April 16, 2014

Where’s Lester Hudson’s “Linsanity?”

On February 6, the shorthanded New York Knicks topped the Utah Jazz at home. The team’s two best players were inactive, dealing with various issues ranging from personal to health. The hero of the day — and subsequent weeks — was a hardwood vagabond, a scrappy guard who had been bounced from multiple NBA franchises, left to trudge through the murk and muck of the NBDL.

Jeremy Lin, the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, was the protagonist of the ultimate professional sports narrative. Player left for dead on the end of a 15-man roster, cast aside for reasons beyond comprehension, endearing squatters rights on the couches and guest bedrooms of friends, only to shock the world by displaying a skill set that only he had known of or at least been confident in. Injury leads to opportunity and the box score fills up like a hole-laden boat. Headlines soon follow as the spectacle of a D-League player providing such excitement, transcending across fans of all franchises, was a once-in-a-lifetime story.

Or a once in a two-month-span story.

Two months after “Linsanity” took over the sports world, leaving nothing but dropped jaws, a fired ESPN dot com editor and an insane inventory of unsold Nike t-shirts in its wake, Cleveland’s Lester Hudson is proving that Lin’s accession may have just been the first in a long line of talented-yet-undiscovered.  Certainly, Lin’s third contest — dropping 38 points in a shocking win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers — came with a bit more fan fare than Hudson’s – 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a win over the woeful Charlotte Bobcats, but a three-game trend is a three-game trend. And while we can debate the merits of Lin’s storybook season being larger than life due to its consistency and longevity, to offer nary a fraction of like-minded attention to Hudson appears dishonest at best.

Lin had high expectations? Filled up the box score? Had a profile written about him in college? So did Hudson, the owner of the only quadruple-double in NCAA Division I history. Oh, and an ESPN feature profile dubbed him “one of college’s best-kept secrets” and a “maestro on the hardwood.”

Prior to the Friday night win over the Lakers, many NBA pundits were waiting for Lin’s run to come to a screeching halt. It didn’t. Three games into Hudson’s run as a key bench player for the Cavaliers, the complete absence of attention may be warranted based on sample size alone, but did this stop the world from embracing the same story just 450 miles east? Comparing Hudson’s career-high 26 point outing this past weekend to the Masters Tournament, the fact that the former was merely a blip on the radar everywhere outside of Cleveland was understandable. The fact that most NBA fans outside of Cleveland have nary a clue as to who Hudson is is preposterous.

We were told that Lin’s narrative was not fueled by race. We were led to believe that the fact this all took place in New York, where everything is more important merely because it’s New York, had no bearing on the importance of a castaway leading an otherwise star-crossed team to three-straight wins. Lin is four years Hudson’s junior, but made the leap to the NBA after playing at a high level for an otherwise successful Division I program. Hudson has done so after laying claim to the record books in the halls of Tennessee Martin — a campus of UT, boasting just over 7,000 students who call themselves the Skyhawks, just to save those from having to verify existence.

Hudson’s on-court mantra appears to echo the one he took off of the court. “It’s not about the last shot,” he said following the recent win over the Bobcats, “it’s about the next one.” He praises his teammates, adding that he hopes this same cast of characters are residing in the lockers next to him come October. He likely did the same in Boston and Memphis and Washington, but the fiery guard didn’t average 19 points five assists and four rebounds per game since earning minutes within Byron Scott’s rotation, nor did he do such with utmost efficiency — his slash line over the last three games is eerily similar to that of Kyrie Irving. Like Lin, Hudson proves that opportunity is everything. Also like Lin, Hudson proves that playing in New York magnifies said opportunity, blowing a bevy of hot air into the balloon of importance; in Cleveland, Hudson could hit up a Giant Eagle without breaking stride — on the road, he could wear his jersey on the street and not even derive a double-take.

Both Jeremy Lin and Lester Hudson will head into the offseason with relative uncertainty. Lin is nursing a meniscus injury and will have to find a suitor with cap space willing to take a gamble. Hudson has proven that he’s more than a one-trick pony despite being undersized; he’s embraced Scott’s demands of defense while providing points in the paint as well as from long-range. In the recent win over the Bobcats, Hudson — typecasted as a shooting guard in a point guard’s body — led the team in points, rebounds and assists. Hudson is also doing such within Byron Scott’s system, the guard-and-forward-heavy system that thrives on slashing and hitting open shots. This, opposed to mere garbage time running and gunning.

Players like Lin, and even Ramon Sessions before them, needed injuries to prove that they were worth the jereseys they had been handed. Sessions did most of his damage in garbage time for the Milwaukee Bucks, following injuries to Charlie Bell and Mo Williams. Lin did his in the wake of injuries to Baron Davis and relative ineffectiveness by everyone else. Hudson is now getting his chance due in large part to the shoulder injury sustained by the first-overall pick in Irving.  Slashing, scoring and doing so with swagger. Even leaving the follow-through up there for a few extra seconds.

Where Hudson ends up this fall remains to be seen. Where he is now, however, needs to not only be embraced by Cleveland fans while it lasts, but by NBA fans alike. It may not be for a storied franchise looking for a glimmer of any sort of hope, and he may not be the first to market, but it’s time for Lin to give way to Lester, at least for another 11 games.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Nobody

    Reading Yahoo’s recap yesterday…it certainly seems Hudson is getting some decent national press, especially reading some of the comments…so he’ll get the hype if he keeps it up another couple games.

  • gren

    ‘Where Hudson ends up this fall remains to be seen.’

    It needs to be where he is now. We found a gem, let’s keep polishing it until we see it’s worth.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Yahoo!’s recap was an AP run, done by a Cleveland writer.

  • mgbode

    I believe as much about April NBA basketball on a bad team as I do any MLB team/player in March.  All that glitters is not gold.

    He deserves a look in summerball and fall.  If he keeps it up (and improves his D), then he’ll have earned his spot on the bench.   But, take a grain of salt for every sugar cube he puts out for now.

  • Jack

    The Cavs should keep winning. If they try hard enough, they can work there way back up to 25th place!

    What have late seasons wins ever gotten a team?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So is Lin Chinese or Taiwanese?  Anyways the question was answered Hudson is neither nor does he play in NY therefore it doesn’t make for as good a story which means little to none national exposure. 

    Who knows maybe Grant found another undiscovered talent in the D-League.  Hudson does indeed remind me alot of the ex-Piston Vinny Johnson, a fact Carr and McLoud remind you of constantly during broadcasts.

  • @37crookshankave

    Thank you for this, well written and true.

  • Return of the (ALex) Mack

    It is hard to lose to the Bobcats even if a team tries to

  • Jaker

    Taiwanese

  • Jaker

    Lin was assured the to be the future starter of his team, had scoring explosions on ESPN against the Lakers and Mavs, has a harvard degree, is asian-american, has a pun-filled last name, was WINNING GAMES and his team was rising towards the playoffs… All things Lester doesnt have.

    Couple all of that with playin in NYC, why is this even a question?

  • mgbode

    the Bobcats accidentally stayed on the court at halftime of one of their games and thought they were supposed to play a kindergarten allstar team that was there to be recognized. luckily, they were able to pull out that victory right before halftime ended on a tip-in.

  • mgbode

    he’s American.  born here, raised here, went to school here and works here. :)

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    The point is to say that location and race shouldn’t make one story more important than the other. You essentially just answered it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LoL well I wasn’t being sarcastic I didn’t know.

  • Steve

    Lin’s rise helped his team win 7 in a row, and rise from mid lottery back into the playoffs. Lester Hudson has helped the Cavs beat . . . Charlotte and Toronto, and the playoffs are a distant memory.

  • Harv 21

    Does Lester play for a Storied Franchise in the Mecca of Basketball in the Greatest City in the World, for a team that the league needs to be successful, according to Commissioner David Stern?

    Anyhoo, let’s take a breath. Last year Manny Harris was lighting it up for a couple of minutes. Not sure our opponents are even bothering with game tapes for new players this time of year.

  • Jack


    We were told that Lin’s narrative was not fueled by race. We were led to believe that the fact this all took place in New York, where everything is more important merely because it’s New York, had no bearing on the importance of a castaway leading an otherwise star-crossed team to three-straight wins. ”

    I was never told this. Who told you this?

    Race definitely should make one story more important than the other, in my opinion. Stories are important because of their uniqueness and the scope of their impact. 

    Jeremy Lin’s rise (by any consistent standard I can conjure) is/was more important than Hudson’s in almost every context–playoff race/actual basketball implications, number of people impacted, financially, ramifications for social dialogue, global/governmental conflict, etc.

    Lester Hudson’s story is important for his life and fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers–it has marginal impact on other professional sports teams, has little/no implications for anyone outside the circle I just mentioned, as no far-reaching financial implication, raises no social questions, etc.

  • EZ

    I kind of agree with the location thing, but as an Asian American I definitely felt Lin’s story resounded more with me. I’d been following him since he lit up John Wall in summer league, though. Being the first high profile Asian-American (the first Asian-American starter in like 50 years or so) does make the story different, and larger, for a LOT of people, and the Internet is littered with a lot of Asian-Am sports writers (and sports fans) that have written really beautiful pieces explaining why this is important.

    I’ll add that another element of this is that the Knicks were supposed to be really good with ‘Melo, Amare and D’Antoni and instead were mediocre until both of the All-Stars were out and Lin started racking up wins with journeymen and role players. 
    I think Hudson should definitely be getting more press, and many of the reasons that Lin got more are unfair. But I don’t think all of the reasons you noted are unfair.

  • Ritz

    Why not? There are way more people in NYC, more people that care about the team and more people to create a Lin following – a following in part fueled by his ethnicity – and thus more people that care about the story. Is there a Lester Hudson following? Are his jerseys being sold? Is his team winning? Is the areana full of Hudson fans? Does he have a unique NBA ethnicity? Thoes are all things that create a story – a following, uniqueness, etc.

  • Bryan

    I agree with Jack.  Who told you Lin’s story was not fueled by race?  As I saw it, the whole point of the Lin story was race – he was the first Asian-American to make an impact in the NBA.  

    To suggest that Lester Hudson story is the same, or should be the same as Lin, is just silly. 

    Even apart from race, Lin performed at a much higher level than Hudson has so far.  Starting on 1/4, Lin averaged 21 and 8 for the entire month of January, while his team went 10-3 in the middle of a playoff race.  Hudson so far has had 3 good offensive games against 3 terrible teams that are all clearly trying to tank.  If he averages 21 and 8 for the next month, and does it against real teams, I guarantee you he will get press.

  • Jack

    EZ – The reasons Lin got press are not unfair. He got press because the story had far-reaching ramifications in many different arenas (social, financial [see MSG stock rise], global/governmental, racial, professional (basketball), educational, college sports, religious, etc.).

  • Edward

    Not sure what the definition of “important” is in this context, but Lin’s race is a draw for some readers, just the same as Tebow’s christianity is for others or Omri Casspi’s religion and heritage is to some.  I’m not wading into politics here.  Lin was not handed a contract by the government. Personally, I believe that success is predicated by being at the right place at the right time and aggressively pursuing your goal. Nothing wrong with that, in my book.  Agreed that location also played a huge role for Lin.  I live in NYC and shook my head throughout Linsanity.  Also, not saying that I agree with it, but I would speculate that the league pin’s quite a bit of importance on the fact that Lin had his run in NYC.   

  • Edward

    Sorry, let me ammend to Personally, I believe that SOMETIMES success is predicated….

  • Jack

    I mean, what criteria should we use to evaluate a story’s “deserved level of importance?”

    If it’s a story about the unexpected success of a basketball player then the importance value assigned to that story should be determined based only on an arbitrarily defined set of specifically basketball-related threads?

    I don’t understand how one can argue that ALL elements of context shouldn’t justifiably elevate the importance and attention a story warrants…

  • Bryan

    Actually, I figured out the angle here – Hudson is only the third guy named Lester to ever play in the NBA.  

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/player_search.cgi?search=lester 

    It is a travesty that the national media is not reporting on this amazing story.  It is just another sad example of the many insidious attempts by the media to oppress the Lester’s of the world.  Ridiculous.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Very true great points.  At this point in the Cavaliers season they have to grab onto anything positive though.  Ya never know Hudson might have a future with the Cavaliers.  I’m not willing to bet on it personally I would much prefer to see some athletic talented youth added like Beal or Lamb but Hudson is battle tested. 

  • Vindictive_Pat

    It’s all about NYC.  I honestly don’t think the story was much bigger here in the US simply because Lin is of Taiwanese decent… I think that any player who helps make the Knicks a competitor is going to get a ridiculous amount of national coverage, especially at point guard where the Knicks have struggled to find a legit starter since Mark Jackson was playing there.

    But this Hudson story is and should be treated differently than Lin-sanity in my opinion.  The most important factor is that the Cavs have zero chance of doing anything other than decreasing their lottery balls… the Knicks were fighting for a playoff spot and were supposedly one piece away from being considered a title contender.  Adding Lin looked to give them that final piece, even though it hasn’t actually worked out that way you can still see how it would be exciting at the time.  I have no problem with Hudson not getting national attention yet… he needs to do this a little longer against better opponents… if he’s still dropping big numbers at this point next week, then I think there will be a little more cause to wonder why (if) nobody cares.

  • mgbode

    no worries, I was just being childishly sarcastic :)

    from the media frenzy at the time, you would hardly know he was American (they used Asian as much or more than Asian-American when discussing him).

  • mgbode

    Omri Casspi gets to be in the Sprite commercials!

  • Taylor Maimbourg

    “There are way more people in NYC, more people that care about the team.”
    I will give you that the population of NYC is probably greater than that of Cleveland, but saying more people care about the Knicks than the Cavs is false.  Living in New York, the people here are the very definition of “fairweather fans”.  When Lin took off, people could not stop talking about how much they loved the Knicks.  Now he’s injured, and I’ve heard one single person discuss the Knicks in the past 2 or 3 months.

  • St. McDuck

    That ESPN story from 2008 was great. I really hope Lester finds a place with the Cavs next season and beyond.

  • BrownsFanSF

    Yea, out here in SF (he’s from Redwood City I believe) there was a little backlash about everyone assuming he was Chinese.

  • Paul

    #hudsonsational

  • kjn

    I agree completely. It was fueled by race and I don’t think anyone ever denied it.

    It also was more than that:
    * son of immigrants
    * Ivy Leaguer excelling in pro sports
    * playing in the Big Apple
    * a complete unknown

    I’m usually cynical about media hyped stories, but the Lin story had it all.

  • BrownsFanSF

    I think the Asian-American thing resonated with A LOT of people.  There’s a pervading stereotype that the little Asian guard is gonna get picked last every time (in a lot of ways Lin was), and then he went and blew it up.  Even if that wasn’t the aspect of the story that most writers were writing about, it’s definitely there.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    “The population of NYC is PROBABLY greater than that of Cleveland”?!?  Of course it is.  There is no “probably” in that sentence.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    i thought this was going to be a tongue-in-cheek article because the premise is so absurd:

    “The point is to say that location and race shouldn’t make one story more important than the other.”

    but i guess you’re serious, so:

    new york pop  ~20M; cleve, ~2M.
    black nba players ~80%; asian nba players ~2%.

    i mean.  come on.  bigger stage and bigger phenomenon.

    leaving aside the really amazing play of lin in more dramatic finishes over a considerably longer time period and
    leaving aside that he became the star out of nowhere in stark contrast to lackluster ‘established stars’ such as amare and melo 

    –> why shouldnt both factors be relevant in determining which is the bigger story?

  • EZ

    I didn’t mean to say they were all unfair (and I didn’t.) I agree with Scott that just being in New York shouldn’t make a story more popular among sportswriters, and it absolutely does. There were a lot of other elements to Linsanity that I think were completely valid (which I also stated.)

  • Clevelandscores

    How naive are you? Race is always a story when “firsts” are involved. You’re creating an absurd standard to say it shouldn’t matter at all. Throw in the NY angle, playoffs etc and all of this shouldn’t be surprising.

  • Taylor Maimbourg

    My mistake.  Didn’t mean to say probably.

  • Steve

     Oh I absolutely agree that the Cavs should be promoting Hudson locally. They should have been going after guys like this from the beginning of the season. Instead of running out guys who were gone after this year (Jamison, Parker) or were known stiffs (Hollins, Walton, Harangody) they should have been scouring the D-league for guys who at least had the potential to help out this roster down the road and given them some run. Yeah, you’re going to miss on a lot of them, but if even one guy looks like Hudson has, you’re better off than if you played the guys listed above.

  • mgbode

    population of what?  i’ll bet we have more midges in October.

    take that NYC :)

  • Ritz

    “but saying more people care about the Knicks than the Cavs is false.”

    No it isn’t. I love the Cavs and so do lots of people in NEO. But more people care about the Knicks across the country and in the teams’ respective metro area.

  • Ritz

    Exactly right. Those factors made the story big, and why can’t/shouldn’t they?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WVCEOHWKFOFULWMPNFJPJFTJUQ C H

    Dagic and Hudson may be a better player than Lin. Who know.

    But considering the scarcity,  Lin is Asian, Christian, and from Harvard, the marketing effect is really good for the Knicks and NBA.

  • architrance

    LESTYRIA!
    catch the bug

    (pretty sure Dan Gilbert tweeted that gem)

  • Nicholee

    I’m liking this solely for the LotR reference.

  • Ryan

    When I say “MO”, you say “Lester”….MO!

  • Axa34

    The comparison does not hold water.  Lin became well known not just for his play but because he led his team to a 7-0 mark when he started playing more minutes and those victories were over decent teams such as the Lakers where he outscored Kobe Bryant by dropping 39 points.  How many games have the Cavs won with Hudson.  I think it has been one game and that was over lowly Charlotte.  If Hudson helped the Cavs go on a 7-0 streak he would be getting a lot more attention but that is not the case.

  • mgbode

    so close.  Tolkein stole it and switched it up (all that is gold does not glitter).

    all that glitters is not gold is from Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice):

    All that glisters is not gold;Often have you heard that told:Many a man his life hath soldBut my outside to behold:Gilded tombs do worms enfold.Had you been as wise as bold,Young in limbs, in judgement oldYour answer had not been inscroll’dFare you well, your suit is cold.