Why Jeremy Lin Matters So Much to Asian Americans

That a guy who can shoot, sky and scrap like Jeremy Lin had to go through the back door to finagle a measly $250,000 a year guarantee (against a $500k max) from an NBA team based in the Asian American heartland is a testament to the big S that we all cope with on a daily basis: stereotyping. Or stupidity. It’s the same thing.

If Lin were a black or white player, he would have been a top-10 draft pick and landed a 5-year $50 mil. contract straight out of Harvard — even if his heroics were confined to the Ivy League. But of course if Lin were any race but Asian, he would have gotten offers from Division 1 powerhouses straight out of Palo Alto High which he all but single-handedly powered to the state championship.

And it’s precisely because of this glaring lack of respect that Jeremy Lin matters so much to every Asian American with a pulse.

Sure we have Yao Ming, Tiger Woods, Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Pacquiao, Apolo Ohno and Michael Chang, but none matters as much as Jeremy Lin because none proves the point we Asian Americans feel needs proving so badly: we can study hard but we can studly hard too, often at the same time.

Jeremy Lin matters even to savvy Asian women. They know they won’t be accorded full value as long as they’re suspected of seeking refuge from a race of nerdy, physically challenged men.

Tiger Woods? He isn’t much help in disproving the core premise of stereotypes because he’s half black and playing a gentile sport of finesse not of animal prowess. Keeping your head down isn’t the same as humbling an opponent who’s determined to do the same to you.

Yao Ming? He mostly proves that a nation of 1.3 billion Asians can produce one likeable, smart, athletically gifted 7-5 man. He’s seen as an anomaly, and his exploits don’t transfer so well to sub-six-foot Asian American guys.

Ichiro? Again, he isn’t in a contact sport. And he’s an import who hardly speaks English, much less excelled in a top college.

Manny Pacquiao? Little Filipino guy with a big heart and a big punch. We already have a small army of imported action stars wh’ve advanced that thesis pretty well.

Apolo Ohno? Half white, shortish, in an exotic sport nobody thinks about except every four years.

Michael Chang? Mentally tough little guy in a non-contact sport. And he didn’t even go to college. Nice, but not a stereotype-buster.

So for now it’s all up to Jeremy Lin to show the world that we Asian American guys are multi-dimensional. We’re all watching, Jeremy, so please stop thanking god every time someone sticks a microphone in front of you. You’re starting to sound like Michael Chang. Instead show that you have a brain and start thanking your Asian American dad who worked so hard to set you on track to becoming a killer point guard like America has never seen before.