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Looking for the “ethos” of Jeremy Lin — Five years after LinSanity

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It was five years since LinSanity, an anniversary not so much celebrated as merely marked, as Jeremy Lin recovers from his latest hamstring strain, both a symbol of the Nets’ bad luck and a memory. Remember Lin?

So Rachel Young Gu, an ESPN associate editor, tried her luck in getting to what Lin means to those Chinese and Taiwanese Americans scattered about the New York area or as she wrote Friday — taking the 7 train to Flushing and the F to Chinatown.

Bottom line, she writes, is Jeremy Lin is still a symbol for whatever we want him to be.

Depending on whom you ask, Jeremy Lin is either too weak or incredibly strong. Aggressive or soft. Dynamic or one-dimensional.

He's brash. He's overrated. He's back (no, really, for good this time). He's bombastic. He's humble. He's entertaining.

Five years after infusing Madison Square Garden with excitement, it's easy to feel like Lin has become more symbol than NBA player, or even person -- everything you want him to be and nothing at all.

Lin as symbol rather than a human being? That might help with marketing, but it’s not something Lin could be happy with, particularly as he struggles to get back on court. But Gu also finds people who love Lin as a highly accessible symbol.

In talking with some younger Chinese Americans, I found they embraced Lin's surprising accessibility. He makes silly YouTube videos; he gives you an intimate look into his personal life during basketball season; he indulges in the occasional viral meme. A high school student from Stuyvesant praised Lin's magnetic "natural swag."

When Gu finally meets with Lin, she finds him “normal, painfully normal.”

It's possible that he's all of these things we make him out to be, but also none of them. Part arrogant as he isolates and flicks in flashy layups. Part daring as he drives down the court, full of reckless abandon. But also humble and courteous as he works to find his place on a new team. A paragon shouldering the burden of expectations from two different worlds.

For Nets fans, and Lin fans, and probably Lin himself, enough has been written about him as everything but an on-court presence, a player. Time to write about him as a player.