Jeremy Lin isn't your average NBA point guard. He played college basketball at Harvard.
But what makes Lin even rarer is his heritage (he self-identifies as Chinese-Taiwanese) and height (6 feet 3). The California native is the first Asian American to reach the NBA since 1947 and the first Asian player to make a splash at less than 7 feet tall.
Sent to the minor leagues two weeks ago, Lin was recalled five days later and burst on the scene during the New York Knicks' last two games, with 53 points and 15 assists in back-to-back wins, causing an outbreak of "LinSanity."
"I'm going to ride him like Secretariat," embattled Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after Lin scored 28 points as the Knicks defeated Utah on Monday night. "He has an attacking mentality," D'Antoni said. "He can get in the paint and he is a point guard. You can't explain the game all of the time, and he doesn't need you explaining it. He knows the game."
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Lin isn't the first Ivy Leaguer to play in the NBA, but he's the first Harvard alum to play in the NBA since the 1953-54 season. The Knicks previously had a famous Princeton alum in Bill Bradley, who played on two championship teams and later became a U.S. senator.
But Bradley never had his own #linsanity hashtag or was among the top 10 most searched names in China.
"An American born and bred who has nothing to do with Chinese basketball, but Chinese basketball fans love to watch him," wrote Chinese basketball commentator Yang Yi. "It's because he's tapped into a dream: an Asian guard using skill and awareness to compete in the NBA."
Lin enjoyed a stellar high school career and was a senior captain when Palo Alto High went 32-1 in winning a state title. He won numerous honors but didn't receive any scholarship offers from colleges, apparently leery that he could thrive at the next level. At Harvard he became the first Ivy Leaguer to record at least 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals in a career, proving his versatility. But he went undrafted by the NBA in 2010, and two teams cut him before he landed with the Knicks.
"I don't think anyone, including myself, saw this coming," Lin told reporters after Monday's game.
No one knows how long it will last, with some observers speculating that it won't be long. That might well be the case. But for at least a couple of games, it's been Linsane.
Deron Snyder writes the "Loose Ball" column for The Root. Follow him on Twitter and reach him at BlackDoor Ventures, Inc.
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