This is the preseason of NBA beefs, and Jeremy Lin has been worked into game shape after he unwittingly drew the ire of retired New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin.
Lin’s mane has always attracted an inexplicable amount of attention. Lin’s hair is the definition of position-less basketball. His hair is the origami of NBA head toppings, malleable enough to be twisted into any shape; the healthy, flowing mane LeBron James dreams about. When Lin debuted dreadlocks this week, Lin thoughtfully explained his hair in a 1,400-word essay for The Players’ Tribune.
That wasn’t good enough for Martin. On Wednesday, Martin presumably heard all the hubbub about Lin’s new hair and took his vitriol to Instagram, where in a series of since-deleted posts he accused the Brooklyn Nets point guard of cultural appropriation. (Sigh …)
Via the New York Post:
“Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name is Lin? Like, come on man. Let’s stop this man, with these people,” Martin said. “Like, there’s no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bulls*** going on his head.
“Come on, man. Somebody really need to tell him, like, ‘All right bro, we get it; you want to be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin, all right?”
Instagram is a hub of ill-informed people vocalizing their concerns about trivial issues. The smart Instagram users utilize satire. When I first read Martin’s remarks, the hope was that his polemic against Lin’s hairstyle choice was savvy promotion for his Two Man Weave podcast with actor turned sports commentator Michael Rapaport. I had never listened to it, but the show’s name implied it was a podcast that touched on the intersection of lifestyle, hair care advice and obviously, the NBA.
After developing Tinnitus because of Rapaport shrieking into my ear for a whole 90 seconds about the New York Knicks getting hustled in the Carmelo Anthony trade, I can assure you this was not satire, despite Martin’s follow-up attempt to couch his remarks as such:
“I see I done ruffled a few of y’all feathers. Good. Take y’all comments to the bank and see what they give y’all for ’em. That’s what I think about them, first and foremost,” he said. “But that man grown. That man can rock whatever hairstyle he want to rock. That don’t mean I have to agree with it. … Second of all, I’m grown; I can say whatever I want to say about whatever I want to say it about. It ain’t about race, it ain’t about none of that. Grow up people. It was a joke. But I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it.”
An opportunity was missed for Martin to brand himself as a satirical social commentator. Instead, he sounds like he’s just gotten bored in retirement. Like most retirees, he’s taken to yelling at youngsters about their hairstyles and reminding other adults how grown he is.
Fortunately, Lin used the Harvard-trained muscle underneath his dreads to reply on Instagram by caustically pointing out Martin’s lack of self-awareness:
“Hey man, it’s all good. You definitely don’t have to like my hair and [are] definitely entitled to your opinion,” Lin wrote in the comment section. “Actually I [am] legit grateful [for] you sharin it [to be honest]. At the end of the day, I appreciate that I have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos [because] I think its a sign of respect. And I think as minorities, the more that we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society. Thanks for everything you did for the Nets and hoops … had your poster up on my wall growin up.”
After dropping the mic on Instagram, Lin spoke to reporters about Martin’s criticisms in further detail after Thursday night’s preseason victory over the Miami Heat.
“I’d say first I hope that a lot of Asian fans don’t go on his page and say racist things to him,” Lin said. “That’s not the right way to go about it. In a lot of ways to pit us against each other — I won versus Kenyon Martin winning — I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. It’s not really about winning or losing. The whole point is we’re trying to be unified.
“So I feel like even when some people come at me like ‘Man, you embarrassed him.’ It’s like dude, that’s not what it’s about. That’s not the whole point of this discussion is to pit us into two sides and see who wins. The whole point is we all have to get on the same page. We need to have people stop going on his page saying racist things to him, too. That’s not OK.”
By Friday morning, Martin had deleted the original videos from his Instagram page.
In the age of Twitter beefs, Lin had no interest in clapping back or scoring a win. As the NBA’s most prominent Asian player, everything he does is under a microscope. Instead of magnifying a petty squabble, he did what he’s done throughout his entire career and neutralized the issue with aplomb.
Lin’s hair is going on a world tour of cultures, and that’s okay, so long as he doesn’t end up on the cover of GQ calling his dreads a trendy new urban look.