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Tebow and Lin: Two Players Next to Each Other

[ 96 ] February 20, 2012 |

The oft-made analogy between Tebow and Jeremy Lin is idiotic for one reason above all — Lin has been good.   The Knicks have been on a streak, despite an injury to their star player, because their point guard play has dramatically improved.   The Broncos bad a bunch of (narrow, often outright fluky) wins against (mediocre or worse) teams in the regular season in spite of their QB, who was actually worse than the guy he replaced.   Tebow was, granted, effective in one playoff game.  And then, the next week, facing a coaching staff able to develop a gameplan that distinguished between “bad thrower for an NFL QB” and “bad thrower for an NFL running back” he was atrocious against a secondary that was shredded by the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Joe Flacco. The question about Lin is whether he’s as good as he looks; the question about Tebow is whether he can ever be an adequate NFL QB despite his generally sub-replacement-level performance. It’s the laziest analogy imaginable.


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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    I’m hoping one day to hear an athlete say, “I don’t believe that God hasn’t got better things to do than watch to make sure I honor Him/Her/It after every good play, and reward me with another one, and punish my opponent because they’re insufficiently religious and demonstrative. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in God at all.”

    Of course, that athlete would NEVER get another endorsement after saying that.

    And another difference between Tebow and Lin is that Lin doesn’t ‘lin’ down on one knee in prayer and homage, in public, after scoring, to show how down-right “humble” he is in his faith.

    • strannix says:

      I’m hoping one day to hear an athlete say, “I don’t believe that God hasn’t got better things to do than watch to make sure I honor Him/Her/It after every good play, and reward me with another one, and punish my opponent because they’re insufficiently religious and demonstrative. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in God at all.”

      Except for the last part, I believe Tom Brady has said pretty much exactly that.

      • strannix says:


        But if people don’t care about him, if they don’t see him as the putative king of the king sport of all sports, then why should people care about football at all? “They shouldn’t,” sayeth the Brady. “Look at the attention I get: It’s because I throw a football. But that’s what society values. That’s not what God values. God could give a shit, as far as I’m concerned. He didn’t invent the game. We did. I have some eye-hand coordination, and I can throw the ball. I don’t think that matters to God.”

        But, he’s reminded, the guys you play with routinely state that God does care. “Maybe,” Tom Brady says, “but that’s not the way I feel. It’s a game, man. I have a hell of a lot of fun playing it, don’t get me wrong. And it’s very competitive and very stimulating. And that’s why I do it. But we invented this game.”

      • Richard says:

        Similar sentiments came from Dan Quisenberry. He was a devout Christian and early in his career thanked God for victories. He later became a proponent of Christian charities helping to end world hunger and gave numerous interviews where he said that God was concerned about starving children, not about who won a baseball game

    • LKS says:

      Also Lance Armstrong. When asked at a press conference some years ago how his “faith” contributed to his recovery from cancer, he gave a stinging rebuke along the lines of [paraphrased] “I believe in science and the power of medicine and the expertise of my doctors”, or words to that effect. (I’m going this from memory).

  2. Richard says:

    The question about Lin isn’t whether he’s as good as he looks (I don’t really know what that means). His stats have been great but more importantly he’s led a bunch of average NBA players to a series of wins and hit clutch shots (a talent that doesnt show up in stat sheets). The question is whether he can keep it up after the defenses adjust to him (so far that looks to be the case) and whether he can continue to lead them to wins when Melo comes back.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I don’t really know what that means

      Well, if I understand correctly for an undrafted, several-times-cut player to perform like this in his first game as a starter is unprecedented. I think it’s fair to wonder whether he can sustain something like that level of quality.

      • Richard says:

        That’s the question-whether he can sustain what he’s shown over the past few weeks. I didn’t understand “is he as good as he looks” to state that but maybe I was reading it too literally

      • LKS says:

        But it’s getting much less fair to wonder as the games pile up. This is not something that requires a huge sample size. To draw the QB comparison, we’d all feel we have a pretty damned good idea after 6 games whether an NFL QB can play.

        I don’t think it’s that hard to explain Lin’s turnaround. The short version is that he’s gone from a rookie with high expectations but no confidence to a sophomore with the necessary swagger and assurance to be an NBA player, and the lockout gave him the chance to get his knee fixed and work on his shot.

        And he can get better, especially in the turnover department. He still makes a lot of ball handling mistakes that are entirely coachable.

  3. joe from Lowell says:

    Right. Tebow is interesting because of the potential he’s shown – because of what he could develop into. He’s got some significant assets, and if he can overcome his rookie-ish shortcomings, he could be a great player.

    Where Lin is already a very developed point guard, and is already playing at a high level.

    • BradP says:

      This is wrong.

      Tebow is a player who is hyped way above his talent level and potential, has enjoyed greater opportunity because of attributes completely unrelated to football, and has gone out of his way to show that his detractors were largely right.

      Lin is literally the exact opposite: never given appropriate credit for his potential and talent, likely has had his opportunities limited by attributes completely unrelated to basketball, and shown that his detractors were largely wrong.

  4. efgoldman says:

    What is this mystical power that the Tower of Timmy has over sports writers and talkers, that, totally out of season, in another, different sport, when any NFL talk should be about the draft or whither Peyton, they feel obligated to work Tebow into the conversation. Christ, he wasn’t that interesting during the season.

  5. mark f says:

    It’s the laziest analogy imaginable.

    Except in the sense that everywhere I turn there’s a feature-length story about Jeremy goddamn Lin. And frequently in non-sports publications or sections; I saw one at The Nation ferchrissakes. He’s only played in 8 games! I do wonder if, like Tebow (and Charlie Sheen), we’re going to look back and wonder why every American and his grandmother was so captivated by this guy for a few weeks.

    • Richard says:

      Well it’s an amazing story. Forget about his ancestry and Harvard. I can’t think of another player in any sport who came from not getting drafted, not getting a college scholarship offer, getting dropped by two teams and being the last man on the bench of his third team to start a game, lead the team in stats and lead a team of unknowns to eight out of nine victories. Since he’s been a starter, he has led the league in scoring, ahead of Kobe, leBron, all of them. Can’t remember anything like this

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I don’t particularly care about the NBA but Lin is a genuinely remarkable story.

      • Mike Schilling says:

        Kurt Warner. Undrafted, a refugee from the freaking Arena League, finally earned a backup job at the age of 28 (ancient for a rookie), got a chance to play when the starter went down, and had one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NFL, winning both MVP and Super Bowl MVP.

        Lin is a great story, but he has a ways to go to match that.

        • Richard says:

          Forgot about Warner. Same type story. Was Warner a star in college and drafted by the pros? I know he played in the Arena league so probably not a NFL draft but I don’t remember

          • Mike Schilling says:

            According to Wikipedia, Warner played at the University of Northern Iowa, and was a backup until his senior year. He was not drafted.

          • mark f says:

            Warner was a great call. He went to the University of Northern Iowa and was not drafted. It took him four years to make an NFL roster.

            Mike Schilling didn’t mention that Warner appeared in three Super Bowls and is ranked first, second and third in passing yards in a Super Bowl.

        • R Johnston says:

          Warner had more than one of the greatest seasons in NFL history and had a Hall-of-Fame career. He put up numbers where if you added on another 3-5 prime years at similar rates he’d be a top five or so all-time QB. Not quite in the discussion for best QB ever, but right at the head of the next tier.

      • mark f says:

        Sure, I don’t disagree with any of that. It’s definitely a great sports story, and the Asian-American angle broadens the interest. I get that. I just think everyone needs to catch their breath a bit here.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hey, I made this for you. Lin has real talent to back up all the hype. Come back when Tebow is being compared to the greatest QBs in NFL history. Until then he’s just a white evangelical christian affirmative action story.

          • mark f says:

            Did you mean to respond to me? I said the analogy only works in the sense that both players have received absurd amounts of attention outside the normal bounds of sports media. That’s it. I didn’t say anything about their respective talents (or, in Tebow’s case, lack thereof).

            But, hey, if you want to bet that Lin will, in fact, continue to play at a level better than Magic Johnson I’d be happy to take wager.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Nobody’s mentioned it yet, but another key factor is that Lin plays in New York. New York sports teams tend to generate national attention. And the Knicks, who’ve been mired in mediocrity for quite some time and have a celebrity fan base second only to the Lakers’*, are the perfect team for this to happen to in order to generate the maximum amount of national interest (not that Lin doesn’t deserve a lot of this interest…as many others have noted, this is a genuinely remarkable story).


        * Soon to be the Clippers’ fan base, I suspect.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          This is true as well, of course. Although there’s more substance to this hype than with, say, Joba Chamberlain.

        • Chuchundra says:

          I think it’s wrong to say that the Knicks have been mired in mediocrity. It’s more accurate to say that for well over a decade the New Yorks Knicks have aspired to be mediocre…and generally failed.

          New Yorkers always loved basketball and a little bit of hope is all we need to bring that enthusiam roaring back.

          • R Johnston says:

            Having complete idiots for owners is a significant handicap for the Knicks. Between the Dolans and the Wilpons New York has two significantly awful sports franchise ownership groups that seem to be competing with one another to set records for how to get the worst results by spending the most money.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Well, the Mets have solved the “spending money” problem…

              • R Johnston says:

                Bobby Bonilla disagrees!

                But beyond that, yeah, they will be spending less the next few years. Of course they’ll still have a payroll well above median and get maybe 75 wins out of it if they’re exceedingly lucky. Also, their farm system’s got not much, especially in the way of near MLB ready talent, so expect either further declines for a couple of years or a rapid rise to a $140million payroll in an effort to break .500.

                I’m really glad right now that I somehow ended up a Yankees fan despite growing up in the 80s in Queens.

      • LKS says:

        The closest I can think of is Martin St Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, although (a) U Vermont is considered a hockey power so the comparison with Lin/Harvard kind of alls down there; and (b) French Canadians of course abound in the NHL. But St Louis was considered too small to play in the NHL and not fast enough or sufficiently productive to make up for his size.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Although St. Louis was let go by the Craig Button-led Flames after playing very well in the AHL. Granted, the Flames’ best player was already a very small right winger, but still this isn’t like being released by a team that had any idea what the hell they were doing, and his minor league performance suggested that he had considerable ability.

      • commie atheist says:

        Playing in New York definitely helps amp up the hype level.

  6. R Johnston says:

    On top of, unlike Tebow, playing like a quality professional athlete over the course of the games for which he’s been hyped, Jeremy Lin has an actual miracle attributable to him. He more-or-less single-handedly forced a settlement between Time Warner and MSG, two of the most unreasonable and least rationally governed corporate entities you’ll ever find, getting the Knicks back on cable. That sure beats getting Dick LeBeau fall-down drunk while he was game planning for a Wild Card playoff game.

  7. Charles Giacometti says:

    It’s also a lazy analogy because Lin is like many, many athletes who are Christian and mention it at times to the media. Tebow is a Christianist culture warrior who wears it on his sleeve in ways very few athletes do, and plays it up to the media. He is also backed by right-wing propaganda groups.

    It’s also lazy because Tebow is a fucking rube and Lin went to Harvard and is a thoughtful, humble, worldly young man who recognizes what he is and is not.

    • Richard says:

      Lin is also a devout Christian, has said he might become a minister and has said that his current emergence is a ” miracle”

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Lin, Tebow, and Warner definitely share right-wing evangelical doucheiness with each other.

        Amazing since Christianity is under attack in this country….

        • Richard says:

          Lin also only listens to Christian music and wears a “in Jesus’ name I play” bracelet during games. And taught a bible study class at Harvard. Don’t know his political beliefs but he’s very Christian. But so far, I love his style of play

        • LKS says:

          Except Lin and Warner, AFAWK, have not performed circumcisions on Filipino boys or made misogynistic Super Bowl commercials with their lying mothers for extremist right-wing hate groups, and there’s no evidnece I know of that their fathers are cult leaders.

          I don’t much like god-botherers, but Lin and Warner’s form is far less disturbing than Tebow’s.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Lin, Tebow, and Warner definitely share right-wing evangelical doucheiness with each other.

          The important difference is, it’s entirely possible to be completely unaware of Lin and Warner’s right-wing doucheiness.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          And, as David Brooks recently noted, there are so few men (or women) of faith in professional sports in this country.

  8. howard says:

    It’s a side note, and obviously a semantic issue to an extent, but while carmelo is a talented big name, it’s not really clear to me that he’s the knicks star. The idea that he’s a selfish ball-stopper (in the current vernacular) is exceedingly well-founded, and since basketball is a team game….

    As for lin, if he reduces his turnovers, he will be a quality point guard for a decade, but as noted earlier, his peak is probably below warner’s peak.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yeah, if I understand correctly in the aftermath of the trade there was a dispute between Simmons types who thought it was a great deal and sabermetric types who thought Anthony was extremely overrated. Seems like the latter are winning to so far (although my superficial impressions might be wrong.)

      • Richard says:

        I don’t think sabremetrics work at all in basketball. It’s too much of a team harmony sport where you need the right combination of talents to win

        • Basketball stats are actually a lot of fun because of the large amount of data. You can adjust for all sorts of things.

        • Bill Murray says:

          but in the end the story of winning and losing is written all over the statistics. Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper covers this sort of analysis pretty well

          • Richard says:

            But basketball stats lack the predictability factor of baseball stats. One of Bill James “revelations” was that if you adjust for ballpark size, you can predict major league stats for a ball player from his minor league stats. That’s not the same for basketball because a players stats will vary depending on who he played with and his role with the team. For example, Pau Gasoline averaged over twenty points a game for two seasons with the grizzlies but hasn’t done that for the Lakers. Does that mean he has been less effective with the Lakers? Of course not, he’s just not the number one scoring option with the Lakers. Many other examples like that. Unlike baseball, basketball players hace different roles for both scoring and defending even if they are starting. And different teams play different offensive and defensive systems, unlike baseball for the most part

            • Richard says:

              Should have said Pau Gasol. Got to turn off auto correct

            • DivGuy says:

              Pau Gasol’s productivity remained basically the same between Memphis and LA. His PPG declined slightly (2-3 points), but it was entirely because his usage dropped – more possessions were played through other players. Adjust for usage and Gasol’s numbers look basically the same.

              Hollinger’s PER, which actually adjusts for usage quite a bit less than most advanced metrics, shows no real change in Gasol’s production.

              21.8 -’03-’04
              22.6 -’04-’05
              22.8 -’05-’06
              24.2 -’06-’07
              21.4 -’07-’08 (traded to LAL midseason)
              22.3 -’08-’09
              23.0 -’09-’10
              23.3 -’10-’11
              21.1 -’11-’12

              He had a bit of a peak season in ’06-’07 with the Grizz, but Gasol’s best seasons in LA look extremely similar.

              There’s no doubt that different systems and different combinations of players can produce different results, but stars tend to be stars everywhere, and Gasol was basically the same player in LA as he’s been in Memphis, just with a slightly lower usage.

            • Bill Murray says:

              As divguy says usage is important and so is pace — how many possessions a team has. With these two, you can predict with about the same accuracy as baseball how a player will do

        • Charrua says:

          I don’t know about sabermetrics, but apbrmetrics work reasonably well :).
          Yes, it’s harder to analyze basketball statistically, but it can be done and it produces actual results.
          It’s not so much that Anthony was overrated, but that what he did well largely overlapped with Stoudemire. If you need someone who can create his own shot, take a lot of shots and make a good % of them, but doesn’t has to pass the ball or defend, he’s your guy.

        • R Johnston says:

          Needing players to combine well with each other is no bar to using advanced statistical analysis. All it means is that value is context sensitive. In baseball, excluding unusually pronounced park effects like the Green Monster, thin Denver air, or the run suppression of 50’s/60’s Dodgers Stadium, there’s not much difference between the questions “which left fielder will do the most to help his team win this year,” “which left fielder could do the most to help my team win this year,” and “which left fielder would have the highest trade value if he had a one year contract at a specific salary?” In basketball those kinds of questions more frequently have differing answers.

          • Richard says:

            I agree but think stats in basketball can’t answer the most important questions like will Melo fit in with Lin or who the Clips need to replace Billups or what the Lakers need in a trade of Gasol that will help the team. Baseball stats give pretty certain answers but I don’t see that with basketball stats. Also in baseball, chemistry among teammates is overrated but that’s not the case in basketball

      • LKS says:

        Melo’s coming back to an entirely different team than the one he was playing on before his injury. It’s not just Lin, but also Smith, whom everyone seems to overlook as another reason for the Knicks’ sudden improvement.

        So I don’t think anyone knows how Melo will fare.

        There was a lot of concern about Stoudamire also, and he seems to be happy with the situation.

        Also, too — I’m having trouble reconciling the “Lin needs more games before we can know for sure” attitude with the “We’re certain Melo won’t fit in the new lineup even though we haven’t seen him play in it” attitude, not necessarily here but in much of the professional sports media.

    • Richard says:

      Probably true. I don’t see the Knicks winning a championship in the next few years. A half dozen teams have way more talent even if Lin continues his play. Also how long is Lin signed to the Knicks?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      It does seem to me that Anthony is more of a throwback to the 80s scoring machine like Mark Aguirre or Adrian Dantley than a truly legendary player. Though he is probably better than Aguirre and certainly than Dantley. Maybe equivalent to George Gervin? This is all observation, I haven’t looked up the stats on this.

  9. Jim Lynch says:

    “The question about Tebow is whether he can ever be an adequate NFL QB”

    And the answer is “no”.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      There’s the hype and then the counter-hype.

      If Tebow can re-learn the position, he could be Steve Young

      Maybe in when he’s 31 he could pass for 3500 yards (after never passing for 2000) and the when he’s 34 pass for 4400 yards and make the Pro Bowl and then 2 years later he’s done – like Lynn Dickey.

      Or he’s Eric Couch with better PR.

      Everyone will just have to see. He’s a world class athlete, we’ll find out if he’s an NFL QB later.

      Lot’s of QB’s have hung around the game for years as 3rd/4th tier QBs. Steve DeBerg played for 17 years threw 196 TD passes and only started about 2/3 of the time. Joe Montana and John Elway replaced him. Sam Wyche hung around for 8 seasons. Cliff Stoudt earned an NFL pension (5 years) while throwing only a single pass in a game.

      Lots of ways to play QB in the NFL. Not every path leads to league or Super Bowl MVP.

      • Bill Murray says:

        Lynn Dickey wasn’t actually all that good even when he threw for 4400 yards because of his high number of interceptions, and Steve Young once he joined SF was very good (except for 1988 and SY did suck for Tampa) when he was backing up Montana.

  10. LosGatosCA says:

    I’d suggest looking up the data on these players and then revising your post accordingly.

    Dantley is a HoF player who spent most of his time in Utah was moody and was delayed on HoF entrance.

    Aguirre was an All-Star for a few years. No HoF for him ever.

    Anthony may not have a couple of rings like Aguirre did by catching the Thomas-Dumars-Rodman-Lambeer-Mahorn-Microwave express. And he couldn’t sniff Dantley’s jock.
    It does seem to me that Anthony is more of a throwback to the 80s scoring machine like Mark Aguirre or Adrian Dantley than a truly legendary player. Though he is probably better than Aguirre and certainly than Dantley. Maybe equivalent to George Gervin? This is all observation, I haven’t looked up the stats on this.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      If Carmelo can sustain his scoring for another 5-6 years, he could pass Dantley and get into the HoF. You can rate his chances on that – personally I think it’s unlikely that he’ll pass Dantley on points. With the Mullin HoF standard, I won’t make a prediction on whether he gets in.

      I see no evidence Anthony will ever lead the league in scoring with over 30 per game or score 28 free throws in a single game or be the difference on a conference finals team (1987 Pistons) losing 4-3 to the Bird-McHale Celtics team. The difference being a lazy Zeke inbounds pass with less than 5 seconds that lead to the famous Bird to Johnson layup in game 5 and the infamous Rodman bitter loser quote to the effect that Larry’s overrated because he’s white (Rodman had JUST made Larry eat the ball which led to the expected win-prior to the inexcusable pass) Plus the Microwave-Dantley collision in Game 7.

      Dantley was a hard working star player on a tough top 4 NBA team until his moodiness caused another move to Dallas. Carmelo is a non-clutch player on mediocre teams.

  11. Richard says:

    I agree that stars tend to be stars everywhere although ppg and rpg will change given how people are used in different teams. For players less than stars, their stats in basketball will vary widely based on the role they fill on a team, how many minutes they get, what situations they play in, what type of offense is used ( for example, the triangle where you don’t have a point guard who gets a touch every time down the court) . I still maintain that baseball stats are highly accurate in predicting what a player will do in the future and because baseball is much less of a cooperative venture than basketball how that will translate into wins. I don’t think basketball stats are very good in predicting whether the addition of a Melo will mesh with the other players on a team and lead to more wins (or not).

  12. MikeN says:

    Sometimes you get lucky.
    There’s an English-teaching monthly magazine here in Taiwan called “Studio Classroom” that’s geared to high school/college students. The (American) founder is a fundie, so they push Christian themes as much as they can without turning off their audience, always mentioning how some wholesome minor-league celebrity puts their faith in de Lord and wears a purity ring.

    Their Feb. edition had a cover picture of Lin along with the wrinklie old owner; I picked it up, flipped through it and thought, “yeah, typical, pushing some unknown third-rater just because he’s a fundie, too.” Jerks hit the jackpot; damned edition sold out.

  13. Richard says:

    Melo returns and Knicks lose to the Nets

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