Jeremy Lin, former Dallas Maverick prospect (Getty Images)
It's a Mark Cuban staple. We know what he's getting at. We know what he means. He's not exactly completely dismissive or rude, and he's not exactly wrong when he says about Jeremy Lin or most other basketball matters, but he's still not quite there. Like Friday when he told reporters this about the Jeremy Lin story, via ESPN New York:
"If it was happening in Charlotte, no one would know," Cuban said, exaggerating for effect.
"New York is still kind of the mecca of the media for basketball," Cuban added. "It's great for the league, so you've got to love it. And Jeremy Lin is a great kid, so I'm happy for him."
Perhaps what Mark meant to say was that the Lin story wouldn't have been as big in another town. That the Sports Illustrated cover and 90 percent of the stories on this website wouldn't be surrounding the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. That everything's bigger in New York, even though it's supposed to be bigger in Texas. But people would know, Dr. Cuban, about Jeremy Lin if he were playing in Charlotte.
Start with the basketball junkies. Most hang out at their Tweetdecks all night waiting for League Pass Alerts, and letting anyone who will listen know that it's time to turn over to channel 758 because Michael Beasley unbraided his hair. For someone to go from a D-League call-up warming the bench to a nearly two-week stretch of Dwyane Wade-level stats? That'll get noticed in Charlotte.
Is the story as big in Charlotte? Of course not. Are several of those games off of national TV, had it not been for New York's prominence entering into the season when those stations cobbled together their lineups? Certainly. But people would know.
Cuban knows this. He's just stretching "exaggerating for effect" to its thinnest possible limits.
Remember that it was Cuban, at the height of a tension-filled standoff between the U.S. and China over a downed spy plane, who worked to bring center Wang ZhiZhi over to his Mavericks -- well over a year before the Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming. He's consistently stocked his rosters with international players, both the two that he inherited as team owner (Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash), and scores of others including Yi Jianlian. So give Cuban a break when he speaks his mind after it was asked if Lin's heritage has also added to the intrigue:
"Oh, absolutely," Cuban said. "I don't know about cultural impact. It's just because it's a question of the odds. Just statistically speaking, not culturally speaking, it's an aberration for the same reason that Yao (Ming) and Yi (Jianlian) and some of the other Asian players were.
"Whenever an underdog comes out of nowhere and doesn't fit a particular profile ... Everybody profiles athletes, right? So to have him come in and be counter to everybody's profile or expectations -- right or wrong -- draws attention and that's good. Hopefully, that will encourage other kids and even more diversity with kids who play basketball."
It helps if you're 6-3 and 200 pounds, though, with slick handles. Jeremy Lin does fit a particular profile -- that of a starting NBA point guard.
It's been a tricky road, navigating these Lin stories over the last few weeks. But as has been pointed out by several writers by now, Lin transcended the Asian-American novelty aspect for most of us the minute he signed with the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team back in 2010.
For those that don't share in his cultural heritage (being born in Los Angeles, I mean), all that really mattered back in 2010 and matters to those of us right now is that he's a sound point guard that also takes chances with the ball. Usually, you get one or the other. I'm being honest when I say that Lin (and brief glimpses of Greg Monroe) is the only thing I'm accurately recalling from the 2010 summer league, and it had nothing to do with his last name or the way he looked.
No, he wouldn't have made the Sports Illustrated cover in Charlotte. But let's not also take away from his accomplishments, even mindful of the fact that he's only led the Knicks back to .500 against possibly the weakest seven-game stretch that any team has had to face during that span (continuing Friday night against the lowly New Orleans Hornets). Put that in the pipe, as well.
Also understand that he went from a guy who was about to get cut to someone that has averaged 24.2 points per game and 9.1 assists per game since moving to the front of the Knick rotation on Feb. 4 and starting six games directly after. Forget what he looks like, and forget where he plays. To go from a no-name school in basketball terms like Harvard to the scrap heap to the D-League to this output even against this crummy competition? It's an astonishing story.
It plays in Peoria. Whether it's New York, or New Year, or Charlotte, North Carolina.
(And we promise we'll stop writing about Jeremy Lin. Just as soon as people stop talking about him.)
- Jeremy Lin
- Mark Cuban