Cohen: The Hidden Gem

By Josh Cohen
February 16, 2012

ORLANDO -- If you are at the barbershop or salon, you probably talk about Jeremy Lin’s latest hairstyle.

If you are at a car dealership looking for a new automobile, you probably start to wonder what kind of ride Lin has.

If you are in the middle of eating breakfast, curiosity may surface about whether Lin prefers pancakes or French toast.

If you are a college student and are swamped with economics, calculus and biology assignments, you ponder the thought of hiring Lin as your personal tutor.

No matter where you go, no matter what your chief interests are, no mater what sports teams you root for, Lin is at the forefront of all thoughts and conversations.

It’s a fad, really. Especially in America, we tend to become obsessed with celebrities. We’ve seen it in reality TV with Snooki and The Situation; we’ve witnessed it in other sports like football with Tim Tebow. If it’s distinctive, innovative and interesting, it becomes a sensation.

That’s what Linsanity is all about. The underdog rises from the underground and astounds us to the point where we become preoccupied.

Lin has been the most fascinating sports story of the year (though it’s still just February), but let’s also be honest, it’s not THAT unusual.

There have been plenty of other players in all of sports who seemed all but detached from decorum before having a breakthrough moment.

You could even argue here in Orlando, Ryan Anderson has become one of those unimaginable stars. Nobody truly thought Anderson could evolve into one of the best power forwards in the NBA.

Both Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, who combined to appear in five Super Bowls before retiring, rose from scarcity to become two of the best quarterbacks of all time.

In the world of professional tennis, Lleyton Hewitt was ranked 550th when he defeated No. 1 ranked Andre Agassi in the 1998 Next Generation Adelaide International. Hewitt would eventually become a superstar and one of the best talents of his generation.

Much of Lin’s popularity stems from the fact that he is starring in the biggest U.S. city with a franchise that has been dismal for so long.

Lin deserves all of the recognition, however, considering the Knicks were 8-15 before the Harvard grad took over as the team’s starting point guard.

Josh Cohen

But it all makes you wonder, if more guys were given the opportunity to flourish, would these types of underdog stories be irrelevant or insipid?

While it would be hard to imagine that any backend reserve currently in the NBA can have just as much early success as Lin, is it possible for guys like the Magic’s Justin Harper, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton or Ish Smith to prosper if any of them had to jump into the starting lineup?

When asked recently what player in this league he thinks he can resemble if given the opportunity, Harper said he could have a Kevin Durant type of game.

Especially in this truncated NBA season where starters need periodic rest, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to throw more rookies and unproven talents into the wild to see if another Lin can surface.

If you had to pick any of Orlando’s four unverified reserves, whom would you project to have the best chance of becoming a breakout, unsuspecting star like Lin with the Knicks?

Justin Harper

Justin Harper


Daniel Orton

DeAndre Liggins

DeAndre Liggins

Ish Smith