I agree the hype will die down and that he’s not the immortal the media has made him out to be, but as to why it became a media circus in the first place, isn’t it obvious.
He’s the unlikely hero who perservered despite it all. Passed up or ignored all his playing life. Asian American player in a country where Asian guys are thought of as effeminate, non-athletic, and excelling solely in academic endeavors. Bounced around in the league because no one believed in him or gave him a shot, and he was pretty much relegated to being a benchwarmer and playing garbage minutes. Was probably nearing his last chance at staying in the big leagues before he was given a once in a lifetime opportunity. Made the most of it and pulled through in a big way. Come on, America just eats this stuff up. It’s like 20 different Hollywood movies I’ve watched, minus the Asian American angle because let’s face it, when have you ever seen a non stereotypical Asian leading role.
No, it’s not just about the Knicks. It’s the confluence of many things when the stars aligned. The team sucked, reeked, and needed a breath of fresh air. The star players were out. The coach was rumored to be on the chopping block and was desperate. They wouldn’t have played Lim in the capacity that they had, but they had no choice. So the opportunity arose, finally. And the unlikely hero entered.
That he is Asian American matters - it contributes to the whole underdog story and makes it all more hypeable by the media. The perception that Asian American guys are not as masculine, athletic, etc is just so strong within the context of the US that when a guy comes through and shows he can play ball and not a ping pong ball, it’s mindblowing to some people - scouts, GMs, and reporters included (one of the many jeers thrown at him in his college days was, “Orchestra is on the other side of the campus”). Or a novelty. Almost every news article I have read has made a point of saying that he’s the first American of Chinese/Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. Lin himself was quoted as saying that he felt his race definitely changed the way he was recruited. Can you blame him for feeling that way. He was the runaway choice for HS player of the year by virtually every California publication (according to ESPN anyway) and was named first-team All State player in CA… and ended up being passed over by every college’s basketball team he applied to, save Harvard and Brown. And even Harvard’s crappy basketball program (non D1) initially said they weren’t interested… until they actually bothered taking a closer look at him playing and ate their words.
Fast forward to now. When he seemingly came out of nowhere (more like people finally opened their eyes), played relatively well, and helped the team with some much needed wins, it gave people something to be excited about. It gave the media something to hype about, and hype they did. All these headlines are raving about how a benchwarmer, a player from a crap bball program at Harvard, an Asian dude with a 4.2 HS gpa and perfect SAT Math IIC score from an area more known for producing stars in startup entrepreneurs and computer engineers, can actually play. Everyone who had been followimg him since his high school and college days are like, no shit Sherlock.