From: Jason Whitlock To: Reid Forgrave, Billy Witz, Jen Engel, Bill Reiter, Greg Couch
Subject: Jeremy Lin and the NBA
Hey, guys. Let’s fight. I’ll throw out a topic and let’s mix it up. No one gets hurt, but don’t be afraid to swing hard. We’ll start with Linsanity.
Jeremy Lin perfectly illustrates why I always believed the NBA Players Association struck a horrendous deal to end the lockout.
The NBA is America’s best sports product. Period.
Yes, I believe that. Yes, I still love the NFL and I’m well aware of its television dominance. Football is America’s unrivaled king. I get that. But it is unrivaled primarily because of NBA mismanagement from the commissioner’s office to the NBAPA. Jeremy Lin could potentially make my point.
As I said last week, Lin is the authentic Tim Tebow, a genuine underdog story with a narrative rich in importance, novelty, tension, inspiration, passion and wonder. His is a uniquely American and uniquely basketball story.
Basketball is the game we all play. Every one of us at some point in our lives picks up a basketball and shoots it through a hoop. Many of us never play football, never touch a golf club, never swing a bat, never lift a hockey stick. Basketball touches us all. Black, white, brown and yellow. Rich and poor.
The NBA has long been an underachiever. The latest collective-bargaining agreement ensured the league would continue to underachieve. Rather than fix the system that prevents the NBA from rivaling the NFL, NBA owners chose to pillage the players’ wallets and reduce their cut of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 50.
Congratulations, Michael Jordan and the other hard-line owners. You will benefit most from the doors Linsanity will open. But you won’t reach your full potential, you won’t maximize the growth potential that has been underdeveloped for the last decade because you won’t have the full cooperation of your players.
It won’t be long until all of the players realize — many already know — just how unfairly they were treated in the last labor negotiations. There have been many complaints about the quality of play this season. The easy, obvious excuse is the players aren’t in shape and the back-to-back-games lockout schedule has hurt play. All true.
But David Stern presides over an unhappy workforce. Yep, the players should be happy earning millions of dollars playing a game. Again, easy for you to say. But, moving forward, the players won’t be receiving what they’re truly worth. Happiness is relative and based on expectations.
Jeremy Lin further proves the value of the players. Lin — a single player — instantly turned the New York Knicks into THE NEW YORK KNICKS — destination, must-see TV. The players are the product, the commodity. Lin, even if he never becomes a superstar, could impact the NBA the way Tiger Woods once impacted the PGA Tour. Lin could help everyone get paid. People who had given up on the NBA are going to rediscover the league over the next few weeks and months and perhaps rediscover their love of hoops.
The players are locked into a labor deal that prevents them from realizing their full economic potential, and the league is still operating under a system that prevents many teams from competing.
Let me preface this with a few caveats: I’m no NBA expert. I care little about the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement; players and owners are all richer than God. And I can’t explain why this icy-veined Jeremy Lin fellow is a great basketball player.
What I can tell you is that seven games into King Lin’s tenure, I’m more excited about the NBA than I’ve been since the days of Michael and Magic. Kobe’s always been amazing, never quite been human. The Spurs’ mini-dynasty was great basketball, but boring. And although LeBron’s been an exciting storyline in Miami, his childishness hasn’t brought me closer to the sport.
It took an Asian-American Harvard grad to get me and others invested in the NBA again.
Here’s my worry: Whatever it is Jeremy Lin represents — how difficult it is to predict talent, how the NBA transcends race and culture, how badly Derek Fisher sold out during CBA negotiations — I worry about him. The recent news of Lin moving from his brother’s couch to Trump Tower underscores his precipitous rise. I’ve never seen an athlete go from Nobody to Hero in such a short time. In an era of media oversaturation, his every move will be scrutinized. There’s no adjustment period for Lin, no space to screw up, no New York patience for any cold stretch.
If anyone can cope with this pressure, Lin — schooled in fundamentals and grounded in reality — seems to have what it takes. But I worry that the Great Hope will become the Great Hype. I hope not. But fly too close to the sun and you often soon fall to the sea.
We here on Planet Reality are trying to figure out if the cost of the kids’ guitar lessons will still leave enough to buy braces this summer.
And how those braces will leave enough, down the line, for the big one: tuition.
So you’re right that I’m having trouble putting myself in the shoes of the .1 percent. Yes, the players allowed themselves to be outsmarted by the owners. But if players are having a hard time finding motivation and happiness because they’ll only get 50 percent of the extra millions Lin brings in, instead of 57 percent, then boo hoo.
Management is greedy and self-absorbed. It’s in their nature. But in this case, the players actually had power and agreed to give it away.
So more power to the players in getting what they’re worth next time, but it’s a little tough working up sympathy for them at this moment.
If Lin helps players to wise up and toughen up next time, then great.
For now, maybe they can just quietly suffer the indignity of their jobs, making huge amounts of money and being treated like gods. The league will be fine.
Absolutely, Jeremy Lin is the authentic Tim Tebow. And while we are playing this game, can I be the authentic Erin Andrews?
Wait, what? We have to have more in common than being females in sports?
I keep hearing people say that Linsanity is greater than Tebowmania because, wait for it, Lin actually can play. I will not get into the absurdity of the idea that Tebow cannot play. He won a playoff game, people. What really drives me crazy is how this misses the whole point of Linsanity-Tebowmania. The NFL and NBA are loaded with players more talented than Tebow and Lin. The phenomenon — which speaks to how desperately we crave decent human beings to root for in sports — is their underdogness (for lack of a better word). Here are two dudes who were dismissed at various levels of their sports-playing careers for reasons ranging from racial (Lin) to mechanics (Tebow). And both guys proved everybody wrong, with a smile and a very sincere faith that makes them infinitely likable.
Now, to your point, Jason, who is the more worthy recipient of this adulation?
You say Lin because he has been an underdog most of his life while Tebow was the golden boy right until John Elway and John Fox took over in Denver. This, to me, is why Tebow’s story is more authentic. (Although, I agree with Reid when I say Lin has me shockingly excited about Knicks games and basketball in general). Tebow had been football royalty and was basically knocked on his butt. He did not complain, just started clawing his way back up.
So Tebowmania>Linsanity. For now. Although I am rooting for them both.
Sitting through a USC conference on the Olympics last week, my brain couldn’t help melding the essence of Lin’s story with the oft-broken promise of the Olympics — that is, the power to transcend sports.
There has been near round-the-clock chronicling of Lin’s heroics on the basketball court, but the coverage has been no less relentless off it: Asian-Americans considering the barriers that have been broken, New York Times and Wall Street Journal op-ed columnists weighing in on the phenomenon, paparazzi tracking Lin’s grandmother in Taiwan, the unre-Lin-ting string of puns and the endorsement possibilities Lin might provide for couch surfing.
This used to be the domain of the Olympics, how they could make us look beyond borders and beyond convention, from the black gloves of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, to the heartbreak of Dan Jansen, to the unlikely triumph of Rulon Gardner. Now, those stories of pathos don’t hold up so well. The Olympics are becoming gradually diminished, with questions about drug cheats, corporate hijacking and corrupt officials moving it further from Pierre de Coubertin’s ideal.
The Olympics may still be capable of rising above the morass and delivering moments that are akin to temporary Linsanity. But the unlikely basketball hero may have caused us to consider another question of Olympic origins:
Wow, Linsanity has driven you all to some very heady places.
Long-looked-for proof of which side did or did not win the NBA labor dispute. Icarus. The hopes and faults of the Olympics. Tebow. Paying for the kids’ braces.
For me, so far, Jeremy Lin’s story is that rare opportunity to leave behind all the background noise, thread-bare connections and overanalyzed mutterings endemic to sports. I can simply enjoy a guy who represents first and foremost how incredible sports can be: How they can captivate us with beautiful play, particularly from a captivating talent we never saw coming.
I’ve been covering and writing about Lin and the Knicks for the past few days. And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited — not to see if he’s really Tebow, or to divine from Lin’s game who won or lost the labor dispute, or to find some moral truth worthy of Greek mythology, or even to take stock of my own life or apply it to, say, the Olympics. I’m simply fired up to be in the Garden when it feels like a playoff game, to see how Lin and ‘Melo play together, to take in NBA basketball — which I truly love — in its most frenetic, fun and surprising atmosphere. There is nothing quite like the Garden, with the Knicks on a real hot streak, a (possible) long-term star on the rise and the playoffs and who-knows-what beyond that a real possibility.
Or, perhaps, the start of this beautiful illusion crashing down on itself. Who knows?
For now, at least, I’ll leave the heady stuff to you guys. For my part, I just want to sit back, take in the scene and see if Lin can keep it going.
Good stuff, people. I just re-read all of this after watching Lin and the Knicks knock off the defending world-champion Mavericks on Sunday. Linsanity isn’t going anywhere. It debuted on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend. Jeremy Lin is going to dwarf Tim Tebow and make a lot of NBA haters reevaluate their cliche stereotypes about an awesome league. Given the unintended rough and insensitive welcome some of us in the media have given Linsanity, wouldn’t that be rather ironic? The Asian-American superstar could enlighten the rest of America about a game dominated by people who look nothing like him.
And maybe with his Harvard degree, Lin would be the ideal head of the NBA Players Association when it comes time to fix the collective-bargaining agreement.