Jeremy Lin has captivated the NBA and the entire sports world with his emergence and his rising superstardom. He has also resurrected the New York Knicks’s season and has carried the team in the absence of superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
In the ten games Lin has starred in, he has averaged 24.6 points per game on .497 FG% shooting, .353 from 3-point land, and .718% from the free-throw line. He has also averaged 9.2 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has, however, also averaged 5.6 turnovers per game, a possible concern once he starts taking less shots as a result of the return of Anthony and Stoudemire, as well as the arrival of JR Smith.
It’s only appropriate that the talking heads in Bristol are making comparisons to Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who is famously praised every night by notable pundits like Skip Bayless and NFL insider Adam Schefter. While the hype and amount of media attention are at equal levels, “Linsanity” couldn’t be any more different than Tebow mania. In fact, this is much bigger.
For one, take a look at each player’s back story. Tebow was one of the biggest stars in college football, winning two national championships and a Heisman at the University of Florida. He holds several SEC and NCAA Division I records. Many critics and analysts consider him to be the greatest player in the history of college football.
Before being drafted, his main drawback was his arm strength and his ability to make consistent completions in a non-orthodox NFL offensive system. However, the Denver Broncos decided to give a chance, trading up to draft him 25th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He would get his chance mid-way into the 2011 season when starting QB Kyle Orton was benched. Tebow “led” the Broncos to a 7-4 record, a division title, and a playoff overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lin was overlooked by almost every major basketball program, including Stanford, and chose to attend Harvard. After playing four seasons in Cambridge and graduating with a degree in economics, he went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft and bounced around the summer leagues until the Golden State Warriors picked him up for one season. He was picked up by the Knicks a game into the 2011-12 season as back-court depth behind Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby.
After seeing little playing time for the first month of the season, Lin finally got his chance on February 4th against the New Jersey Nets and responded with a 25 point, 7 assist, 5 rebound performance, shooting 10 of 19 from the field. He took off from there, carrying the team to a 8-1 run with Anthony out with a groin injury and Stoudemire mourning the tragic death of his older brother.
It is indisputable that Lin has had more to do with his team’s success than Tebow had with his, especially if you look at his aforementioned statistics and factor in the absences of Anthony and Stoudemire. The Lin-led Knicks have averaged 97.33 points per game while just giving up just 89.33 points per game. New York as a team has also averaged 19.33 assists per game. And he arguably has more staying power in the NBA, as he will soon be the leader of a Knicks team featuring himself, Anthony, Stouedmire, Landry Fields, rookie Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, and JR Smith.
Tebow on the hand, was pretty bad statistically. For the season he had a passer rating of just 72.9. His completion percentage of 46.5% ranked DEAD LAST in the NFL among 34 qualifying starting quarterbacks. Six of Tebow’s eight victories including the playoffs came in the form of a 4th quarter comeback or a game-winning drive many of which involved an act of God occurence. Even before the Broncos first playoff game coach John Fox was already talking about being ready to pull him in case of emergency. The defense, although not spectacular, played quite a role during the Broncos’ second half six game winning streak, averaging just 17 points allowed per game.
Lin’s presence off the court has also dwarfed Tebowmania. Tebow may have unintenionally started the Tebowing phenomenon, but Linsanity has been felt throughout the entire world. Lin’s jersey has been flying off the shelves like Tebow’s had. But what separates Lin from Tebow is Lin’s Asian American identity, as it is very rare for Asian American athletes to reach this level of notoriety, especially in the NBA.
Lin’s story has made the cover of Sports Illustrated and even TIME magazine. It’s also been heavily covered by CNN. “Linsanity” has also been recognized throughout China and Taiwan, as his Knicks have been broadcasted there ever since he broke out onto the scene. At Madison Square Garden, there has been an increasing population of Asian Americans attending, very similar to Hideki Matsui’s time in New York spending seven seasons in the Bronx.
Tebow? He can only wish he could Lin like Jeremy Lin.