#Linning: Why Jeremy Lin Scores High Among Millennials
Even if you reside firmly entrenched underneath a sports-media rock, the news of “Linsanity” has probably found its way to you through a crevice by now.
The story of New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin has been well-documented. The first American player of Chinese descent in the history of the NBA (Yao Ming was Chinese-born) has had a sudden rise to stardom that saved a floundering Knicks season and surprised sports fans nationwide with performances that almost no one saw coming.
The world has taken a liking to Lin because he represents the true underdog in the sports world. It’s been said before, but Lin’s story is so unbelievable that Hollywood movie producers would have been hesitant to put it on the big screen because it seems too farfetched to be believed.
Despite being ignored by most major college basketball programs, Lin went on to have a record-setting career at Harvard University. Even still, all 30 teams passed on Lin in the 2010 NBA Draft, and even Lin himself questioned whether he had the ability to make it in the NBA.
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After being cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, the Knicks signed Lin as mere insurance without intending to play him much, if at all. But desperation for a star-laden team that was just 8-15 at the time led the Knicks to give the underdog a chance. Lin has since run with it, putting on stellar performances including a game-winning shot and upstaging Kobe Bryant on national television in his third NBA start.
Obviously, the unlikelihood of Lin’s rise to prominence leads media and fans alike to support him in unusual ways — that he is playing so well for the infamous Knicks only magnifies the attention given to his story. Media outlets like ESPN have immediately attached themselves to Lin, following his every move and scrutinizing every play he makes or doesn’t make.
The amazement of Lin’s popularity has especially manifested itself on the Internet, where Millennials around the world have taken to Facebook and Twitter to show their support for Lin and demonstrate their passion for the underdog. [Editor’s Note: He’s become a marketing coup, too, and Volvo just announced he'll be the face of its campaign in China. He's even a meme that the online world can't ignore, and Scholastic is publishing his biography as a children's book.] Media personalities are fans as well, with television stations and websites having had a field day with the newest “Lin-isms” and punny signs fans bring to games.
I think the recent obsession with Lin underscores a tendency for Millennials to attach themselves to certain public figures, particularly those who rise against the odds to “make it.” We’ve seen this with Justin Bieber (discovered via YouTube), Taylor Swift (a country singer making it in a rock world), and even Barack Obama, our first Black president, to a certain degree; they’ve all become “trending topics” not only on Twitter, but in the scope of public popularity as well. Moreover, they are all good role models and embody a Millennial attitude that anyone can overcome rejection and defeat odds to achieve their dreams.
But I think it’s worth questioning the trend of continuously hyping up people and ideas — the more popular they become, the further the fall back to reality. And in the eyes of Millennials, popularity seems to last only as long as we wish, only until the next new fad comes along to sweep out the old and bring in the new.
Is Jeremy Lin just another fad poised to fade into the background over time? His play indicates he’s here to stay, but the past shows that his novelty might fade once the next underdog takes his place.
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