SLAM DUNK

02.17.12

Jeremy Lin Means More Than Wins for the Knicks

As Jeremy Lin sweeps Knicks fans off their feet, he’s also making jersey makers, punning bartenders, and MSG shareholders very happy.

If basketball, to resurrect the tired trope, is like jazz, Jeremy Lin, up until recently, was the guy who cleaned out the alto saxophonist’s mouthpiece. That changed Feb. 4, when the stringy 6-foot-3, 23-year-old Knicks guard racked up 25 points against the New Jersey Nets. For Lin, the modest son of Taiwanese immigrants and a 2010 graduate of Harvard, the seven-game ride to fame hasn’t been a matter of ego-driven pyrotechnics. With just a handful of games under his belt, Lin’s shown that he’s a team player who delivers under pressure. It’s been 13 days since “Linsanity” struck Manhattan, and sports fans and marketing executives alike are happy to report that there may not be a cure.

13 : Days Since Lin Got in the Game

Like a mad scientist decanting one of the last polio specimens, Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni pulled fifth-string point guard Lin out of his pocket and let him loose on the world less than two weeks ago. After leading the team to victory in that matchup, D’Antoni promoted Lin to starter. It was, as we now know, the Linsight of a Linftime. “He’s kind of what I was searching for,” D’Antoni has said.

5: Weeks to Wait for Lin Jersey

The five-week wait for the most popular item on NBA.com is just part of the mad scramble for Lin memorabilia. Caught off guard, stores and websites have reported that they still can’t keep up with demand. Madison Square Garden said that its online store saw a 3,000 percent spike in traffic in the week after Lin’s debut.

0: Number of Division I Scholarships Lin Was Offered

The cream has risen to the top slowly in Lin’s case. He played high-school ball in a gym next to Stanford University’s campus, but recruiters didn’t come courting when he began looking at schools. In a series of recruiting-system oversights that have drawn comparison to Moneyball, Lin was passed over by one Ivy League scout and powerhouse coach after another. “We all felt the same way: we could get better,” Steve Donahue, former coach at Cornell and now head coach at Boston College, told reporters. When Stanford didn’t jump at Lin, Harvard swooped in.

1: Lin-Themed Milkshake

It’s not quite as good as having an eponymous sandwich at the Carnegie Deli, but only because it doesn’t involve any smoked meats. Shake Shack (already known for its Linfinite lines) has rolled out a new crowd-pleaser: the Jeremy Lin-Mint shake. The popular burger-and-shake joint isn’t the only restaurant to offer up comestibles that play on the fan appeal and punning possibilities presented by the newly minted superstar. Bars around Madison Square Garden have been serving up Lin and tonics, Lintinis, and Lin burgers.

$3,800: Rent on Lin’s New Pad

Word is that Lin was crashing on his brother’s couch on the Lower East Side since he signed with the Knicks in late December. The once-impecunious Lin can now rest easy—he’ll be pulling down $800,000 this season. He’s also kicked the futon habit, moving into an apartment in Trump Towers in White Plains, a building where the Knicks have previously housed other new hires. Lin’s 20th-floor two-bedroom reportedly has marble bathrooms and, most important, high ceilings.

87: Percent Jump in Knicks’ Ratings

Lin may help bring advertisers, as well as fans, back to the Knicks. After five games with Lin as starting point guard, MSG Network’s ratings spiked 87 percent. His games have been the highest-drawing contests of the Knicks’ season. More than 344,000 households tuned in when Lin & Company took on the Toronto Raptors, marking the network’s biggest night since Carmelo Anthony’s debut as a Knick just under a year ago.

The increased viewership may have broader consequences as Madison Square Garden and Time Warner continue to tussle over fees. The cable company stopped broadcasting MSG programs at the end of December, a feud that’s reportedly costing MSG $17 million every six weeks.

$139 Million: Rise in Value of MSG Stock

A Harvard education and heady dose of instant fame are nice, but Jeremy Lin can add this to his résumé—he’s outpaced the S&P 500. Since Feb. 4, the index has inched up less than 1 percent, Lin has helped MSG stock rise more than 10 percent. Experts say the bump isn’t all Lin’s doing, and that the share price is likely responding to many factors. Or maybe he should set up a power brunch with Lloyd Blankfein and start a second career as a Linvestment banker?

400,000 : Twitter Followers

OK, he’s not quite there yet, but he’s getting close. Hundreds of thousands of new fans eager for every word out of Lin’s mouth have swarmed to @JLin7, where the Knick posts congratulations to his teammates (“7 in a row!! A huge shoutout to Amare for playing awesome”) and messages to famous Knicks fans (to @SpikeLee: “where were u last night?”).

1: Tweet From Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In one of the more vicious attacks leveled at Lin, professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. took to Twitter: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian.” Luckily, Lin could count on Spike Lee to step in and do the right thing. With sports fans saying that Lin’s story is better than any come-from-behind, size-of-the-fight-in-the-dog flick they’ve ever seen, the outspoken director went on NBC to rope that dope. “Don’t try to explain it, dissect it,” Lee said of Mayweather’s comments. “We’re just in the middle of it and enjoy it.”

$500,000 : Projected Book Deal

There’s nothing confirmed yet, but Linformed sources say that a Lin book deal may be in the works. The ultimate question, of course, is whether or not this will last, and how long such sudden fame will Linger.