Everybody loves a good underdog story, and Jeremy Lin’s tale of becoming an overnight celebrity in the world of the NBA as a member of the New York Knicks ranks as one of the best in the 21st century.
Lin was an undrafted guard out of Harvard who didn’t seem to have what it took to play in the NBA, but one of his peers, Landry Fields, saw his talents right away. While Lin didn’t find much success after signing with the Golden State Warriors, averaging only 2.6 points and 1.4 assists per game in the 2010-11 season, those averages didn’t tell the story of what would occur in the next phase of Lin’s career only a year later.
For fans, the term “Linsanity” should trigger a renaissance of determination and passion regardless of their affiliation to a certain ball club. Lin won over the hearts of millions, even if some of his NBA peers didn’t take his performances as serious as they should have. Lin signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Knicks in December 2011. By February 2012, the world knew his name — including teammate Carmelo Anthony.
With the Knicks scuffling at 8-15, Lin came out of nowhere to put up 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds off the bench for a win over the then-New Jersey Nets. He then earned his first start two nights later on Feb. 6, going for 28 points and eight assists against the Utah Jazz to officially usher in the Linsanity era.
Lin hit the 20-point mark in nine of 10 games after he started earning big minutes. He scored a career-high 38 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 10. He hit the game-winning 3-pointer as part of a 27-point, 11-assist performance to beat the Toronto Raptors a few days later:
Things were finally starting to trend in the right direction for a Knicks squad that had been struggling. New York won seven games in a row to start Linsanity (mostly without Melo) and went 10-3 in February with Lin in the rotation, getting them back to .500 on the season.
The Knicks slumped when Melo returned from a two-week absence due to a groin injury. They even lost six games in a row at one point to drop to 18-24. Anthony wasn’t thrilled with head coach Mike D’Antoni running so much pick-and-roll with Lin, and D’Antoni ultimately resigned after that six-game losing streak. Assistant coach Mike Woodson took over and went to a style Melo preferred.
Lin’s lone season in New York ended with a torn meniscus toward the end of March, meaning he missed the Knicks’ 4-1 first-round series loss to the Miami Heat.
While many in New York viewed Linsanity as a season savior, that wasn’t the case for everybody. After the Knicks decided not to match the Houston Rockets’ three-year, $25 million offer sheet, more rumors started coming out about how Anthony was jealous of Linsanity and helped run both Lin and D’Antoni out of town. Amar’e Stoudemire essentially confirmed this years later, even if he didn’t mention Melo by name.
It’s difficult to gauge what could have been if Anthony was more willing to buy into a system that featured Lin as a trusty sidekick. Melo is a future Hall of Famer, but he has been known for his stubbornness throughout his career. While it’s true that he was finally willing to play as a small-ball power forward in 2012-13 for an extremely fun Knicks team, perhaps things would have been even better if he was more willing to embrace Lin and D’Antoni before that. Ultimately, New York fell to the Indiana Pacers in the second round in 2013, and the franchise hasn’t been back in the playoffs since.
As for Lin, he doesn’t hold any ill will toward Carmelo Anthony. After winning a championship with the Toronto Raptors, Lin told fans to get off Melo’s back. Lin treasured his short time with the Knicks, and he recently admitted his biggest regret is not appreciating it enough:
“My biggest regret is that I was too immature and young to really learn how to not take that for granted,” Lin said in May during an interview with MSG Networks. “I was so set on the next season and rehabbing from my injury and what I wanted to happen next that I couldn’t stay in the moment and just appreciate that, and appreciate New York for who New York was and what New York did for me, who all those fans were, and what that meant. It was so special.”
Knicks fans will always have a special place for Jeremy Lin in their hearts. It’s truly a shame his time with the franchise had to end so soon.