Jeremy Lin's inspiring streak of greatness with the Knicks began a year ago—and it was awesome. Who cares if it didn't last?
It's always memorable, sitting in the 300-section of Madison Square Garden—especially for Saturday night Knicks games when the team is struggling. The rows reach up so high and out so wide that you feel engulfed by an enormous crowd of people, most of whom, Saturdays being Saturdays, are drunk. And even towards the beginning of the night, when fans are reasonably sober, this is New York City, so everyone's loud and Carmelo Anthony is fat and Jared Jeffries belongs in prison, not in the NBA. These games are memorable in the way that they turn something that's supposed to be fun (watching a professional basketball game) into something that you just have to find a way to get through safely.
Unless it's February 4, 2012. Or, as it's better known: the beginning of Linsanity. I was there that night, sitting in the 300s, watching this little-known Asian-American dude from Harvard come off the bench, recklessly bring the Knicks back from down 10, and score 25 points on 19 shots to go along with five assists as the Knicks beat the then-New Jersey Nets to end a three-game losing streak. It all came as a shock: Lin and everything about him, what happened on the court, how this came to be something way more fun than just a game between two eight-win teams—and also it happening at the lowest of low points, on a cold Saturday night, one day before the Giants' Super Bowl, and against the not-yet-from Brooklyn Nets. It was totally dumb-luck to get to see it live. You kind of had to be there, we thought.
But then Jeremy Lin kept happening, and he became a phenomenon-first/person-second, and you—"you" being a person with Internet access—know the rest. For a while, February 4 seemed like a date that no one, attendees or otherwise, would forget since it was the start of something that seemed like it might be great. And it was the start of something great, but we still, eventually, forgot about it.
Now, one year later: Lin is the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets, playing alongside James Harden, looking like a good bet for a playoff spot in the West. Amare Stoudemire is coming off the bench for a second-place Knicks team that's starting Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, employing Rasheed Wallace, and has twice beaten the Miami Heat—oh yeah, LeBron won a title, too—by 20 points. A lot, in other words, has changed.
"I love the New York fans to death," Lin told Sports Illustrated after signing with Houston in July. "That's the biggest reason why I wanted to return to New York. The way they embraced me, the way they supported us this past season, was better than anything I've ever seen or experienced. I'll go to my grave saying that. What New York did for me was unbelievable. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career."
In that sense, it's a shame that Jeremy Lin is no longer a Knick. He helped revive a team that was the most depressing, elephant-less circus in the world, and more importantly, he made a lot of people really happy. Oh, and he played pretty damn well, too. With Jeremy Lin so quickly becoming a part of Knicks history/culture and with him wanting to continue to be so, it would've been a nice thing for Lin to play out his career in New York.
But that's not how the NBA works, and that's not a good or bad thing; it's just the way it goes. The Knicks refused to match Houston's offer sheet, Lin left, everyone was angry for a week, but then that all went away. Now we're left with memories of Linsanity, and that's about it. The Knicks are good without him and the Rockets are good with him—a strange sort of symmetry that always never comes from things like this, especially when James Dolan is involved, but it makes a weird kind of sense.
Linsanity started and then it ended just as quickly. The stats Lin put up and the way the team won games seemed unsustainable, and they probably were. And so Linsanity's now just this self-contained, objectively great thing that definitely happened. How often can that be said anymore?
Anyone who kept an eye or an ear on the frenzy surely has at least one moment—the tongue, the Lakers game, the Valentine's Day buzzer beater in Toronto—where they can look back on it all and remember something that was just, well, good. But you don't have to do it right now because Linsanity wasn't supposed to be here in the first place, and everyone seems to be doing just fine. So there's nothing to mourn, no set day when you're supposed to be sad about it ending. Instead, it's just this outrageous, never-before-never-again couple of months you can look back on and feel good about whenever you want—no matter how crappy your seats were.