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Score one for the Asian ballers

OPINION

  • Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin (Reuters )
February 19, 2012|By Matt Kuttan, For RedEye

The media are all in a frenzy with the surprise ascension of Jeremy Lin, the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to appear in the NBA. And he's not just hooping for the New York Knicks—he's dominating. Lin is now being hailed as the Tim Tebow of 2012 and a salvation for the NBA, still recovering from the bad mojo of its recent lockout.

You'll find Lin on Friday playing in the All-Star Rising Stars Challenge as a last-minute addition to the All-Star weekend festivities in Orlando, Fla. Yep, pretty amazing for an undrafted, unheralded kid out of Harvard.

Even though "Linsanity" emerged this month, starting with a 25-point breakout game against New Jersey on Feb. 4, the proof of his power is bubbling up.

Last week I was at the basketball court of the Y and—wouldn't you know it?—there were three or four middle-age Asian-Americans who got next. For me, it instantly brought back memories of the influx of African-Americans who were inspired by Tiger Woods to try golf.

As an Asian-American part-time baller (yes, East Indians are also Asian—look it up), I know what's happening now is rare, and we should have fun with it.

Sure, some so-called pundits are arguing that what Lin is doing is not much more than what dozens of other NBA players do every night. The attention, they argue, is only because of his race. Exactly!

The heart of this amazing story is not just Lin's surprise season, but also the fact that he was bypassed for so long because of the way he looked and the glass ceiling scouts and coaches put over his talent, no matter how much he shone and proved himself in high school, college and during practice.

I once read that the worst thing about stereotypes is that most of the time they are generally true, but the pleasure in proving them wrong every now and then is immense.

Whether Lin likes it or not, he is now a role model for anyone of any size or color, showing that they too can accomplish their dreams with perseverance—even if they're middle-age Asian-American schlubs at the Y.

The power of stories like his inspire beyond comprehension and cannot be measured in the short term, just as we still have a long way to go to measure the positive effects of African-American kids signing up in droves for golf and tennis lessons after watching the exploits of Woods and the Williams sisters.

I don't know what's going to happen with Lin. Will he be a flash in the pan like numerous other NBA players? Will he go on to be an All-Star and eventually win an MVP award? Who knows?

For now, what matters most to me is this: The next time they're picking teams at a local playground, there will be a small seed of doubt in the mind of the guy choosing, that he might be mistaken in picking the skinny Asian kid last.

MATT KUTTAN IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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