Jeremy Lin is Balling Now; Time Will Tell If He Has Staying Power

Barington M.Salmon | 2/24/2012, 3:53 p.m.

He isn't a pointy-headed nerd who stumbles over his feet and looks clumsy on the ball. He has moves, as Wall, Kobe Bryant and a host of other defenders can attest. Lin has so far dismantled the notion that he lacks the pedigree to excel in the NBA, as he overcomes ethnic stereotypes. He is generating an enormous outpouring of racial pride for millions of Asian Americans who identify with him and he has scaled the heights of the NBA, doing what no one else of his particular ethnicity has done to this point.

As one writer put it, Lin is "... Yao Ming with a crossover, who just happens to speak perfect English."

Lin, however, a devout Christian, attributes his success to God.

As sportscasters try to describe Lin, I am reminded of how blacks were regarded in the National Football League for many decades. It was thought that African Americans lacked "the essentials" to play in thinking positions such as quarterback, safety and linebacker. Instead, they were routinely shunted to positions more suited to their athleticism and natural prowess. Doug Williams and many of his peers took care of that idiocy.

It is no different with Lin. Folks conjure up generalizations about his high basketball IQ and his mental acuity, while often overlooking the reality that the dude is a skilled athlete who is playing some serious ball at the highest levels.

The issue of race in America may always be this country's bugaboo, especially with a black man in the White House. If nothing else, Americans have learned that rather than the election ushering an era of post-racial harmony and acceptance, we have instead, witnessed a deepening divide and a greater polarization of Americans along racial lines.

To be sure, racism has emerged from the shadows as evidenced by the racial slurs on Twitter and other social media, and an ESPN editor losing his job and an anchor suspended for 30 days for using a racially offensive word in reference to Lin. Boxing great Floyd Mayweather raised eyebrows and stimulated red-hot discussions and arguments when he tweeted that "Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise."

While Mayweather may have a valid point, he erred by focusing solely on race.

Lin's story is the archetypal American rags-to-riches story. As Bob Marley recounted in his song Ride Natty Ride, Lin is the stone that the builder refused who is now the head cornerstone.

Americans have naturally gravitated to this story because of those redemptive elements and they are loudly cheering Lin's success. And as Lin passes, soars, scores and stutter-steps, he will continue to cement his place in the NBA. But only time will tell if he is a flash-in-the-pan or a bona fide star.