Photo: Paola Kudacki, GQ. From usatoday.com
I hope not. But he's in America. Maybe race will forever figure into descriptions of Jeremy Lin. Of course, an Asian NBA player is rare; rarer still is an Asian-American one (he's the only one).
Having read the Jeremy Lin cover story in the November Issue of GQ, I felt author Will Leitch did an excellent job of capturing just how rare and unlikely Lin's rapid ascent to stardom really was.
He went from a two-, three-, or four-point game being a good day for him, to setting the NBA record for most points scored in your first five NBA starts. "It was as though he emerged, out of nowhere, as a fully formed star," Leitch wrote.
Some highlights from the GQ piece:
Nonetheless, the racist undertones were not unfamiliar to Lin: "In my younger days, it would make me really angry. I would just get really pissed," he said. "I think the comments in college were pure racism. Stuff that was said by opposing players, opposing fans, opposing coaches. So none of this was even close to that."
And with the discussion of stereotypes of Asian-Americans came the pivotal quote of the article, where Lin admits his race (only partly!) made it harder for him to prove himself as a pro basketball player:
"If I can be honest, yes. It's not even close to the only reason, but it was definitely part of the reason."
"There's a lot of perceptions and stereotypes of Asian-Americans that are out there today, and the fact that I'm Asian-American makes it harder to believe, even crazier, more unexpected," he said. "I'm going to have to play well for a longer period of time for certain people to believe it, because I'm Asian. And that's just the reality of it."
Leitch remarks: "It's not all that dissimilar from what Yao Ming went through."
Lin: "When Yao came out his rookie year as the first pick of the Draft, you have Charles Barkley saying, 'If he scores seventeen points in a game, I'm going to kiss a donkey's butt,'
"If you do it for long enough, I think you would get the respect."
That's exactly it. Asian or not, he still has to prove himself as a player. As Lin enters his third season in the NBA, with a new team (the Houston Rockets) and a big contract (relative to his previous earnings, of course), there are a lot of questions ahead.
Can Jeremy Lin recreate the incredible performances that made him the celebrity he is today? Can he sustain them for an entire NBA season, now that everybody in the league has a scouting report on him? Most importantly (and realistically), can he establish himself as a legitimate NBA starting point guard?
If he succeeds in latter question, and sprinkles in a few of the performances that set last year's "Linsanity" into motion, then - as it was for Yao - the assumptions of his race will fade further into the background.
But will they ever disappear? Never.
Allan Pulga is Schema's J-Lin correspondent and a lifelong basketball fan. He lives in Regina and is incessantly taking photos of his food. And his sneakers. You can follow him on Twitter @poonisms.