Linsanity – A longtime fan’s take on all the hoopla

A die-hard Knicks fan talks about his initial hesitation to embrace Lin - and what finally convinced him to.

Marco Aventajado

MANILA, Philippines – I became a New York Knicks fan at the most opportune time of their franchise history, not counting their championship years of 1970 and 1973 (I wasn’t born yet).

When we moved to New York in 1988, the Knicks were just about to move from mediocre lottery-bound team to playoff contender.

In the following 3 years, it seemed that the Knicks had a glass ceiling when it came to the playoffs, the conference semi-finals. Enter Pat Riley, the hallowed coach of the LA Lakers, who led the team to four Championships in the 1980s.

Riley brought to the Knicks a defensive toughness and physicality that would become the calling card for the team for about a decade.

At this part of the story, an unsung basketball player was bagging groceries because he couldn’t get a stint in the NBA after the Golden State Warriors released him. He managed a tryout with the Knicks and tried dunking on Ewing but injured his knee instead.

Since teams weren’t allowed to release injured players, he was kept on the roster longer than expected and eventually became the phenom of New York.

John Starks came out of nowhere to help the Knicks to even greater heights. His energy and tenacity earned him the admiration of the Knick faithful. He would be instrumental in the championship runs of the Knicks and even owns one of the most memorable moments in the franchise, simply called “The Dunk.”

And while New York never got a championship, he will always be known for being a player making the most out of his opportunity…and being part of the Knicks teams that made fans believe anything was possible.

Life before Lin

Fast forward to this season and the exploits of one Jeremy Lin, another Warrior cast off finding his way to the Knicks and by some quirky chance, managed to get a chance to play. And play he did.

By now we are all aware of his exploits: most points scored by a player in his first 6 starts since the NBA-ABA merger, outscoring Laker star Kobe Bryant on national TV…all of this and guiding the Knicks to 8 wins in 9 games (as of this writing).

But while as a fan, I readily embraced Starks, I was reluctant at first to be part of “Linsanity.”

What I left out during the fast forward was the decline of my beloved Knicks. A time when the franchise was gutted, everyone I rooted for was traded. This was the time Isaiah Thomas made his disastrous experiment, thinking the Knicks could overspend like the New York Yankees, and win.

When the mantra became “LBJ in 2010,” miring in mediocrity was fine just to have salary cap space to lure LeBron James to NYC — which ultimately got derailed by “the Decision.”

In that span of 11 years, heartache ruled Madison Square Garden. Players being brought in as saviors of the franchise became mere shadows of their playing self. To say that the fans were disgruntled was an understatement.

Along came Lin

My friends were sending messages about how awesome Lin was and asking me if I was enjoying the resurgence of my team. I admit I felt like Dennis Quaid, the jaded fan in the Major League movie franchise when Lin started to raise some eyebrows.

My hopes have been raised so many times as a fan over the years only to get dashed eventually. I ended up just waiting for the other shoe to drop in this instance, instead of enjoying the ride.

I watched the game against the Lakers and saw the Knicks play with a swagger and confidence I haven’t seen in a long time. What was most surreal was to see the “Star Comparison” graphic flashed on the screen —  which had the stats of Kobe Bryant and Lin.

My wife Ginger and I had to laugh, and that made me a fan again. My excitement for my team was rekindled.

During the game against the Toronto Raptors, I had to watch the game on my iPhone because it wasn’t being broadcasted locally. It was a so-so game for the Knicks until there was two minutes left in the game, and Lin and the Knicks found a way to win. –

Marco Aventajado is a lifelong Knicks fan.

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