By Doug Russell Special to Published Feb 15, 2012 at 11:00 AM

In 1985, Sports Illustrated ran a story about a curious fellow named Sidd Finch, who was invited as a non-roster player into the New York Mets spring training camp. He was described as "a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse," with a 168 MPH fastball and wore only one shoe – a hiking boot on his left foot – when he played.

No one knew anything about him, including where he came from, why he chose baseball despite his obvious other intellectual talents or how he developed his unbelievable skill set.

Of course Sidd Finch was unbelievable, because it was all an elaborate April Fools Day prank perpetuated by the magazine and author George Plimpton. But if I hadn't been witnessing it with my own eyes, I would have sworn that Jeremy Lin was the second coming of Sidd Finch 27 years later.

Two weeks ago, few outside of the Asian-American community had even heard of Jeremy Lin. After having been cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, Lin was picked up on a flyer by the New York Knicks Dec. 27. With just 55 total minutes logged in the Knicks first 23 games of the season, Lin was inserted into the rotation on Feb. 4 after coach Mike D'Antoni grew weary of the lackluster play of his guard tandem of Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert in the absence of the injured Baron Davis.

Since playing his first impact minutes that evening vs. cross-river rivals New Jersey, Lin has become an object of fascination; an overnight cross-cultural international celebrity.

Jeremy Shu-How Lin was born in Los Angeles to Taiwanese immigrant parents in 1988. The family moved to Palo Alto and into the shadows of Stanford University a very short time later, where Jeremy grew up. During his senior season in high school, Lin led Palo Alto High to a 31-1 record and a California Division II state championship.

You might think with that pedigree, local schools would be lining up to sign him up for the next level of play. Add his 4.2 high school grade-point average and it would have seemed to have been a slam dunk for coaches wanting someone to boost their team's overall academic prowess, especially considering the NCAA now actually looks at grades and academic performance. The only question was who would Lin choose?

The problem was no one wanted him, however.

Lin desperately wanted to attend Stanford, but they would not offer him an athletic scholarship; nor would fellow Bay Area rival Cal, nor would UCLA.

University of San Francisco coach Rex Walters told the New York Times in 2010 that Lin's true talents could not easily be seen right away. "Most colleges start recruiting a guy in the first five minutes they see him because he runs really fast, jumps really high, does the quick, easy thing to evaluate," Walters said.

Lin agreed, telling the paper, "I just think in order for someone to understand my game, they have to watch me more than once, because I'm not going to do anything that's extra flashy or freakishly athletic."

In fact, the only school that went after Lin was Harvard, and so it was off to Cambridge.

His junior and senior seasons, Lin earned first-team all-Ivy League honors, but still went virtually unnoticed by NBA scouts. It wasn't until the Dallas Mavericks offered him a spot on their summer league team post-graduation that he was able to show his skills to the league. For Lin, playing that summer worked just as it was supposed to.

In fact, Lin received three offers; from the Mavericks, Lakers, and his hometown Warriors. Choosing the comforts of home after four years away, Lin signed with Golden State.

While Jeremy Lin has just burst onto the scene nationally in the last two weeks, he was hailed as a conquering hero in the highly populated San Francisco Asian-American community as soon as he became a Warrior last season. After all, there have not been many with Lin's ethnic and cultural background in NBA history.

Unfortunately, his stay in Golden State was a short one. Dec. 11, they waived him on the first day of training camp. Then he was picked up by the Houston Rockets, who waived him after the preseason ended and they already had three point guards and were thin at center.

The Knicks then snapped him up, and after toiling on the bench for the first six weeks of the season, Lin has burst onto the scene from nowhere like few have done before him. After his 25-point performance against New Jersey Feb. 4, Line became the Knicks starting point guard and has set the NBA on its collective ear.

His first start against Utah Feb. 6? 26 points on 10-17 shooting, while still dishing out eight assists. Two nights later at Washington, Lin poured in 23 points on 9-14 shooting while dishing out 10 assists.

But the breakout game that announced Jeremy Lin to the world came on national television. Friday, Feb. 10 the Knicks were hosting the Lakers on ESPN.

All Lin did was steal the show.

In shooting 13-23 from the field, Lin scored 38 points in leading New York to a 92-85 victory. Making the feat even more impressive was that he outscored future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant by four points.

"Players don't usually come out of nowhere," Bryant told reporters after that game. "If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. But no one ever noticed."

That certainly is no longer a problem.

"He's not a fluke," Knicks center Tyson Chandler, says of his new teammate. "You can tell when a guy isn't really that skilled but is just having a good stretch. This guy is skilled. He's fast. He gives the defense a problem, and he's really crafty at the rim."

So who is Jeremy Lin and what really makes him tick?

Here is what we do know. He is whip-smart. After all, he went to Harvard after earning that 4.2 GPA at one of the most demanding high schools on the west coast.

He is driven by others doubting him.

He, like Tim Tebow, who presided over "Tebowmania" during the football season, is a deeply religious young man.

But the glaring difference between Tebow and Lin, however, is that the Knicks are winning because of Lin; not in spite of him.

To all of the Tim Tebow apologists, your guy presided over some victories, but he was hardly the reason the Broncos had success late in the season. Denver's defense and special teams carried them to the playoffs; Tebow's leadership helped the offense manage ballgames and perhaps allowed his teammates to believe in something higher than themselves, but you cannot win games in the NFL with just that.

Jeremy Lin is winning games. Case-in-point, Tuesday night's buzzer beater nearly broke Twitter and made Lin a household name internationally. Add that to the Knicks six-game winning streak and Lin's streak of six straight 20-plus point nights, and you cannot make the argument that he doesn't make the Knicks better by his play. Many believe that is a valid claim as it concerns Tebow.

So why is a Milwaukee columnist spending time on player that hasn't ever played here? It's pretty simple, and it goes back to what I wrote in Monday's column about the Bucks not being that far off, player personnel-wise.

Jeremy Lin fell into the laps of the New York Knicks. The Bucks certainly had a shot at signing him, but so did everyone else in the NBA. The two teams that cut him, Golden State and Houston, have to be kicking themselves the hardest after having him in their uniform, and not recognizing the talent.

The Bucks are capable of having some Jeremy Lin luck. Just as they are capable of having just one spectacular player that falls to them in late June in the draft. In the NBA, one player can make a huge difference. Just ask Cleveland how much they miss LeBron James' talents now that they are on South Beach. If the Bucks can go on just a bit of a lucky streak, they, too, could be a real contender.

Just look at New York. Much was made of the signings of Amare Stoudamire, Carmello Anthony, and Baron Davis, but they are not the ones leading the way right now. In fact, the only reason Lin was even kept on the team was because of all of the Knicks injuries piling up.

With Davis out, the Knicks needed another backup point guard. If Davis had come back sooner, D'Antoni admits that Lin probably would have been cut.

Instead, he is the talk of the NBA, and right now the most famous athlete in New York City; no small feat for anyone, but even more so after the Giants and Eli Manning won another Super Bowl.

Nope, Jeremy Lin is the talk of the town.

But remember, it isn't like the Knicks earned Lin; they just found him on the streets and gave him a home, much like you might with a homeless dog. But in this case, that homeless dog led you straight to a pile of riches buried out in some field that he was hiding for the ones that eventually took him in.

Dumb luck.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.