There’s a new meme on the internet, and it’s tall, Asian, and sinks great 3-pointers: Jeremy Lin.
By now you’ve probably heard his name, but you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. So we’re here to help with a short primer of everything J-Lin:
Who is he?
Jeremy Lin is a Taiwanese-American basketball player who:
- Graduated from Harvard with an economics degree
- Had an unremarkable pro career with the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets (both of which let him go)
- Was hired as a back-up player by the New York Knicks last December
- Started playing frequently for the Knicks last week
- Started performing extremely well last week, leading the Knicks to several high-profile victories (including one on Thursday over the LA Lakers and Kobe Bryant)
Why does he matter?
Jeremy Lin is a fairytale sports success story with all the pieces Americans love to love: He came from nowhere to achieve greatness on the national stage. He’s Asian-American in a time when few of his ethnicity are playing in the NBA (only three others in the league’s history). He speaks for anyone who has been dismissed for fitting—or not fitting—a certain stereotype.
The backstory, according to Lin’s Wikipedia page (yeah, we know—but we think it’s worth a read):
Sean Gregory of Time wrote of Lin’s zero Division I scholarship offers: ‘[Lin] was scrawny, but don’t doubt that a little racial profiling, intentional or otherwise, contributed to his underrecruitment.’ Lin said: ‘I’m not saying top-5 state automatically gets you offers, but I do think [my ethnicity] did affect the way coaches recruited me. I think if I were a different race, I would’ve been treated differently.’
Lin’s high school coach, Peter Diepenbrock, said that people without meaning any harm assume since Lin is Asian that he is not a basketball player. The first time Lin went to a Pro-Am game in Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, his coach said, someone there informed him: ‘Sorry, sir, there’s no volleyball here tonight. It’s basketball.’ During Lin’s college career, fewer than 0.5% of men’s Division 1 basketball players were Asian-American.
Lin has regularly heard bigoted jeers at games such as ‘wonton soup,’ ‘sweet and sour pork,’ ‘open your eyes!,’ ‘go back to China,’ ‘orchestra is on the other side of campus,’ or pseudo-Chinese gibberish. Lin says this occurred at most if not all Ivy League gyms. He does not react to it. ‘I expect it, I’m used to it, it is what it is,’ says Lin. The heckling came mostly from opposing fans and not as much from players.
And now, the public is celebrating Lin’s triumph. Anyone who’s ever been subject to pattern recognition, who’s seen his or her skills be marginalized or discounted because he or she didn’t fit a certain mold, feels a connection to Lin. As Change the Ratio founder Rachel Sklar noted in an email, “pretty much any group that has been dismissed for not fitting the stereotype can relate. Which is why he’s tapping into such a collective excitement.“
Lin also seems free of the egoism and self-aggrandizement that dog so many professional sports players. Want proof? Check out his charmingly dorky YouTube video on “How to get into Harvard”:
Follow Lin’s story and check back here for updates—the Lin meme is sure to come up at the office this week, and you, dear reader, will be prepared.