Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jeremy Lin – making the most of his opportunity


Is Jeremy Lin a one hit wonder? Is Jeremy Lin “The Knack” of the NBA, they of “My Sharona” fame? Less than ten games as an NBA starter it remains to be seen if Jeremy Lin will start the remainder of the Knicks 46 games.

Regardless, Jeremy Lin has saved the NBA’s 2011-12 season. The NBA was well on its way to a season of obscurity following a lengthy labor dispute that forced the NBA to start their regular season on December 25 and led the league to a truncated 66 game schedule.

Lin has been compared to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. That isn’t the right athlete to compare Lin too and the differences outweigh the similarities. Tebow was an NFL first round draft pick, and won college football’s Heisman Trophy presented to the college football player of the year. He’s on a short list of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time.

Kurt Warner is a far better comparison. Warner's journey from Northern Iowa quarterback to NFL superstardom was unconventional. Cut by the Green Bay Packers after the 1994 training camp, Kurt played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League from 1995-1997 where he earned all-Arena honors. The St. Louis Rams signed Warner in December 1997 and assigned him to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe in 1998.

Shortly thereafter, following an injury to starter Trent Green, Warner led the Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV and was named the NFL and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Like Warner did in 1999, Lin has captured attention that extends far beyond basketball and sports fans because of the story. Undrafted by the NBA when he graduated from Harvard in 2010, cut by two NBA teams (Golden State and Houston), buried in the NBA D-League (a minor developmental league) Lin has emerged as the leader of a New York Knicks team that has been playing well above its collective abilities since Lin became a starter seven games ago. He was nearly cut from the Knicks too by the way.

Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told the media who were travelling with President Obama on Marine One, that Lin's game-winning 3-pointer at the end of Tuesday night's game against Toronto was the subject of conversation with the President.

Carney says Lin's success is "just a great story, and the president was saying as much this morning."

The President says it's a story that "transcends the sport itself."

China has felt “linsanity”.

“His jerseys have sold out, even including the counterfeit ones,” Zheng Xiaojun, a 24-year-old clerk here in the capital of Zhejiang province, near Shanghai told The New York Times.

In what shouldn’t have come as a surprise, the Chinese government appears to be in the initial stages of claiming Lin as a native son. Lin’s parents were born in Taiwan. They moved to the United States where Lin was born.

Yu Guohua, described by The New York Times as “Lin’s closest relative still living in northern Zhejiang” the community his parents grew up, told the Times Lin had come to play basketball with the Jiaxing High School team last May and been mobbed by admirers.

Yu admitted that he did not have a chance to meet Lin during his visit, but spoke with his family. “His father was very supportive of Lin’s playing basketball, but his grandmother was not, for fear he would be injured,” Yu said.

According to The Times report: Lin’s combination of success in the N.B.A. and strong Christian faith — he has spoken in the past of becoming a pastor someday — has fired the imagination of many Asian-American Christians. There are some early signs that he may also be catching the attention of Christians in China, who continue to face varying levels of persecution.

Only 1,500 of the initial 1.4 million microblogging messages on mainland Chinese web sites that mentioned Lin also mentioned Christianity.

But these messages tend to be fervently enthusiastic.

“Your physical agility has shown me the glory and omnipotence of God,” one Internet user wrote.

“How should young Christians live the life of the Lord?” another blogger wrote. “We have a good example in Lin Shuhao’s miraculous performance and we should cheer him on.”

At the Zhejiang Theological Seminary here in Hangzhou, Professor Yan Ronghui said that she was planning to use Lin’s religious faith and basketball successes as a model for students in her course in “theological English” this semester.

Hu Shubang, a 25-year-old student at the seminary, told The New York Times that Lin would become a natural symbol for Christians in China to use in seeking converts.

“Just by his being a Christian, it is a fantastic way to broadcast the ways of Christ,” he said in the Times report.

China is very important to the NBA. According to the Times there are more than 300 million people playing basketball in China. The NBA needs to find a voice in the Chinese market after Yao Ming retired last year.

What about the Lin’s economic impact?

- According to Tuesday’s Toronto Star, Lin had the top selling t-shirt at the NBA.com’s online store;

- According to Tuesday’s USA Today, Lin’s Fathead sales overtook Tom Brady as the top seller;

- According to yet another USA Today piece, Lin has boosted MSG stock over the last week, MSG Network has seen ratings increase by 70% since Lin’s star began to shine, and web traffic for Lin on Facebook, Twitter, and the team’s website have spiked significantly;

- According to Forbes Mike Ozanian Lin’s impact on MSG ratings could help to resolve the squabble with Time Warner Cable which has blacked out Knicks games in the local market for roughly six weeks.

What’s amazing – less than two weeks ago no one knew Jeremy Lin.

“All of the sponsors are going to pile on right now, especially as he’s riding this wave,” Quency Phillips, a marketing agent who represents several NBA and NFL players told The Toronto Star. “There’s nobody else out there like him. It’s the perfect groundswell of everything.”

"There's no question brands will be interested in Jeremy Lin," Jeremy Walker, head of sports marketing and branded entertainment for GolinHarris, told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong on Monday.

"You only have to look at what Yao Ming has done not just for the NBA but for brands that he represents both in the States and in China.

"Every top Chinese star that comes out from the Olympic Games or wherever it might be, there's always going to be an awful lot of interest for brands because all the major brands in the world are still looking to China for growth.

"A lot of brands want that positive 'halo effect' association they are going to get from being involved with a superstar."

Jeremy Lin will determine his future as a basketball player playing for the New York Knicks. What seems to have been missed is Jeremy Lin is making the most of his opportunity in the world’s media mecca. If Jeremy Lin were playing for the Portland Trailblazers or the Memphis Grizzlies someone would have to call ESPN and let them know about the story. Jeremy Lin is in the right place at the right time with the right story, but his chance is coming with the New York Knicks.

The Greater New York area is home to six major daily newspapers, WFAN the biggest all-sports radio station in America, YES the largest regional sports network in the United States; the platform Jeremy Lin is showcasing his skills is extensive. He is making the most of his opportunity. He has building a foundation for success on and off the basketball court, one that he “might” be able to one day earn tens of millions of dollars from, but two weeks in the NBA do not offer a guarantee of anything.

What Jeremy has been is a great story for the NBA in a year when the league so desperately needed one.

Sources used in this Insider Report: The New York Times and Forbes.com

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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