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Is Floyd Mayweather Right About Jeremy Lin?

by Charles Jay

Floyd Mayweather isn’t all that impressed with the Lin-Sanity. In that sense, he’s probably in the minority, and there’s no pun intended.

Mayweather states that the excitement over Lin is simply because he’s Asian, and that black players who do the same thing, night after night, aren’t praised as much.

In a way he’s wrong, but in a way he’s right, He’s certainly not being outrageous, but it deserves a bit of exploration.

First of all, Lin has reached levels that are virtually unknown to NBA players in recent years. The numbers certainly dictate that. He scored more points in his first four starts than any player since the NBA and ABA merged, and that was back in 1976 (basically, 35 seasons ago). A lot of players who started their careers during the interim period are comfortably in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was also undrafted, and the number of players who ever make it, to any extent, in the NBA who were not chosen in the draft is very, very low. So there is the impression that he has essentially come out of nowhere to become not only a very useful player, but a star, and that is always going to be an attractive story. He was virtually unrecruited out of high school, and it becomes even more unlikely. Add to that the fact that he’s a Harvard man to boot, and you have a story that is almost complete.

But as they say on TV, wait, there’s more!

Yes, he is Asian. Well, specifically Chinese-American, and there has been no one else of that lineage who has played in the NBA. Wat Misaka, a Japanese-American who played on a national championship team at the University of Utah in 1944 and then played with the New York Knicks before the NBA was even CALLED the NBA, was not only the first man of Asian descent, but also the first non-Caucasian to play at this level. One would think of him as quite the ground-breaker, yet he’s ignored for the most part; in the revisionist history that has been created by the press, we hear about names like Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper (all African-Americans) when it comes to “breaking the NBA’s color barrier.”

Tell THAT to Floyd Mayweather.

Look, China is ten times the size of the United States. When Yao Ming came into the league, he was a phenomenon for many reasons, not the least of which was that he opened the doors wide open for interest in the NBA. When a player of Chinese parentage makes it in the NBA, it is going to be regarded as something special.

Still, the player who get the most praise in the NBA are, for the most part, African-American. No one is going to claim that the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and other lack for respect, attention or appreciation. Or money, for that matter.

On the other hand, Lin has proven himself over a period of games, not seasons, and so the hype that surrounds him may seem a bit, well, disproportionate.

If Mayweather is making a point along those lines, he is certainly not all wrong. But there is also the assertion that, in the words posted in his Twitter account, “As soon as I support Black American athletes, I get criticized.” Is there real evidence of that in and of itself, or did the reaction he is referring to come because he possibly lavished praise on some, while denigrating others?

Whenever a person, of whatever color, praises an NBA player, there is a good chance that player is going to be African-American, so it is hard to imagine that kind of thing having much of a racial connection. That said, it is inevitable that there will be a certain identification people are going to have according to ethnicity. Italian-Americans deified Joe DiMaggio, and continue to do so to this day. Gloria Estefan could do no wrong as far as the Hispanic-American community was concerned, particularly in South Florida. where she grew up. How long have we been hearing about “White Hopes” in boxing? And are there really multiple explanations as to why Barack Obama received the greatest percentage of the African-American vote in history (96%) in the last presidential election? Or, to be fair, why John McCain got 57% of the white vote, which was above his overall percentage?

One might suspect there are ulterior motives for Floyd here. And operating on the assumption that he’s just the slightest bit narcissistic, there’s no harm in speculating that in the end, it all comes back to something having to do with himself. Sure, he’s trying to make a point about race, and we wouldn’t begrudge him his right to make that point, but at the same time, perhaps he’s throwing a probing left jab at Asians, because his nemesis, Manny Pacquiao, is Asian too? Maybe, just maybe, he’s trying to say something in a roundabout way: that Pacquiao isn’t nearly the fighter HE is, but that PacMan is arguably more popular – at least in some circles – simply because he has benefited from ethnic identification? Who knows.

One couldn’t imagine he’d tell Barack Obama the same thing, though.

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