Monday, February 13, 2012

My Jeremy Lin analysis

After 5 full games and started 4 of them, the NBA is officially under siege of the ‘Linsanity’. Unless you live underneath a rock in the past week, you must hear of Jeremy Lin, a ‘Linderella’ story of modern day professional sports. I would not go into usual introduction of what had happened in this first week that he become a sensational NBA success story for being New York Knicks’s prime point guard. Instead, I would like to talk about his value of a cultural icon-in-making and my prediction of his near future.

The States is a melting pot and there should be people of different races for people to look up to. Asian American has 5% of the population, but their representation in the mass media is way below that. That’s actually quite strange given that their buyer power is by no mean small as this segment of population are relatively highly educated and economically well off. I guess there are reasons for that. First of all, Asians are relatively quiet, they don’t voice out loudly enough to be heard. Secondly, though the Asian group is very diversified: the Laos are not similar to the Japanese, the similarity of Korean and Indonesian may limit to their taste of spicy foods, the Asian population somehow has a common culture to nurture their kids to focus on a relatively limited scope of careers. So, Asians of politicians, community leaders, athletes, people that are in front of the camera are far and between. As there are not jumping out to be seen and heard, so there is less incentive for mass media to pull them out when they are hard to be found.

Jeremy actually partially fit the profile. A devoted Christian young man with a strong family, a good education of being a Harvard economic graduate, and has a relatively quiet misdemeanor and a hard-working work ethic. What makes him so different is his career choice of becoming a professional basketball player. That’s such an odd choice that is quite unprecedented in Asian American communities. In spite of all the hype that the media is making of him this week, the most important thing is that what he has shown on the court proves that he is no fluke! He is a real deal, a legit point guard that can perform at highest level. Cuz, there are gonna be somebody out there in the league can’t stand his fame and wanna take it personally to prove he doesn’t deserve the hype. That’s gonna make him a marked man on the court in the next few weeks. On top of the tight schedule of games, he is gonna exhausted soon. Also, the potential threat is not just coming from other teams, but his teammate Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be happy to share ball-in-hands minutes with Lin. How the coach gonna handle this will be very interesting. My guess is that Carmelo will adjust his own game. Otherwise, even if Lin stays silent, his teammates who benefit from Lin’s court vision and ball feeds will voice out, let alone the NY media, they gonna eat Melo up if Knicks starts losing because Melo is hogging the ball from Lin. But, this internal team issue remains uncertain at the moment.

Going back to Lin’s values, his surge in the spotlight is due the fact that he is so unique that he has no predecessor to look up to. Just put aside his cultural value aside for a moment, in these days and age, value certain comes with a figure, and Lin is combination of a list of factors that will do him a favor in make big bucks.

From zero to hero – he has a humble background, clean, working hard with real skills. But has no sport scholarships was offered, cut by teams, put into sub-league, been a benchwarmer. Nonetheless, he didn’t complain. Then, opportunity fell on his lap, he seized and made it! This kind of story is a favorite American story that fit the American ‘folklore’ or spirit, Obama would have no problem quoting his story in his State of the Union speech, teachers would have no problem citing him as an example in classes. When the national sentiment is not that good during these economic doldrums, an inspiring story of personal triumph from rag to famous should no doubt attract eyeballs.

Asian/Ivy League professional athlete – The Asian part attracts Asian fans and consumers of both domestic and aboard. Yao Ming, though he was not the first Asian/Chinese NBA player, he is the most successful one. He opened doors to show that what is possible. However, he is sent from China with 400M basketball fans with money to spend and he is not a home grown talent, but also being someone trained by the country to succeed. I respect for what Yao did and as a person, but Lin is different for being exactly not another Yao Ming. Lin is a purely American product. He is easier for most Asian Americans to identify with given how he was brought up and what he had gone through. There just aren’t too many Asian role models, Yao, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc all speak English with accent. The entertainers are in particular still famous for having the stereotypical trait of Asian - knowing martial arts. When you see a skillful Asian who speak perfect English and made it in a non-traditional profession, that certainly caught every Asian American’s attention. For fans aboard, in the absence of another Yao, Lin is the next best thing. I think it is silly to call him one of their own; but we just can’t stop them from doing so. The Ivy League part is as well intriguing. For people who didn’t know much about sports in the States, Ivy League schools don’t play along with the rest, for whatever reason, maybe they consider themselves more prestigious, traditional or else, athletes in those schools are basically overlooked by profession teams in sport though skill levels of many of which are comparable to the rest. I don’t know if it is the works of the ‘big boy’ networks or so. Anyway, so Ivy League alumnus occupies Wall Street, Capital Hill, Silicon Valley, but not in sports area, particularly on courts or fields. So, I guess those Ivy League alumnus, turning away from Bloomberg terminals, would still be happy to cheer Lin as one of their own, though they have a big belly rather than a six-pack!

Christian – Christianity is power in the States, remember how much money ‘The Passion of Christ’ made, how Tim Tebow’s fame exploded just months ago, and how many people use bible as reason/excuse to explain the world in Yahoo/forums in the States. There are saying comparing Lin to Tebow is not exactly right, the latter rose with legit backing of sport machine and all that. I don’t care that much. Cuz, being a successful and openly devoted Christian in this country does invite challenges from non-Christians. I think as soon as one non-Christian criticizes Lin for being too Christian, 3 Christians are gonna jump out to defend him. That’s a double-edged sword, but I would prefer to have it than not. Believing every Christian is equal in front of God, Christian of all races and background would no doubt support Lin, particularly when openly devoted Christians are rare in the league.

Being a Knicks – This team has sunk for so long, specifically since Patrick Ewing was gone. Isaiah Thomas made it a mess, the onboarding of Amare/Melo didn’t deliver as it was thought so far. For an important sport city in the States, fans there are devoted but they could be harsh as well. For being disappointed so long in the Mecca of basketball, suddenly a white, no, an yellow knight coming from nowhere (actually from the end of the bench) gave so much excitement to the fans, how can people not getting fire up? For being in a professional basketball team is great, but being a New York Knicks, that adds tons of additional value when you become successful. That’s why Chris Paul III was dying to go to NY even he was the franchise player of Hornet, as Charlotte is no New York! You make it in NY, you make it in the States! New York can offer all the perks for any celebrity. Being a favorite of local fans who include all financial/media/marketing/advertising professionals, the sky is limited for financial returns.

Those NY marketing folks can sell anything, they can sell a cat to mouse. With Lin in their hands, they slice and dice his potential and appeals, you can tell Lin’s upcoming endorsement deals are gonna be massive, as they won’t be just for NY, but for the whole nation and to the World as well. If Lin can stay healthy, keep smile and perform, given his young age and the rest, he will be the most bankable and richest Asian athlete in the world in next few years.

Trust me, balloon will come back to earth eventually, his fame does too. However, I think he is for the longer run. His next contract will be big, may not be Yao Ming size, but will be closed. Though he is not a franchise player, and I doubt he will be, his youth, skills and marketing strength should command multi-millions easily. As I said, I think he deserves success, it is a result of being equipped and lucky as well, to be playing for the right team at the right time and place.

Let Linsanity continues.


Joel said...

I love what Mike James' comment on Jeremy Lin's rise:

"There's only a handful of stars that are born, the rest are made. So whenever you have an opportunity, just take full advantage of it. He's a living testament of never giving up on yourself and when that call finally comes and they put your name out there, well, then, all the work you've been doing to prepare yourself and all the faith you've had believing God will open doors ... the only thing that will separate you from it is opportunity."

And James is not about to question fate.

"Everything has a plan and purpose behind it," he said. "Everything happens for a reason. I'm happy for his success. I hope that he continues to do what he needs to do is keep it going. It's not what you did in this game, it's about what you're doing."

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