The most fun part, to our mind, of this lunatic, batshit, whoa-whoa-whoa-WHOA run of pleasure that Jeremy Lin has provided the New York Knicks and their fans is how he keeps ticking off different boxes of "breakthrough superstar" every night. Lin is not one of those players who seems to draw inspiration, Kobe-style, to destroy his enemies by their lack of respect for him. The lack of respect given to Lin — and we mean "respect" in an affable "obviously, he can't do that" way, not the usual athlete "nobody respected us except the shoe company and the season ticket holders and also our groupies!" — has been inherent, and not even, if you can use the term, disrespectful. He came into the league a blank slate, with nothing expected of him, not from his fans, his teammates, or his coach. Then, every night, he adds something new to his arsenal, and we're all blown away once again. His arsenal is getting packed awfully tight.
Think of it as the unlocking of achievements. In the New Jersey and Utah wins, Lin earned his Breakthrough badge. In the Washington victory: Dazzle, maybe? (It still has the best Lin highlight.) Beating the Lakers on national television was the Spotlight game, the one in which he showed he could do it on the largest stage. The win over Minnesota? That's the Grit badge, the ability to pull out an ugly victory despite not playing all that well against a team specifically focused on stopping you.
Last night? Last night, Lin got his Kobe badge.
Our favorite reaction to that shot, by the way, is Landry Fields's in this picture. Everyone is going crazy, but Landry has the shit-eating grin of the truly gob-smacked. You gotta be kidding me. How awesome is THIS?
The Knicks' 90–87 win over Toronto last night was actually a rather rough game for the Knicks, in every way other than the final score. Amar'e Stoudemire looked awfully rusty in his first game back since the death of his older brother Hazell last week — he added a tattoo for him, by the way — the usual offensive reliables of the Lin run (Steve Novak, Landry Fields) had off nights, and Lin himself was forcing the issue much of the evening, including a season-high eight turnovers. He also struggled on defense, constantly losing the Raptors' Jose Calderon on screens; one of the main reasons the Knicks came back was because Mike D'Antoni finally took Lin off Calderon and put Iman Shumpert (a far superior defender) on him. (Shumpert's late steal and subsequent dunk was the true game-changer of the night.) Lin is also being beaten to a pulp; opposing teams have decided the best way to guard him is to knock him around and off balance. For much of the night, it worked.
And then, as if the 47 minutes, 58 seconds beforehand were all just warm up, were all part of the grand plan all along, Lin erased everything else that happened with one perfect, holy-crap shot. The Knicks have won six in a row. They're one game under .500. Lin has transformed the Knicks, the league, the city, in ten days. And he's finding a different way to do it every night. Eventually this show will settle. Eventually it won't be able to improve every night. Eventually the amazement will have to abate. This can't go on forever.