Following the end of the NFL post season where the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, the collective eyes of the sports world remain in the Big Apple. The story of Jeremy Lin has put to rest most of the talk about which Manning has the better legacy or how long Tom Coughlin might remain as the head coach now that he has a second championship in 5 years.

Prior to February 4th, Jeremy Lin had only logged 8 minutes or more of playing time in a regular season NBA game once this season. The second-year player was deep on the depth chart and apart from a game in Houston, he was averaging slightly over 4 minutes per game. Only twice in those 11 games did he score more than 6 points, and he never surpassed 10.  An undrafted point guard who played college basketball at Harvard while completing a degree in Economics, expectations for what Lin would accomplish in the NBA were low. So low, in fact, that the Knicks are the third team in two seasons on which Lin has been a roster member.  Golden State signed him to a contract, then let him go after the season. Houston had him signed briefly to their squad, but released him so they could sign someone else.

Reportedly living with his brother in New York City to help make ends meet, Lin found a spot near the end of the Knicks bench, simply hoping to remain on the team. Not even a month into the season, his roster spot wasn’t assured anymore, and he got assigned to play in the D-League for the Erie BayHawks. Three days after being assigned to Erie, Jeremy Lin tallied a triple double against the Maine Red Claws. Apparently the 28 point / 11 rebound / 12 assist effort was enough to get him recalled to the Knicks just 3 days after the Maine game.

With both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire unavailable to play, expectations for the Knicks had decreased. The Madison Square Garden hosts had amassed a record of 8 wins and 15 losses.  Things were looking dreadful, given the amount of time the team would be without its two superstars.

At home against the Nets, Jeremy Lin got a whopping 36 minutes of playing time, nearly double his previous high for minutes played in a game (20 minutes on January 28th). He nearly logged a double-double, scoring 25 points with 7 assists in the first of what would be a 5 game winning streak.

Over the course of the next four games, Lin added 109 points, never scoring below 20 during the span. Perhaps most impressively, Lin scored 38 points with 7 assists in a signature match up with the Los Angeles Lakers. He outscored Kobe Bryant in two fewer minutes played that night, with the NBA Superstar collecting 34 points in 41 minutes. Kobe only had 1 assist.

Jeremy Lin vs The Los Angeles Lakers (Credit: The New Yorker)

Hearing the hype surrounding a relatively unknown player scoring 134 points over a five game span is a big deal. The fact that he did it while playing for the New York Knicks – a signature NBA franchise in the marketing capital of the world – makes it easier to understand why it’s being talked about on every news station. With one of those performances against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, that essentially multiplies how significant it’s being considered.

Without knowing anything more about the situation, this is a big story. How long can he keep up the performances? How will he mesh with Stoudamire and Anthony when they return? Is he potentially the new Steve Nash under Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni?

The storylines are there and this is a situation which will be on the forefront of the news until his hot streak cools down.

Except, the talking heads in the sports community are trying to take this story in a different direction.

Jeremy Lin is a Chinese American, and some are speculating that his race is the primary reason this story has become such a big story. They set aside his accomplishments, the city in which he’s performing, his professional and educational background, the high profile opponent one of his signature games came against and the fact that he’s doing it without two of the NBA’s biggest names.

To them, the story is only big because Lin is the first American born player of Chinese descent.

Were this a player who came out of obscurity and averaged 27 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves or another small market team, hadn’t played against a high profile team like the Los Angeles Lakers, it would still be a good story, but it wouldn’t be as visible as the bright lights of New York City are making it. Would the story have made The New Yorker? Doubtful.

The sporting world has plenty of examples to show where New York magnifies the importance of things. Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Tiki Barber… each have been part of stories that get national attention over the past few years because of the markets they’re from. Numerous stories with similar situations could be referenced as being just as important to the respective teams, but the spotlight on Matt Leinart’s failures or Alex Smith’s rejuvenation aren’t treated as national news because they took place in “lesser” markets.

Because Jeremy Lin comes from Chinese descent, there’s a huge audience across the Pacific which demands coverage of the story. Perhaps some might view his accomplishments as less likely given his race, making his story more interesting, but the reason this story has exploded onto the national scene is because his obscurity gave way to five great performances for an NBA franchise which provides arguably the biggest stage in the world of sports.