Yet as Jeremy Lin's Knicks took on Jimmer Fredette's Kings on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, it was tough not to draw comparisons between the hysteria that now surrounds the New York point guard and the season-long obsession with the BYU product last year.
Lin's emergence in the NBA as the league's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent is far more abnormal and riveting from a historical standpoint. Not only has he risen to worldwide prominence, but the Harvard graduate went undrafted out of college and was waived by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets before landing in the Big Apple. It's a true underdog story in a sport in which such is extremely unusual.
But the hoopla that we've witnessed — during which every headline and every conversation begins and ends with Lin's name — replicates the fervor that surrounded Fredette's senior season at BYU last year.
Fredette was forced to finish his coursework online to avoid disruptions due to his immense popularity across campus. He became the star of a YouTube reality show. He developed a devoted fan base within the New York prison system. And he joined the elite list of athletes who require just a first name to be identified.
Even the most casual college basketball fan became infatuated with Fredette for a period of time, as his box score and flair for the dramatic became a staple in the openings of sports shows across the nation — something we're similarly being blasted in the face with during Lin's current streak of success.
Fredette's success came on the heels of him being overlooked, perhaps not to Lin's extent, but certainly enough that he wasn't able to land an athletic scholarship at a perennial big-time program. BYU took a chance on him, though, much like Harvard (and eventually the Knicks) took a chance on Lin.
Fredette rewarded the Cougars with sensational play, a win-first attitude and the type of confidence that sports fans drool over. Former Utah coach Jim Boylen said that Fredette's "swagger and confidence" were his biggest weapons. Insert Lin's name into that statement, and it's every bit as accurate.
Thunder star Kevin Durant tweeted, "Jimmer Fredette is the greatest scorer in the world!" at one point during Fredette's magical senior season, during which the BYU standout led all of Division I college basketball in scoring and earned every major National Player of the Year honor. Durant hasn't yet tweeted about Lin's recent heroics, but that seemingly has him in the minority amongst Twitter-using athletes.
Some have even noted in person the similarity between the craziness that once surrounded Fredette and the head-spinning wildness that now follows Lin.
"He feels like Jimmer in college," Kings guard Tyreke Evans said of Lin, according to The New York Times.
Evans' use of "in college" says all that needs to be said, though. Fredette's playing time has been a bit sporadic in his first season in the NBA, but it's clear JimmerMania is very much in the rear-view mirror. "Teach Me How to Jimmer" has given way to "All I Do Is Lin, Lin, Lin," and the world can't help but marvel at what we're seeing each night — for now.
Does "Linsanity" have staying power? It's debatable. Whatever ends up happening, though, sports fans everywhere have become victims of the moment following a small sample size…again.