What is an NBA superstar? The terminology of such things is always murky territory. All-Star? We know what that means. Jeremy Lin, for example, still doesn’t have an All-Star appearance. But is he a superstar, based on the reaction he generates among fans, not to mention his huge following, which sometimes seems to have no connection whatsoever to the progression of his career?
There are many All-Stars in the NBA. That’s a fact. Anyone picked for the All-Star game, even once, is one. Those who stand out in popularity and their ability get the superstar monicker. A lot of the time it has something to do with the marketing of a player, or the market he plays in, which leads to different levels of attention.
Let’s take someone like Eric Bledsoe for example, minus the injuries. Since becoming a starting point guard in Phoenix, he’s averaging impressive numbers: 17.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 34 minutes a game. He doesn’t have an All-Star appearance, but is he a star, or one in the making? Possibly. If he would have put up those numbers on a team that has a bit more spotlight on it, and made the playoffs once or twice in the last three years, we might be hearing a bit more about him.
But back to Lin, who has been putting up very similar numbers, when he gets to start. He averaged 17.5 points, 4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game when starting for the Charlotte Hornets this season, playing 34.4 minutes a game. Not too far from Bledsoe’s statistics. Not superstar numbers, but on the other hand, Lin has shown time and time again that when he gets the minutes and the role, he can take over games, even against the best teams and defenses, and not just own the court, but the arena.
And that’s an interesting distinction. Not every good player can be a crowd pleaser like Lin. That gives us another title to consider: Entertainer. And Lin is certainly that. It’s not just Asian fans that “fall in love” with Lin unconditionally. Yes, being born to a family that came from China to the United States (Lin’s paternal family comes from Beidou, Changhua, Taiwan; his maternal grandmother emigrated to Taiwan in the late 1940s from Pinghu, Zhejiang, in mainland China) made his story and presence in the league a lot more interesting, but Asian or not, Lin’s basketball abilities have nothing to do with where he or his parents were born. That explosion with the New York Knicks had nothing to do with the media making things up: He was that good, he is that good. Only his career has taken weird twists and turns, sometimes because of Lin, sometimes because of things that aren’t in his control.
And Lin is special. His ability to score, pass, run the floor and simply electrify a team and audience is something that a few players in this league have. Yes, Kemba Walker, for example, is probably the more talented scorer. But Walker isn’t special in this league. There are quite a few point guards in this league who are shot-first players, getting to handle the ball for too long, putting up nice numbers with high volume shots. They have big nights, they have bad nights, but they’re one dimensional, and their main feature has very little effect on how well their team does.
About 16 months ago we wrote a post about Lin & that All-Star hope that still exists. There’s no reason for that dream to be dead. This offseason I do think Lin is going to end up with a starting role somewhere, which changes everything – for him, and the team that chooses to trust him. If he it’s in the Eastern conference, I’m not saying the All-Star pick is a lock – far from it, and there are a number of IFs involved. But IF Lin gets that starting point guard role, maybe in Brooklyn, or maybe in Milwaukee, and there are other options to consider, playing in the All-Star game is something to consider. He’s already a superstar to a lot of fans. Now it’s time to convince those that need to see more from him.