If Jeremy Lin Played for the Charlotte Bobcats, There Would Be No Such Thing as Linsanity
I'm a big fan of basketball–yes, I even like the NBA–and I like underdog stories as much as the next person. So of course I've been caught up in the tale of Jeremy Lin. In case you get all of your news from The Apprentice and Auto Trader, Jeremy Lin is the out-of-nowhere starting and starring point guard for the New York Knicks. He's Taiwanese-American, played at Harvard, was cut from two NBA teams and on the verge of being dropped from the Knicks when the team's coach, out of desperation, put Lin in. That was two or so weeks ago, and since then, Lin's been the NBA's leading scorer and the subject of countless punny tabloid headlines, and the Knicks have rarely lost. Honestly, it's the biggest NBA story I can recall since I don't know when–maybe one of Michael Jordan's retirements? Bigger than Lebron's "The Decision," because this one is crossing cultural and gender boundaries, and it's all feel-good. It's one of the biggest sports stories in years, right up there with Tebowmania.
The key words in the previous paragraph were "New" and "York." Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN that if Lin played for the Charlotte Bobcats, he'd be a nonstory. Charlotte Observer writers Tom Sorensen and Rick Bonnell* (two writers I respect) disagreed. Even The Atlantic's Richard Florida weighed in, for some reason. Although from his blog post, I cannot determine his take on the matter.
For the record, I think Cuban is closer to correct than Bonnell or Sorensen. If Jeremy Lin was having his breakout moment with the Bobcats, it would be a nice story, but not a big one, for several reasons. One, it's Charlotte. Not New York. The latter is the center of the media world. Stories there feed on themselves, and the rest of us duly take our cues. Not so much in Charlotte. Because they're New York's team, the Knicks were already on TV a lot. Also, the Knicks are not a terrible team. The Bobcats are. Lin has made the Knicks into playoff contenders. With Lin, the Bobcats would be a little less terrible. New York has a huge Asian-American population, which is helping fuel this story. I don't know what the Asian-American population is in Charlotte, but I know we don't have a Chinatown.
This past Sunday night, I watched Kevin Durant, who might be the best player in the NBA, score 51 points in a great, overtime game. 51! By Monday afternoon, KD wasn't even a top story on espn.com anymore. Quick, name the team that Durant plays for! Bet half of you didn't know. (It's the Oklahoma City Thunder.)
If Lin played here, Charlotte would have discovered him after a few games, then ESPN, then, gradually, the country, and maybe then, the world. As a Knick, that all happened in about three days. To argue anything different would be provincial at best.
And really, as much as I'd like for the Lin story to be set here, I'm glad for him that he's a Knick. He seems like a great kid, and he's just the kind of kid that the NBA needs to own the spotlight.
*Yes, I know there is a word missing from the headline in that link. And yes, I know the link is from the Sacramento Bee. But the story originated on Bonnell's blog. The Google machine didn't turn up the Observer link though, so I went with sacbee.com