Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scattered Thoughts on Jeremy Lin

Unfortunately, the Korean has been handling the most amount of responsibility he has ever handled as an attorney in the last two weeks, right as the whole Jeremy Lin saga has been unfolding. There are several draft posts about Lin that sit in the blog's box, but the Korean figured it was better to air out some of the half-formed thoughts for now rather than trying to write something two months after the fact.

- Lin in the NBA Store.  Last week the Korean was in New York, and stayed at a hotel that was across the street from the NBA Store. The first thing you would see as you stepped into the NBA store would be two rows of Jeremy Lin jerseys ($250 each!), and two salespersons holding up $50 Jeremy Lin warm-up shirts because they ran out of shelf space. And those things were flying off the rack. Unbelievable.

- Other Lin-related New York adventures.  At a restaurant in New York, the bartender asked if the Korean received a lot of love because of Lin. Sure, why not -- we are both over 6 feet and around 200 pounds. In the following dinner, a white New Yorker friend adamantly insisted that Lin was a better passing point guard than everyone in the NBA except Steve Nash -- in other words, better than Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio. The Korean had to tell his friend that he was nuts, and the Korean did not appreciate the fact that his friend made him a race traitor.

- Jeremy Lin on the Lakers?  When Lin graduated from Harvard and was lighting up John Wall in the NBA summer leagues, the Korean wished that Lin would sign with the Korean's favorite team, the Lakers. Looking back, Lin is very fortunate that he did not sign with the Lakers. The New York system under Mike D'Antoni is perfect for him.

(More after the jump.)

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- Lin's Ceiling.  Just how good could Lin become in the future? The Korean just finished watching Dallas game, while only focusing on Lin no matter where he is on the court or off the court. This is something the Korean likes to do whenever he want to really learn about a player. (The most fun player to do this with? Chris Paul. Second most fun, JaVale McGee, but for completely opposite reasons as CP3.)

Dallas is a damn good defensive team. They had their best wing defender (Shawn Marion) guarding Lin, and sent hard traps on Lin on about 75% of the times he brought in the ball. And Lin handled the pressure supremely, particularly in the first half. Lin got a little sloppy in the third quarter, but more than made up for it toward the later part of the third and fourth quarter. Final line: 28 points and 14 assists for the game, with 7 turnovers. (3 of them in the bad third quarter.)

Lin is still functionally a rookie, and considering just how crappy rookie PGs tend to be, he is a huge room to grow still. (Deron Williams in his rookie year was described by Bill Simmons as running the pick-and-roll "like a drunk girl at a crowded club looking for a bathroom.”) Even after Carmelo Anthony returns, the Korean would think the most likely scenario for Lin would be to settle into the range of 18 ppg, 9 apg, which would make him the best passing PG after CP3 and Nash, and on par with Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Ricky Rubio. Lin's ceiling would be multiple all-star appearances.

- Did you know Jeremy Lin had a Tiger Dad?  Of course he did. Read the story for yourself:
"I thought it would be great to play basketball," Gie-Ming said. Only problem? He didn't have the slightest idea how. He had never picked up a ball in his life. So he turned his attention back to those gripping NBA games. Armed with videotapes of his favorite players, Gie-Ming studied the game with the same fervor he studied for his Ph.D. 
"I would just imitate them over and over; I got my hook shot from Kareem," Gie-Ming said, laughing. 
It took him years to feel comfortable enough to play in a pickup game, and as he bided his time he decided then -- long before he even had children -- that his own kids would grow up knowing the game from an early age. When first-born Joshua turned 5, Gie-Ming carted him to the local Y to begin teaching him those valuable skills stored on his videotapes. Jeremy followed, and then youngest brother Joseph joined in what became a three-nights-a-week routine. The boys would finish their homework and around 8:30 head to the Y with their father for 90 minutes of drills or mini-games. 
Forget that all of the players on those videos had long since retired, that the guy with Kareem's hook shot wouldn't hit Abdul-Jabbar's armpit. Gie-Ming recognized what so many other youth coaches have forgotten over time: The foundation for success is the basics.
For all you haters who have been saying that Tiger Parenting can only work on repetitive sports like golf, you can suck on this story. Watch Lin beautifully threading a pass in a pick-and-roll, and try to talk about how Tiger Parenting squelches all creativity. Please. The Korean promises he will be there to laugh at you.

- Majority mentality.  Watching the Korean's Asian American friends reacting to Lin enabled the Korean to articulate the subtle difference between the Korean, a 1.5 generation who spent his childhood outside of America, and Asian Americans of second generation and beyond who spent their childhood in America.

To put it crudely, the Korean has what might be called "the majority mentality." Growing up in an affluent neighborhood of Seoul, the Korean simply did not experience anything bad on account of his race or social status. There was no formative moment of racial taunting, which would drive the Korean to look out for possible slights and insults. Because of his "majority mentality," the Korean's approach to race relations regarding Asian Americans takes a form of slight emotional detachment, as if he is not a true participant in the game of race relations involving Asian Americans. He ends up arguing for positions that may appear somewhat counter-intuitive, e.g., how the Super Bowl commercial featuring pandas with Asian accents was not racist, how Asian Americans should favor Affirmative Action even if Affirmative Action disadvantaged Asian Americans in the short term, how Asian American young men should stop screaming bloody murder on every perceived instance of "yellow fever," etc.

Right now, the Korean is immensely enjoying Jeremy Lin's rise. But his enjoyment is nothing compared to the positive emotions being experienced by his Asian American friends. To them, watching Lin is much more than enjoyment -- it is validation, vindication, a small measure of euphoric revenge against all the childhood taunts about trying to be athletic as an Asian American. The Korean can understand what they go through, but not sure if he could empathize completely. This will be something to develop in a future post.

- America "has largely decided to turn a blind eye toward racism against Asian Americans."  Those are the words of sports writer Jay Kang, from his profile on Jeremy Lin. How prophetic those words turned out to be, as just a few days later Kang's employer, ESPN, would do something like this.

Yes, the Korean knows that he just wrote that he has a slight emotional detachment when it comes to Asian American race relations. That might enable him to simply groan and move on when the New York Post headline screamed "AMASIAN!", instead of losing his shit. But "chink"? On ESPN? For crying out loud.

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  1. By some divine intervention, the thought of tuning into the Knicks vs. Nets game about two weeks ago popped into my head. I'm proud to say I witnessed the rise of Emperor Jeremy "The Dragon" Lin.

    I suppose I must exhibit an even greater "majority mentality" than you. That "AMASIAN!" headline just makes me go "eh". It's a cringe-worthy pun I'd expect to come from a happy-go-lucky citizen rather than a major newspaper, but oh well. I was told that the ESPN article with "chink in the armor" was posted at 2:30 AM too, so I can easily forgive that sleep-deprived employee (now fired).

    Tiger parents ftw.

    It's crazy how well Lin's doing. Since Feb 4 (the night he broke out), he's outscored Kobe, LeBron, Dwight, everybody else in the league. His first career start stats tower over other historically great PGs'. He's been adjusting his game constantly and evolving as a player. As much as I hate this term, he's clutch as hell too.

    And my favorite aspect of him: he loves draining jumpers in the faces of elite bigs like Gasol and Dirk.

  2. ^ Haha I don't know how the t-shirt makers or the media hasn't got onto "Emperor Lin" or "Lin Dynasty" yet..

  3. Until yesterday, I thought "Linsanity" referred to some crazy antics of Lindsay Lohan. (No joke)
    This is the first article I read after hearing about the whole 'chink' thing. It did a great job of putting in print why I had that reaction...reasons/memories I had forgotten.
    It just makes me sad that my country hasn't evolved as much as I thought it had.

  4. "On a Wing and a Prayer: The Jeremy Lin Story" Starring Zac Efron as Jeremy Lin.

    "It's no longer enough for Asian kids to get straight A's. They must now get straight Lins."

    I had a couple more, but these were the best of the bunch so I'll spare everyone, LOL.

    Yeah, I'm Asian and six foot two. I had my share of "Yao Ming!" a few years back. I'll probably start hearing the "Yo, Jeremy Lin!" any day now.

    I'm one of those Asian Americans who feels that validation. I played football, I wrestled, and I played baseball in high school. Even though I went to a school with a lot of Asians, there weren't too many Asians who played these sports. I was competing against a lot of White, Hispanic, and Black guys, and I heard my share of racist remarks, even from my own coaches and teammates,, especially when I was a freshman before I proved myself ( "Tennis is that way!" "Alright, Chink, let's see what you got"). I can't tell you how many times I've fantasized about doing what Jeremy is doing now (except in football). Truth be told, I still fantasize about doing that (I'm 26 years old, lol). I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Jeremy Lin has brought Asian Americans into the mainstream discussions of race in the U.S. for the first time whereas before, we were just an afterthought. Take the SNL skit, for instance, and the firing of that headline writer as well as the suspension of the anchor for ESPN. And I've lost count how many times sports casters on TV, on the radio, and print journalists have emphasized the point that he's an American when someone tried to characterize him as Chinese or Taiwanese. These things just would not have happened before the last few weeks.

    On top of all other burdens he has, he knows he's playing for many Asian Americans, and he willingly embraces it. This guy has the type of strength that not too many possess. I can't imagine the kind of pressures that have been placed on him. And he shows up, night after night, after night. Much love and continued success to him.

  5. Thanks TK for linking the story of Jeremy's "Tiger Dad." I find that almost all successful athletes today became that way mainly from their supportive parents (not crazy American sports parents where the parent's goal is getting their kid to play pro), but supportive in the way that the parents loved watching them play and just kept engaging their kids to keep playing well and improving, not winning. It also helps that Jeremy had brothers to play with. I think most pro athletes had siblings, mainly older siblings to play up against. I love this story because it highlights hardwork, dedication, endless hours of practice, and parental support. Not some genetic freak talent.

  6. I honestly feel a little sorry for Lin. If he fails, he will fail big time...and it won't be his fault. There has been a lot of attention put on him and his family over just a handful of games. I don't think you can start throwing around the term great or clutch for him yet, just because longevity wise we have yet to see it. It's fairly obvious Lin is a talent athlete. He obviously has the brainpower to boot. The kid may end up being great one day, but I just hope the media doesn't put out expectations he may not live up to. He makes a lot of turnovers, but so far has had a lot of assists and points. It will be interesting to see how everything comes together for the Knicks when Carmelo returns. Hopefully they play well together. The NBA season is long (and much longer with a full season). I hope he does well, so far he is pretty damn exciting to watch. I just hope the 24 hour cycle doesn't burn him at the stake. I have a few Korean friends and I can tell they are pretty excited to see an Asian excelling in basketball. It's a good thing for the Asian community. I hope people remember there is nothing wrong if he doesn't end up being a superstar (a top 10 player) and winning games as a team is the most important thing...and he has obviously helped his team play sooooo much better recently. Good luck to him!

  7. Why "tiger dad?" Gie-Ming Lin isn't the first father to drill his kid with the fundamentals. Earl Woods, Richard Williams and Mathew Knowles are all famous (African-American) examples--but no one refers to them as "tiger dads"...most likely because they're black.

    While Lin's success is great, it's also highlighted prejudices about the talent, work ethic and reasons for success of both Asians and non-Asians.

    1. Earl Woods was literally a Tiger Dad. And they were not referred to as such because the lexicon of "Tiger Parenting" did not enter into vernacular usage until 2011.

    2. Sorry, The Korean, your reply to Erin is a dodge. Her comment may be less than artfully phrased but the gist is clear. There may indeed be a parenting technique practiced by Asians that leads to high performing kids but not all parenting techniques that lead to high performing kids are Asian – i.e., Tiger Parenting as it has been discussed in the media.

      By referring to Earl Woods as a Tiger Dad you're pulling off a pun but also attempting an illicit conversion.


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