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February 17th, 2012

Jeremy Lin against the L.A. Lakers Feb. 10. Photo credit: Flickr user DvYang via Creative Commons

Lin-sanity! Lin-Mania! Super Lin-tendo! Those are just some of the names Jeremy Lin is being called — he’s an instant global basketball sensation … and someone practically unheard of just two weeks ago.

Now there’s buzz about Lin all over the world. Just about every newspaper has a story. Almost every TV and radio station is talking about him.

You don’t have to know much about basketball to appreciate this Lin-derfella story…

A few weeks ago, basketball’s New York Knicks weren’t looking too good. They were on a losing streak. Three of their famous, well-paid superstars, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler weren’t playing all that well. Then from bad to worse, Anthony couldn’t play because of an injury and Stoudemire had to tend to a death in the family. The first string point guards, a leadership position, weren’t managing to pull the team together as hoped. The Knicks were all but out of the running for the play-offs. There were rumblings that the coach, Mike D’Antoni, might be fired. And the fans had just about given up.

As more or less of a last resort, D’Antoni put in Jeremy Lin, a virtually unknown player. Up until now, Lin had spent most of his time with the Knicks on the bench. They picked him up part way through the season when they were headed to San Francisco, and in need of possible back-up player. Lin happened to be there. It was a quick and temporary fix and the plan was to cut him shortly after, possibly a few weeks to a few months later.

Lin didn’t even bother to get an apartment while in New York, sleeping instead on his brother’s and teammate’s couches.

Photo credit: Nikk_la via Creative Commons

Though Lin believed in himself, some thought he shouldn’t even be in the league. There’s not a lot about him that makes him obvious basketball star material.

For starters, at 6 feet 3 inches tall, he’s actually kind of short for a basketball player.

He graduated from Harvard with an Economics degree. Amazingly, if you go to Harvard, you actually have a better chance of being the President of the United States than playing in the NBA (National Basketball Association)! Eight U.S. Presidents attended Harvard, only 4 NBA players have, according to Time magazine. President Obama — who went to Harvard — says he’s impressed by Lin’s incredible success.

Prior to being on the President’s radar, hundreds of major Division 1 (top level) colleges declined to offer Lin a basketball scholarship. During the draft, when teams choose from all the available players, not one team chose Lin. Some even passed over him twice. And Lin had been let go from two teams he did eventually sign with.

He’s also one of only a handful of Asian professional basketball players. Many believe that stereotypes are partly responsible for this and that Lin’s new-found success may help overcome them.

But in their desperation, the Knicks didn’t seem to have many other options … and it couldn’t get much worse.

In goes Lin.

There were no fireworks the first game he played. Even the Knicks’ coach recalls he felt “neutral” about Lin, he “wasn’t excited”. But Lin was doing well enough, and they kept playing him. A few games later, he was starting in games. And that’s when it turned around.

In his first five games as a starter, Lin scored more points than any other NBA basketball player (since statistics have been kept, nearly 40 years)! He was averaging 27 points a game!

And game after game he was dunking, hitting three-pointers, driving to the basket, making the big shots, and sending amazing passes to his teammates — the complete package.

The Knicks have won 7 straight games as of this writing, with Lin playing a major role in all of them.

Click on the green, to watch the official Knicks re-cap video of Jeremy Lin’s rise . You can also watch a similar YouTube video below:

He’s electrified the basketball season, but it goes way beyond that. He’s become a source of pride to both the Chinese and Taiwanese communities in the U.S. and worldwide. He’s driven up Madison Square Garden’s stock single handedly (making the arena they play in more financially valuable). He’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, and the Asian edition of Time . His jerseys are selling out at stores. And the Knicks now have a chance of making the playoffs!

Feb. 27 Asian edition of Time

Some still have their doubts after his initial streak, saying maybe it was luck, and that the teams they were playing against weren’t that strong. One real test came against the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the all-time great teams and against one of its all-time great players, Kobe Bryant. When reporters asked Bryant about Lin before the game, Bryant said he’d heard of him but didn’t know anything about him. Lin scored his all-time high 38 points against Bryant and the Lakers, the Knicks won the game, and Bryant and the Lakers succumbed to the Lin phenomenon.

A few days later against the Toronto Raptors, with the game tied and less than a second to go, Lin shot a clutch game-winning 3-pointer. His fame was cemented. And more of his doubters were silenced.

Regardless of how long Lin’s incredible run will last, Lin, so far, has remained humble and unchanged. He diverts the focus from himself to his teammates in press conferences and post-game interviews. And the very teammates he helped re-invigorate speak about him admiringly. Tyson Chandler was quoted as saying, “I’m glad this happened to him in all honesty. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy because he’s one of the guys who can take all this going on … it’s very exciting. The way he comes around and the way he goes about things, you would never know all this stuff was going on. That’s what I love about him.”

His next game is tonight (Friday, February 17).

Marek Fuchs, who has covered the New York Knicks for The New York Times contributed to this report, as did Lukas Haynes, HTE’s World and Politics Editor who is also a Knicks fan.

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