As you’ve probably heard by now, today marks the one-year anniversary of Jeremy Lin’s breakout performance last season against the New Jersey Nets, the beginning of “Linsanity.” The evolution of Jeremy Lin’s standing in the court public opinion has been a fascinating one. What started out as a mutual love-fest between Lin and Knicks fans has evolved into what I imagine a micro-blogging version of World War 3 would look like. At least on the social media ranks of “Knicks Twitter”, the fan-base has been divided by a player that no longer dawns the orange and blue. You have the faction of fans that hate Lin’s guts, unfairly I would say, and then you have the faction who love and continue to root for Lin. I stand in the third faction; I’ve moved on from Lin with no hard feelings towards him, yet I don’t ‘root’ for him per say.
Looking back to when the Knicks jettisoned Lin for Houston and brought in Raymond Felton as his replacement, I wasn’t happy with the move. Not because I don’t like Raymond Felton, because I really like Felton. I was upset because the Knicks could’ve had both Lin and Felton, they didn’t need to choose one over the other. And to be fair, I think Lin has a higher upside than Felton and will end up as a better NBA player. I thought Felton was solid, but on a Knicks team that seemed headed for an isolation based offense, Lin was a better fit. Largely due to this decision, my outlook for the Knicks this year was quite bleak. I thought they’d moved into the distinction of being the new-age Atlanta Hawks. The perennial 5 seed that is never good enough to contend, but never bad enough to blow up the team. NBA purgatory, I like to call it. I was wrong, or at least have been wrong to this point.
What I underestimated was the ongoing rift between Lin and Carmelo Anthony. Recall the numerous pieces that came out before the season talking about the constant feud between the two players. Anthony didn’t like not being “the man” and it’s become more apparent to me that maybe the Knicks made the right decision to split up the Lin/Anthony duo. While Felton has a limited ceiling, he fits better into the construct of this team due to his ability to mesh with Anthony off-the court. There’s no doubt in my mind that a player Lin could’ve helped the team on the court, but I’m not sure that he could’ve closed the divide between him and Anthony.
Right now the Knicks sit at 30-15 on the season. I was wrong about my pre-season outlook on the team. They’ve fared just fine without Lin. Mike Woodson has done a great job implementing a wide open style offense that fits the personnel of the team nicely. Are the Knicks a contender? I would say so, although they’re right on that cusp between contender and just simply being very good. They’ve moved on from Jeremy Lin and have been quite successful doing so.
Does the Knicks success without Lin constitute hateful slander and disdain towards the man who saved the Knicks season last year? I don’t think so. I laugh at fans who have this claim that “well Linsanity was nothing special.” Are you kidding me? Linsanity last season was one of, if not the biggest story in sports. It was the vintage American “grass roots” feel-good story. This was a player who came from Harvard and was passed over in the NBA draft. The Knicks were his third NBA team and he was days from being released before his breakout performance on February 4th, 2012. Make no mistake, the Knicks don’t make the playoffs last season if it isn’t for Jeremy Lin putting the team on his shoulders, and his knee, for an unforgettable month long span. But Linsanity wasn’t special? Okay.
I hate LeBron James. I think he’s pompous and arrogant and I don’t think him winning 5 more rings will change that. But I absolutely recognize and respect his postseason greatness last. The man was a walking video game, posting numbers unparalleled in history, except for in the “my player” version of NBA 2k. You can’t discount greatness, or a prolonged stretch of greatness just because you don’t like somebody. It’s unintelligent and irrational.
Feel how you want about Jeremy Lin. I’m not saying to feel this way or that way, but don’t try and argue that Linsanity wasn’t amazing or that it simply was overblown. Never has a player made a splash onto the scene, in any sport, like Lin did last season. The fact that he no longer dawns a Knicks jersey doesn’t discount his contributions to the 2011-2012 New York Knicks. Linsanity was spectacular and you’re lying to yourself if you don’t recognize that. You don’t have to root for Jeremy Lin, I certainly don’t. When I watch him play, I’m not watching with any rooting interest. If he hits a game winning shot, it’s no different for me than if Brandon Knight or Goran Dragic were to do the same.
I’m a Knicks fan, first and formost. I’m not saying you can’t root for Lin, you can do as you please, but here is my point in summation.Don’t be that person. Don’t be the person that says “well Linsanity wasn’t that great.” Because it absolutely was. It is irrelevant whether you think he’ll eventually be like Tony Parker or if you think he’ll be more like Smush Parker. It doesn’t matter. Linsanity happened, whether he becomes a star or a scrub. Greatness must be recognized, despite one’s personal opinions on said party. I don’t root for Jeremy Lin, you don’t have to, but recognize how amazing that stretch of February games was last season.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino