Part of that narrative further links Mayweather’s statements to Thomas’: it’s not just that Lin is doing so good, the theory goes, but that it’s being positioned as some sort of source of redemption for the game, a tonic for the arrogance of players like Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. By no fault of his own, Lin is being placed into the same kind of spot Bird was in 1987.
(There is at least one difference, by the way, between Mayweather’s insults and Rush Limbaugh’s unfounded digs at Donovan McNabb in 2003. McNabb came into the league less than a decade after the NFL had seen at least two other elite black quarterbacks, and another one led his team to a Super Bowl win. In contrast, the last Asian-American to play for the Knicks, Wat Misaka, predated Lin by more than 50 years. This proves, if nothing else, that crassness has its own spectrum.)
Sometime soon, the hoopla around Linsanity will start to collide with basketball realities: what will happen when Lin isn’t leading the Knicks in scoring–or, more pointedly, when he has a bad game? What if the Knicks don’t even make the playoffs? How will Lin and his fans react when the time comes for him to renegotiate his contract? And how many of these new fans will be there for Lin if he chooses to seek a trade or sign with another team?