At least for now. Only two years ago a friend of mine was completely joking when he was asked about his favorite pro basketball team (and mine) – the New York Knickerbockers when he said – you mean ‘America’s team?’ It was pretty funny at the time considering the Knicks of 2009-2010 were woeful and nearly unwatchable.
Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock you are no doubt somewhat aware of the NBA’s newest sensation Jeremy Lin (who is also on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week – no not the swimsuit issue although I imagine Mr. Lin would have been happy to pose with Kate Upton). The accolades are deserved and the story is irresistible (just ask anyone). However underneath it all is a very interesting development when you consider the dramatic change in the Knicks from being a bunch of guys who were on the court together at the same time, into a team that plays for each other and gives supreme effort all the time. And they play in a city that has fully and completely embraced them. Of course if they lose three in a row….the boo-birds shall return just as quickly.
New Yorkers are a hard-to-please and cynical bunch. And when it comes to basketball they know their stuff. I don’t recall ever seeing another crowd cheer defense the way they do in New York nor cheer when a point guard decides to run time off the clock by not penetrating or shooting near the end of a game rather than throw up an ill-advised shot or make a bad pass.
But it’s not only in New York that Jeremy Lin and the Knicks are causing people to pay attention. The Knicks are not only fun to watch (for the moment) and winning (seven wins in a row for a team that was languishing at 7 games under .500) they are playing with a spirit and intensity that have not been seen from them in a long time. Even more interesting is the all-for-one and one-for-all spirit that has been imbued. Lin’s teammates genuinely seem thrilled for him and are enjoying the ride nearly as much as Lin and the fans. The Asian community both in New York and around the world is nearly apoplectic in a way that was never quite the case with recently retired NBA star Yao Ming.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather’s tweet this week on Jeremy Lin – “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.” was just so off base it makes him sound stupid and jealous. If Lin was black, had gone to Harvard, been undrafted, cut by two teams and then sat on the bench for over a month as a 12th man, then come into a game and turned an entire team (and city) around he would be every bit the hero he has become -not to the Asian-American community necessarily – but just about everyone else.
Lin’s humility and bemusement at the sudden turn of events over the past two weeks is endearing and genuine. That plays both in New York as well as on the national and international stage. Let’s see, an American-born Taiwanese playing in the nation’s biggest media market in the ‘World’s most famous arena’ with a team of guys both black and white that are united and (for now) indefatigable and unbeaten with a host of new fans as well as old who cannot wait to watch or listen to the next game so they can root for their newest heroes. And they seem to be having fun by working together and giving it all they’ve got.
Sounds like America’s team to me. Hey as a huge Knick fan let me dream a little longer and I hope I never wake up from this one.
If you have 4 minutes you can watch a video that outlines Lin’s development from college into a pro basketball star. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFCZ01Hiv8o&feature=player_embedded