugly Truth Of The Linsanity Debate: It’s Always Racial

By 02.15.12

Jeremy Lin

Lin is a smart point guard with a good jump shot who plays for Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. And just like Raymond Felton before him and Steve Nash before him, Lin is playing the best basketball of his life in D’Antoni’s PG-friendly system. That system allowed an All-Star like Nash to become an MVP. It allowed a solid starter like Felton to become a borderline All-Star. And it has allowed a fringe NBA player like Lin to become a solid starter.

The popular belief is that Lin has saved D’Antoni’s job. I’d like to think it was D’Antoni who saved Lin’s career.

Lin took over at point guard for a team racked by injuries at the position and whose No. 1 and No. 2 scorers, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, have been on the court together once in the last six games. That means Lin can shoot the ball 19.5 times per game (and average 5.1 turnovers per game), as he has done in his last six, without anybody pulling him aside and reminding him of the certified All-NBA talent surrounding him.

The popular belief is that Anthony is the hungriest of the NBA’s Hungry Hungry Hippos when it comes to his stats, and that upon his return from injury he will make it his mission to stifle Lin’s development. I’d like to think that Lin, like any smart point guard, will take advantage of Anthony’s offensive weaponry and shoot the ball less so ‘Melo can shoot more.

Lin has also benefitted from a schedule so cozy that only a “Jersey Shore” cast member can relate. In his six games of glory he’s faced terrible teams like the Washington Wizards and New Jersey Nets, and terrible defensive point guards like Jose Calderon and Derek Fisher.

The popular belief is that Lin was always this hidden gem of All-Star ability that was simply overlooked and underrated by an NBA scouting and coaching establishment with racist tendencies. I’d like to think that any point guard good enough to make an NBA roster and play 38 minutes per night under Mike D’Antoni would produce similar stats and magical moments against that kind of opposition.

Now would be the right time to admit my own biases. That personally, I grew tired of Linsanity before it existed: Three years ago precisely, when it was only a mild Linterest.

[RELATED: Today In Jeremy Lin Crazy]

Back in 2009, following Lin’s junior year at Harvard, Dime colleague Gerald Narciso penned a feature on Lin for the magazine (Ed. note: We actually posted it today). Good player, I thought. Great story. But after a few months of Lin being a popular topic around the Dime office, I’d had my fill. Later that year, the senior Lin led Harvard into a game against my Georgetown Hoyas and was destroyed: Lin had 15 points, four assists and six turnovers in a 16-point loss, while Hoyas point guard Chris Wright dropped 34 points, four assists and six steals. I figured I’d never hear of the kid again.

In 2010, after Lin went undrafted by the NBA, he made the Golden State Warriors as a summer league walk-on. The same stories resurfaced, on a slightly more national level, and during this round of Linfatuation I almost wrote a piece for Dime‘s NBA season preview issue about how the Harvard grad had become the most overhyped undrafted rookie 12th man on a bad team of all time.

If that’s how I felt about Jeremy Lin then, imagine my feelings now. The full-blown Linsanity of 2012 has, for me, been a little bit like standing in the middle of the crowd at the Teen Choice Awards.

But let’s get back to the race thing.

At least two Black sports personalities already have the bruises to show for enduring the public body shots that come with directing an insult (real or perceived) toward Jeremy Lin. Mayweather is the most prominent. FOX Sports columnist Jason Whitlock is another. Thanks to his wildly misinterpreted “Rudy” quote and depending on the results of his comeback, Carmelo Anthony could easily become the third. Even Kobe Bryant was subject to a bit of backlash after admitting he wasn’t privy to Linsanity before his Lakers gave up 38 points to Lin last Friday.

At risk of joining that list, I will say this:

Jeremy Lin is not a celebrity right now because he’s Asian. But the fact that he’s not Black certainly aids his ascension.

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