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Behind The Linsanity

With Mike Pesca in for Tom Ashbrook

Lin-mania sweeps the nation, and the world. Buzzer-beating shots are just part of the story.

New York Knicks' point guard Jeremy Lin (17) drives the ball against Utah Jazz's point guard Earl Watson (11) during an NBA basketball game on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in New York. (AP)

New York Knicks' point guard Jeremy Lin (17) drives the ball against Utah Jazz's point guard Earl Watson (11) during an NBA basketball game on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in New York. (AP)

Jeremy Lin, point guard without precedent.  He’s scored more in his first 5 games than any hall of famer– Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal included. And scoring isn’t even his game, Lin’s an assist man.

There’s a very strong case that he’s the most surprising story in pro basketball history.  As for pro sports history, there was once this guy who played for the Washington Senators. But Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo. was a work of fiction!    

This hour, On Point: how did everyone in the NBA whiff on this season’s transcendent story?

-Mike Pesca



Phil Taylor, senior writer, Sports Illustrated. He’s been following Jeremy Lin since his high school days

Doc Scheppler, He is the girl’s basketball coach at Pinewood high school in Los Altos, CA. He spent four months this past summer working with Jerem Lin on his game.

Jay Caspian Kang, editor at Grantland, which is owned by ESPN,  and contributing writer to the New York times Magazine.

Frank Isola, the Knicks beatwriter for the New York Daily News.

From The Reading List

Freakonomics “Would love to see some commentary on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon in the NBA. Is this not a classic Moneyball-style “undervalued player”? Indeed, one of the best parts of the whole feel-good story (and there are many) is how consistently teams and coaches at the college and NBA level overlooked him before his breakout week. Even the Knicks were ready to release him a few days before his first big game against the Nets. Was he overlooked because he didn’t “look the part”? Will this impact how scouts and coaches evaluate players? What is the current status of sabermetrics for basketball?”

Wall Street Journal “The morning after Jeremy Lin sank a thrilling, last-second three-pointer that lifted the New York Knicks over the Toronto Raptors and gave “Linsanity” its latest, rapturous chapter, the mysterious basketball oracle who saw it coming almost two years ago woke up in Bend, Ore., and blended himself a healthy green shake: celery, spinach, kale, orange juice. He put on his uniform, packed some trail mix for the road and pulled on his winter hat.”

Bloomberg “This was the week when the productivity of Asian-Americans across the country slowed to a near-halt: There were YouTube clips to be watched and re- watched, memes to start and articles to be forwarded. The reason was the unlikely ascent of Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American point guard for the New York Knicks.”

Video: Jeremy Lin On Harvard

Check out this video made by Jeremy Lin before he became and NBA star.

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  • Cory, the Next Generation

    His story fits perfectly into the short attention span news cycle.  It also throws a bone to fans in the largest US market.  Too bad that the NBA is awful.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Bigoted coaches, scouts, and other personnel that make the decisions of who gets CONSIDERED, will have to examine their bigotry for what it is?
       How many other great players have been denied a chance, due to the prejudices against color, race, height, weight,and other factors that aren’t the measure of ability to play the sport?

  • Hblume

    as seen on facebook. (facts,
    um, unverified)


    jeremy lin, jeremy lin: the name sounded
    familiar. the face was for sure familiar. i cdn’t quite recall the details when
    he was outplaying kobe. but today, when he was shooting a three pointer over
    seven foot dirk nowitzki, leading the knicks to a win against dallas, last
    year’s nba champs, it came back in a flash: jeremy lin was the harvard kid i
    played xiangqi (chinese chess) with in harvard
    sq. couple of summers ago.


    i like to sit out in holyoke ctr. with a
    chinese chess set in warm weather. there are plenty of asian tourists who are
    surprised to see xiangqi played by a non-asian. sometimes i get to play chinese
    elders. i always give them the satisfaction of winning. actually, i have no
    choice. chinese men above a certain age are unbeatable. everyone of them is a
    sort of xiangqi kasparov. but i enjoy playing & learn something losing,


    sometimes harvard kids cross mass. ave to get
    espresso or watch the chess masters, misters, monsters, & mere misdemeanors
    play international chess (the formal name for what we in the west think of as
    the only chess there is ) on the holyoke tables. so that’s how it happened that
    this young, athletic looking guy, obviously asian so far as ancestry goes,
    noticed me sipping a coke, browsing a new york times magazine section, &
    fronting a chinese chess set.


    the set got his attention.


    he asked if he cd play. i gestured: of course,
    my pleasure.


    and so we did.


    he told me he grew up with xiangqi but hadn’t
    played it much since he was a kid & wanted to get back into it.


    i asked if he played much chess at all.


    staring at our xiangqi position — i had
    moved my horse out early & had mobilized my right chariot — he shrugged
    & sd, nah, mostly he played basketball.


    mostly just basketball.


    i still have that double-sided xiangqi set.


    xiangqi pieces are discs identified by the
    chinese characters inscribed on them. when i was learning, i thought i might
    have a rough time remembering these characters. so i got a set that showed, for
    example, on the flip side of the piece identified by the chinese character for
    horse, an image of a horse. same with the elephant, the cannon, and so on. a
    nice learning set.


    i don’t use double-sided sets any more. i know
    the pieces. but i still do have that set.


    i wonder if woody allen, big knicks fan, wd
    like to have it. he was there at the garden today, as was spike lee.


    jeremy lin & i played a few games. let me
    say, so far as xiangqi went, he wasn’t an elder. then again, neither was i.


    his main game was b’ball.  he was a point guard.


    • gemli

      There are rules of the road concerning comments, and one is not to gratuitiously eat up huge amounts of space.

    • Patrik

      TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

  • GQ Lewis

    I like Jeremy Lin a lot, but this uber-coverage is simply too much. Give the guy a break. I know NY is the media capital of the world, but did the Knicks get this much coverage when they were underachieving? Certainly the Bobcats don’t get it. I will crown him king when they win a championship.

  • Patrik

    I’m sure hes a great guy and I’m happy for him but he is doing what he is paid to do…help the team win games, he’s doing it well but it’s still just a job he has to do like the rest of his teammates.  I think this shows our societies desperation for a King Authur type hero to emerge in our age.

  • BHA in Vermont

    I don’t watch professional sports so I only know about Jeremy Lin because of the NPR coverage of his story.  However, it is nice to hear that someone who is an all around player instead of a ‘mostly one skill phenom’ can make the grade.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Great, so now we are hearing that the NBA is a racist organization? “Asians can’t cut it”?
    Pretty sad.

  • Chris

    The guy was supposed to be cut and was sleeping on his brother’s couch – now the entire country is talking about him.  It’s the come from behind, underdog story.  Americans love that.  Add to that that he’s no idiot and its great to think that someone can be really intelligent and really athletic.  So far he seems pretty grounded…how can you not love his story?  

    • Carolyn

      It is amazing what hidden talent can be uncovered when people are given the opportunity to prove themselves.  This applies not only to Asians in sports, but to all people who are pigeonholed because of their ethnicity.

  • Albert

    He has heart, his intelligent, charismatic and athletic. Good for him, I hope he goes far in this sport.

  • Rex, Washington, DC

    I really loved senior day at my college’s last home basketball game. The seniors started, sometimes scored a few incredible shots, & then got yanked out of the game. I always wonder why teams claim to have such a short bench when they have all these competent assets deep in the bench.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    The reason Lin is such a great player is that instead of just throwing the ball toward the hoop, he does the math and knows how hard he should throw and what the arc should be. It’s simple physics and it works!!!

  • D-gann

    Great story! Hope continuing success for Lin! He is amazing to watch and has caused a lot of us out here to root for the Knicks.

  • TomK in Boston

    I don’t think racism is the issue. Lin is a first. A first is always a story, period. That’s nothing against his race and it’s not unfair coverage of him compared to those already in the NBA, it’s just what makes a story.

    I assumed he was a “flash in the pan” but I saw him play yesterday and IMO he is actually very good.  

  • Yoichi

    I highly recommend this Jeremy Lin interview in 2010. 2010! And let us hail NPR’s “Tell me More”!! http://goo.gl/81pCC

  • Pingback: The Daily Peep, Feb. 20 « HoopSpeak.com

  • johnnyred

    I’ve been schooled by asian-american hoopsters in NYC for years.  Never look at the skin of a baller – Look at their eyes – a real baller always looks at the rim.

  • http://whilewestillhavetime.blogspot.com/ John Hamilton

    Great show! It’s nice to hear genuine enthusiasm instead of hype. I haven’t watched a game with Jeremy Lin, but will. I haven’t watched sports on TV for years, except for snippets. It’s too boring. I don’t even watch the Super Bowl. It’s just generic team A versus generic team B. Man throw pass, man catch pass. Oh, what a great catch! Did you see that? Please. I can go down to the park and watch dogs catch frisbees better than any NFL player can catch a football.

    I tune in to the occasional golf match, though. There’s no yelling by over-hyped TV announcers, and you can watch for yourself and have your own experience. I don’t even play golf. But I can appreciate a great performance, some dramatic tension, and the joy of victory.

    Jeremy Lin is a fresh look – fresh appearance, fresh playing style, fresh energy. You aren’t just watching more of the same. You can watch some pretty good basketball for free in even the most moderately sized city outdoor court, so why bother with the NBA? Bill Russell talked about this decades ago.

    Indeed, for its time the Celtics team was a study in freshness and innovation. It was the first pro team to have an equal or greater number of African-Americans on the team, and starting. They rotated players so much it was hard to tell who was the starter and who wasn’t.

    So it isn’t just Lin’s great play, but the spice he adds to the game. We may be a tragically bigoted country, but we root for the underdog, and we like something new. All money sports (college as well as pro, but especially pro) should take notice. They are in show business. They need to put on a show people want to see.

  • Ycc6

    He didn’t come from no-where.  He was over-looked but his greatness has always been there since high school and at Harvard!!!

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