Linsanity, a week ago this phrase carried no meaning to anyone, including Jeremy Lin. Now it seems you can’t go anywhere without hearing it uttered, but really can you blame us? The meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin is unlike anything we have ever seen in recent sports history; and after a cold as ice game winning three pointer against the Toronto Raptors, followed by a masterful display of passing against Sacramento’s own Kings, the legend has reached heights no one could have ever predicted in such a short time. A week’s worth of play has even prompted the NBA to include him in the All-Star Game festivities by way of the Rising Stars game.
Amongst all the attention and craze, the nation’s newest sports flavor has drawn comparisons to the hot button topic of our sporting world from just a few months ago; that’s right, America’s darling, the one and only Tim Tebow. My question is why? Before us we have two different athletes whose claim to fame took two different paths. They share some common bonds, but let’s be real about this, they are nothing alike. We need to separate Linsanity from Tebowmania once and for all.
Tim Tebow was one of the most heavily scrutinized NFL prospects ever seen. Everyone wanted to see him, see what he could do, make predictions about his future successes or failures, they couldn’t get enough of him. It was almost as if the nation was split as we drew near the 2010 NFL draft; people either thought he could or couldn’t play in a NFL pro-style offense. At Florida he ran a spread offense, a style while popular in the college ranks, get relatively little use in the NFL. This spread also had gained a reputation for inflating the numbers of sub-par quaterbacks, and few spread offense QBs have had success at the professional level, in fact few received the attention Tebow was getting. So why was Tebow different? He was a winner. He came to Florida as one of the most highly recruited High School quaterbacks in 2006, having earned a reputation of being a great runner and thrower, as well as being a fierce competitor with uncommon physical courage. While playing 4 years at Florida, he won two national championships and the Heisman (awarded to the top collegiate athlete). His passion for the game was well known, his leadership highly touted. These traits were immortalized after the passionate post game speech he gave following the first and only loss in the 2008 season to the University of Mississippi. Known as the promise, Florida placed a plaque in the locker room with Tebow’s words on it, and Tim Tebow led his Gators to a victory in the national championship that year. After four years at Florida, in 2010 the Denver Broncos took Tebow in the 1st round with the 25th pick, a decision almost as heavily scrutinized as the lead up for Tebow to the draft. But it didn’t matter, Tim Tebow was drafted and knew he was going to be a Denver Bronco for the foreseeable future.
Jeremy Lin wouldn’t know the joy Tebow felt being drafted the first round, he wouldn’t even know the joy that comes with being drafted at all. In fact Jeremy Lin wouldn’t even know what it was like to be a highly recruited prospect out of high school. After leading Palo Alto High School to an upset of nationally ranked Mater Dei in California’s Division 2 state Championships his senior year, and after being named player of the year for Division 2, Lin couldn’t even get a major program to offer him more than a chance to walk-on. Lin instead went to Harvard, where he was granted a spot on their basketball team and his 4.2 GPA allowed him to attend (Harvard and other Ivy League schools do not give sports scholarships). At Harvard, Lin quickly climbed the depth chart at guard and soon it was clear he would become one of the greatest players Harvard had ever seen. Still, he was at Harvard; which wasn’t a national power house in basketball like Florida was in football. Lin gained more attention for his race, being an American-born citizen of Chinese and Taiwanese decent. After 4 years tearing it up at Harvard, it was time to test the professional waters of the NBA. However the 2010 NBA Draft would bring disappointment for Lin, who was trying to become the first Ivy League player drafted since 1995 and the first Harvard player in the league since 1954, as he went undrafted.
Who cares that their roads were different, that doesn’t separate Lin and Tebow, right? Cause both are having success at the professional level that no one expected, right?! Wrong. While their success has been equally pleasing to see, it’s not the same. Anyone drafted in the 1st round is expected to have an impact. To say Tim Tebow’s success was unpredictable is rubbish. Sure he was heavily scrutinized, but for every hater of Tebow, there was someone who believed and supported him. In his rookie year, Tebow got his chance to play and responded with victories and an amazing display of desire. At times it almost seemed he was willing his team to victory. Going in to the NBA’s summer league, only one person gave Lin a shot to play, and he took advantage of it, eventually earning a roster spot with his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. During Lin’s rookie campaign, he rode the bench, and didn’t see much playing time.
During this past NFL season, Tebow’s sophomore season, he failed to earn the starting spot at quaterback, but as the losses mounted early in the season, he got his shot and turned his team around. While it wasn’t pretty, they won, eventually making the play-offs and a stunning upset victory over the Pittsburg Steelers. After a divisional round loss to the Patriots, Tebow was given the guarantee that he would be the starting quarterback going into next season, and the spot was his to lose. This lockout shortned NBA season for Lin was one of uncertainty. As soon as camps opened, he was cut but the Warriors, signed by the Houston Rockets, but then was cut by them too. Finally he earned a place on the New York Knicks bench, a move that had no fanfare. Lin was never expected to start, let alone play this season. As the losses mounted for a Knicks’ team that had high hopes, and after Head Coach Mike D’Antoni had gone through almost every other point guard on their roster, Lin got his first significant playing time February 4th, and responded with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists (All career highs for him). The rest is history as the legend of Linsanity has unfolded before our eyes over the past few weeks.
So you see, the comparisons between Lin and Tebow for their playing are ludicrous. Tebow is a great example of an individual overcoming criticism and proving his doubters wrong. Lin on the other hand is an inspirational underdog story that, if he continues playing at this rate and his team continues to win, will be one of the best of this decade. Tebow’s success could have been predicted, no one could have told you 3 months ago Jeremy Lin would be the hottest name in basketball. If you’re still desperately clawing for something to compare them too, there is a couple of things they share. Both Lin and Tebow have shown that while they are playing relatively well, they still have tremendous improvements they need to make, in particular they both share the consistent problem of turning the ball over. Also, they share a deep, intense passion for their faith as well as their game. They both choose to lead by example, and two of the most genuine people you’ll ever find in the sporting world. Both are an inspiration, and I look forward to watching their collective success for years to come. The future is bright for both of them, and we are lucky enough to be witnesses to their rise.