Jeremy Lin's nemesis is not Kobe or Dirk
We live in a world dominated by technology, communication and knowledge. We live our lives with few surprises. Information is power and knowledge guides us through our days. The weather is tracked, traffic monitored, crops projected, money exchanged, illness predicted, minutia Googled and in the hyper-aggressive world of professional sports, players evaluated.
Rarely do we see a professional athlete rise from relative obscurity to capture the imagination of sports fans across our land, transcending New York, basketball, the Association and David Stern.
Jeremy Lin is doing the impossible: playing like an All- Star after getting cut by two different teams and unifying a downtrodden team of renown. And he's doing it in a market/league where known commodities are coveted, acquired, groomed, stroked, praised, promoted and paid. The NBA is the best basketball our species can produce and millions of dollars are invested every year in finding humans that can play like Jeremy Lin.
And that's why this story is the best story of 2012.
Jeremy Lin has turned competing against the best athletes in the world into his own personal playground. Owners, general managers, scouts, coaches and players not only populate this playground but rule it with an iron-fist. The playground is known; it has a chain-link fence around its perimeter. The pecking order is firmly established. Jeremy Lin has either forgotten or ignored his place within this paradigm. Somebody forgot to tell the kid from Harvard that 30 teams passed him by in the NBA Draft… twice. The powers that run the playground didn't pick him last in a pick-up game, they didn't pick him at all.
But there have been others. Jeremy Lin is not alone.
Kurt Warner walked onto the NFL playground in 1999. The skeptic in us all, including those that ran the playground, watched and waited for Warner to implode. Week after week, pundits, experts, analysts, players, coaches and Joe in Creve Coeur warned us of Kurt's imminent demise. And week after week Kurt Warner defied reality.
Tim Tebow captured the imagination of a grateful nation this past season. All he did was win games. But Tebow was a known commodity coming out of Florida. To many, Tebow was an icon, winning a national championship and the Heisman Trophy while being selected in the first-round of the NFL Draft out of Florida.
And the Tebow tale differs from the Jeremy Lin legend in another way: Tebow never played or dominated like Lin.
In 7 games, Jeremy Lin is averaging 24 points and 9 assists. He has hit game winners and guided, directed and inspired the Knicks from the brink of the abyss to a .500 record. New York has won 7 consecutive games and Jeremy Lin has played well in all of those wins. He has been the difference and the Knicks have won games despite not having Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
And therein lies the rub.
The only thing that might move Jeremy Lin back into the corners of the playground is not Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki. Jeremy Lin's adversary is much more ancient than the NBA. With all he's overcome to get to this point, Lin must now fight what all of us have struggled with and/or experienced: pride and ego.
Amare's pride and Melo's ego.