On February 3rd, the New York Knicks lost to the Boston Celtics. Third-string point guard Jeremy Lin played just over six and a half minutes. He missed all three of his shots and turned the ball over once to boot.
The next day, Jeremy Lin scored 25 points, dished out 7 assists, and had 4 rebounds in 35 minutes. Ever since, basketball fans have been inundated with Jeremy Lin news, Jeremy Lin back story, and worst of all, a seemingly unending stream of tired Jeremy Lin puns.
I mean, honestly. If Russia ever found out how many man hours we’ve spent thinking of words that start with “IN,” they’d invade. Our nation would surely fall.
In the span of a week, Jeremy Lin went from being an interesting story, to a great story, to an obnoxious story. Then last night happened.
As I do every year, I made the decision to eat cereal for a week, so I could afford to buy a ticket to see the Los Angeles Lakers’ only trip to Madison Square Garden. I paid for Kobe. I got my money’s worth from Lin.
After missing the Knicks’ first shot, Lin scored the Knicks’ first basket - a 22-foot three pointer. He followed that up with an assist to Tyson Chandler, a 19-footer, another assist to Tyson Chandler, a 16-footer, and a steal which he took in for a breakaway layup.
Timeout Los Angeles Lakers. It was an ambush.
After establishing his outside game (a supposed weakness), Lin went inside, shooting runners in the lane, and finishing at the basket with his soon-to-be-patented spin move (no doubt, regrettably called the “Lin Cycle”…here come the Russians!!!). He had 18 by halftime.
When Lin continued his attack in the 3rd, the Lakers’ big men adjusted, but so did Jeremy. On the fly. He drew contact, and either got to the free throw line, or kicked the ball outside to his teammates. When Kobe Bryant willed the Lakers back within 3 during the 4th quarter, and the Knicks needed Lin the most, he was there. He was there, like a battle-tested, “been there before,” cold-blooded killer.
A rebound, an assist, another rebound, and an ice cold 19-footer he stroked right in Pau Gasol’s Spanish face. In 83 seconds, the Knicks lead was back to 9. Timeout Los Angeles. Déjà vu.
Lin wasn’t done. It was time to keep working the outside. The Lakers were on their heels. On three consecutive plays, the Knicks’ new starting point guard stuck another long jumper, Kobe missed one of his own, followed by Lin drilling his second three pointer of the night. Game over. The last two of his career-high 38-points came when Lin sliced through the Lakers’ “Top 5” team defense, deftly slipped past the 7-foot Gasol, and reversed his layup.
I couldn’t even see it. I had to ask someone. The two guys in front of me were hugging. And screaming at each other. I’ve never heard Madison Square Garden louder.
I spent the whole game mystified. At times it seemed like the fans were carrying Lin to new heights - as though the raucous applause and booming MVP chants were fueling him. At other times, Lin was the one waking up the crowd, snatching momentum back for his Knicks. Was Jeremy Lin’s confidence through the roof because the fans were cheering him on? Or were the fans cheering him on because his confidence demanded it.
I spent a lot of time (read as: “almost all of it”) trying to decide whether Jeremy Lin was legit or not. Did I just want him to be legit? The Garden faithful clearly wanted him to be legit, so was that emotion affecting me? Is “legit” even really a word? Don’t I have to say “legitimate?”
I just kept asking myself, “Is Jeremy Lin for real?” During timeouts. In between plays. Over and over and over. And then the answer hit me.
It doesn’t matter.
I saw one hell of a performance at 32nd and 7th in New York City. Maybe it wasn’t Kobe’s 61, but it was quite similarly supernatural. Tonight, I saw a human being, just like you and me, not just overcome his opponent, but overcome the limitations of his own body and mind, to excel at the highest level. Whether he becomes the next Walt Frazier doesn’t matter. Tonight, Jeremy Lin touched greatness. Tonight, Jeremy Lin was Great.
Isn’t that why we watch sports? Don’t we hope to see someone do something amazing? That’s why I had to write this. I needed to tell you to turn on your televisions. Go to the Garden. Find out when the Knicks come to town. Don’t miss what’s going on because you’re trying to analyze it. Just take the time to enjoy this.
Granted, I don’t exactly know what this is, but I do know it’s special.
Or maybe I’m just certifiably Linsane?