'Linsanity': For Asian Fans, It Felt Just Like 'Young Love'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
A word that a lot of us sports fans haven't heard in a while: Linsanity. Jeremy Lin's unlikely rise from benchwarmer to basketball phenom hits screens in a new documentary this weekend. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang recently spoke with Lin and some of his fans.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Twenty months ago Linsanity sounded like this.
(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL GAME)
MIKE BREEN: Lin puts it up, bam, Jeremy Lin from downtown.
WANG: Mike Breen, New York Knicks commentator for the MSG Network couldn't quite hold back his excitement in February of 2012. That's when a high-scoring Asian-American point guard fueled a seven-game winning streak for the Knicks. This was a big deal and if two seasons ago is too far back for you to remember, meet Jenny Yang, a fan from L.A.
JENNY YANG: Jeremy Lin. Try not to blow out the levels on that.
WANG: Jenny, a writer and stand-up comic remembers cheering up during Linsanity.
JENNY YANG: This is the kind of guy that represented so many of us who felt like we were bullied or put down for being Asian.
JEFF YANG: You know, Asian-Americans are constantly being told that there are certain things we can't do.
WANG: Jeff Yang writes for the Wall Street Journal about Asian-American issues.
JEFF YANG: We don't have creativity, we don't have athletics, and I think Jeremy Lin proved that we can all prove them wrong.
GEORGE WU: We're glad to have that kind of figure in the spotlight now, that, you know, it's a reflection of ourselves.
WANG: So, you watch Jeremy Lin play and you kind of think that could have been me.
WU: If I was about five inches taller probably.
WANG: George Wu is a student at Georgetown University's business school. In the midst of Linsanity, he bought the number 17 Knicks jersey of Jeremy Lin.
JEREMY LIN: My life literally changed overnight and probably will never be the same.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
WANG: It was a crazy, short-lived moment in basketball history. Classic underdog story. Rise of a then-23-year-old Asian-American player, graduated from Harvard undrafted, cut from two NBA teams, called off the Knicks bench for a home game against the Nets. He scored and scored again. That night, Lin left Madison Square Garden to a chorus of "Jeremy" by fans and Pearl Jam blaring across the court.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JEREMY")
PEARL JAM: (Singing) Jeremy spoke in class today...
WANG: Twenty months later, Lin plays for the Houston Rockets. Overrated was what critics started calling him after his less-than-stellar first season with his new team. Lin insists it's too early to tell.
LIN: I just turned 25. I really only have a year and a half of experience.
WANG: The new documentary explores Lin's experience as the son of Taiwanese immigrants. Being Asian proved to be a challenge.
LIN: You know, I don't know how big or small of a factor it is, but I can see different things, you know, when people are like, oh, he's not that quick. Or he's deceptively quick or he's deceptively athletic, or - you know, I'm not sure what's deceptive about it. You know, and I've thought about that a lot. You know, is it the way I run or the way I move or the fact that I'm Asian?
WANG: A fact that has given him a loyal Asian-American fan base. That continues to include writer Jenny Yang. She says Linsanity for her was like young love.
JENNY YANG: When you meet someone new, and you're, like, they're amazing. You're all about them. Your, like, stomach gets butterflies, but...
WANG: Eventually that passion fades a bit. She insists, though, the love for Jeremy Lin is still there. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.