My Sportsman: Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin is my choice for Sportsman of the Year.
Because of the historic, thrilling, and surreal two weeks he went from being a nobody benchwarmer to a global sensation. Because no athlete stood for so many different things -- he was the Savior of New York Basketball, Inspiring Underdog Story, Man of Faith, Humble Harvard Man, Asian-American Badass. Because on his way to world domination, he shattered more stereotypes than any other athlete, ever. Because that now iconic word -- Linsanity -- rolled off the tongue like Beatlemania.
Because of The Couch. Because even your mom called you to make sure
Because despite the ugly tweets and the Yellow Mamba signs and the inane and offensive headlines, despite the media circus -- they showed up outside his poor grandmother's apartment in Queens, they stalked his other poor grandmother in Taiwan -- despite the kind of 24/7 attention that would make Sean Penn drop kick a photographer, despite the weighty expectations that would make any other 23-year-old crumble, he said all the right things, he remained gracious and humble, and -- somehow -- he kept playing really good basketball.
Because of the Kim Kardashian rumors. Because he single-handedly moved the stock market.
Because everyone from the President to Sarah Palin to Saturday Night Live had something to say about him, everyone had an opinion about everything from his hair ("It's like a Chia pet with a widow's peak," according to one fashion magazine grooming expert) to his fashion style. ("You're in New York, fashion capital of the world. Wear some shades. Put down the nerdy Harvard glasses," offered Metta World Peace.). Sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden -- hey, look, it's Beyonce and Jay-Z! Paul McCartney! Mark Zuckerberg! -- was cool again. Everyone wanted a piece of him: they tried to claim him in China, where they called him the Pride of Zhejiang (his maternal grandmother's hometown); in Taiwan, where they called him "The Little Guy from Harvard"; and even in South Korea, where some, while tracing his ancestral roots to their country, rather ridiculously tried to make the case that he was a quarter Korean. Here in the U.S., he triggered a national discussion on race like no figure since Barack Obama in '08. Here he was called both Chinese and Taiwanese; the problem, of course, was that he was neither.
Jeremy Lin is my choice for Sportsman of the Year because here in New York, he was the biggest sports star of the year... of many years. Because I'll never forget the texts from my Taiwanese cousins (the first, with expectations tempered -- "J. Lin... real deal?" -- came on Feb. 6, after he scored 28 points against the Jazz, in his first start); the "We Are All Jeremy Lin" emails from old friends that began to read like exchanges between giddy schoolgirls after that Feb. 10 night he dropped 38 points on Kobe and the Lakers in the Garden; the phone calls from my own mother, who phoned moments after he drained the game-winning three pointer in Toronto on Valentine's Day.
Eventually the euphoria and the thrills ended, with that game in Miami and the knee injury, and then there was the awkward goodbye, and then suddenly he was gone, off to a different team and a different city. So what now? Maybe now he'll just be Jeremy Lin, Basketball Player. Or maybe there will be a sequel -- Linsanity II: The Redemption!
No matter what, we'll always have that unforgettable moment in 2012, when there was no bigger star on the planet than Jeremy Lin.