As a former fashion and celebrity journalist, I never write about sports. And while I enjoy attending a Lakers game or two each season, I'd hardly call myself a passionate fan. But on Friday, while everyone was busy freaking out over LeBron James' letter announcing his return to Cleveland, I was watching my friends' Facebook and Twitter feeds explode as they spoke animatedly of Jeremy Lin's newly minted status as a Los Angeles Laker.
"Looking forward to purchasing a Lin Lakers jersey like every other Asian in Los Angeles," read one post.
"Don't like to bring race into the game, but it's about time L.A. got an Asian American to rep the city," said another.
"I am excited about this! Can you guys remind me when the games are on?" read another, along with a photo of Lin and Kobe Bryant embracing.
Others bickered that he was "overrated" or "not going to fix the Lakers."
So basketball's most famous Asian American player with the endearing underdog back story will join an iconic team, but more importantly, he'll be in front of one of the largest Asian American television markets in the U.S., with 2.4 million viewers in 750,000 households (five times the size of Houston's, where he was most recently playing.) And lets not forget about re-energizing the local fan base at Staples Center, who recently watched a calamitous season in which the Lakers had their second-worst finish in history.
When Linsanity began in February 2012, it wasn't just Asian Americans who were rooting on the player who seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the New York Knicks to seven consecutive wins, averaging 24.4 points a game. It felt like the whole country was rooting for Lin to succeed. Back then, Bryant famously told reporters that he didn't know about the exploits of the Harvard-bred sensation. Then Lin officially introduced himself when he out-Kobed Kobe by scoring a career-high 38 points when the Knicks and Lakers met that same month.
I'm less concerned with Lin's basketball prowess, although it is quite good when he's on, and more excited about what it means for representation. In a country where Asian American men are still portrayed in stereotypical fashion (I'm talking to you 2 Broke Girls), Jeremy Lin is helping to shift the paradigm just by existing. His time in Los Angeles will influence Asian Americans, particularly male youth, in countless ways (not to mention those jersey sales.) All eyes will be on the California native, to see what he'll do for Los Angeles, for the Lakers and for the game. I'll be watching too.
Victoria Namkung has a master's degree in Asian American Studies from UCLA and contributed to the Asian American Youth (Routledge). Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Los Angeles and C, among others.
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