Interlude: Linsanity and back-to-back Sports Illustrated covers
Also: a "Cover Story" x Linsanity tee and Matthew Vu's favorite magazine covers.
Hi everyone. Welcome to my newsletter companion to “Cover Story,” a basketball book I wrote which is set for release on October 26th and is available for pre-order here. If you want to tell your followers about my book, feel free to share this tweet or this Instagram post. If you’re not a newsletter subscriber, click here to make sure you get every post in your inbox.
If you’re into narratives and things, the origin story of “Cover Story” actually started in 2016 when I pitched an idea to ESPN the Undefeated about Jeremy Lin’s back-to-back Sports Illustrated covers in 2012. I was living in New York at the time and got to meet up with Pablo Torre, who wrote both cover stories, to get his first-hand account of covering Linsanity. I brought my own personal copy of Lin’s first Sports Illustrated cover (pictured above) to the interview and asked Pablo to sign it. It is one of the most cherished items I own.
Over the past few months, I’ve asked everyone to tell me about their favorite magazine covers in this newsletter. But what about my favorite? I spent some time thinking about this last week and quickly realized it had to be Jeremy Lin’s Sports Illustrated cover(s). I wrote about the general importance of Jeremy’s NBA career in this 2019 New York Times feature after he won a championship with the Toronto Raptors. It summarizes everything I feel about what Linsanity and Jeremy’s career means to me.
The story of Jeremy Lin’s back-to-back Sports Illustrated covers is explored in detail in “Cover Story.” When I came up with the idea of dropping merch with the book release, the first idea I had was a Linsanity tee. I had to reach out to Matthew Vu, who has designed some of my favorite Asian-inspired graphic tees featuring Scotty Nguyen, Romeo Must Die, MC Jin, Rush Hour, and Hard Boiled.
Matthew wrote his own newsletter post about what the Linsanity tee meant to him earlier this week, which you can read here. As for the t-shirt design? “I approached this shirt imagining if there was a Linsanity shirt released during the 90s bootleg music and sports t-shirts era,” Matthew told me. “I wanted to capture the moment that started Linsanity. I had to have him in a Knicks jersey on a shirt. Jeremy has gone through a ton of different hairstyles throughout his career, which I also wanted to capture but wanted to be careful not to diminish his professional accomplishments.”
My favorite detail of the t-shirt is the Chinese translation of LINSANITY at the bottom of the tee. For me, it captures the general pride we felt (and still feel) about what Jeremy has accomplished. It also perfectly aligns with the bootleg vibe of the tee. The Cover Story x Matthew Vu “Linsanity” tee is available for pre-order now. Make sure you follow Matthew on Instagram and bookmark his online store, so you don’t miss out on what’s next.
Matthew’s first magazine cover pick is this iconic 1996 Vibe cover (pictured above) featuring Snoop, Dre, Pac, and Suge. He was first introduced to rap by his father. “Tone Loc, Us3, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer,” Matthew recalled. “You know, radio music.” It wasn’t until middle school when he was introduced to the first album he heard with explicit lyrics: “Death Row’s Greatest Hits.” The CD insert included photos of the record label’s roster which were the same images that ended up on the magazine cover above.
“The start of the Y2K era was so great on so many levels,” said Matthew about the Import Tuner cover pictured above. “The internet was becoming more and more accessible and this was the beginning of what we would consider the technological revolution.” The cover features the 6th generation Honda Civic hatchback and one of the most prominent tuner models Francine Dee (Editor’s note: I don’t know anything about cars so this information was volunteered to me from Matthew. Thanks man!). Matthew says the cover came at a time when culturally there was this self discovery phase amongst Asians, who found kinship through AzN PrYde and Got Rice? Related: Matthew has an Asian Avenue tee available on his website.
And finally, Matthew selected this 1995 Nintendo Power cover featuring Killer Instinct's Kilgore, which instantly transports him back to the days of wandering off to the magazine aisle at the grocery store as a kid and the countless hours playing 007 Goldeneye 64 with friends. “Video games were a big part of my childhood and started when my dad scored the Nintendo Entertainment System at a garage sale,” Matthew explained. “I was in it from NES through the first-gen XBOX which my friends and I modified to rip and save games onto a separate hard drive we installed. Unapologetic nerd shit.”
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Feel free to subscribe if it’s your first time reading. You can pre-order “Cover Story” here and find me on Twitter and Instagram. Email me if you want to chat.