Lin a New York Minute: Jeremy Lin’s Impact on the Knicks, NBA and the World

The incredible rise of Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American NBA player for the Knicks who has caught the NBA by storm, is one of the more remarkable sports stories of the last 10 years. A Harvard graduate who went undrafted and largely unnoticed in his first year has suddenly been unstoppable, scoring 20 points or more in his last six games. People are already comparing Lin to Tim Tebow, another athlete with an unorthodox story who rose to instant fame and success.

A rare moment in which the camera isn't on Jeremy Lin.

The undeniable truth regarding Lin’s popularity is his race. Perceptions and stereotypes indicate Asian-Americans do not typically play basketball. Yet much of the world’s population is made up of people with Asian descendants or who would identify themselves as having Asian origins. For these people, seeing someone they can identify with have success is exciting and captivates their attention.

In the business world attention inevitably leads to money, and the Knicks and the NBA have certainly cashed in recently. Sports Biz reporter Darren Rovell has followed this story for the past two weeks and tweeted some interesting facts. Web traffic to the Knicks’ website has gone up 550 percent in the past week, while video highlight views are up 1,205 percent. Lin Fathead posters are now selling more than those of NFL stars Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning and Tebow. After Lin hit the game-winning shot against the Raptors on Tuesday, merchandise sales skyrocketed overnight by as much as 500 percent. Unsurprisingly, much of the demand for Lin has come overseas.

For a league that is still overcoming the negative effects of a lockout, the emergence of Lin has been a blessing. Where the league goes from here is significant. The NBA has an opportunity to cash in a big way with Lin fans, but as the Washington Post points out, the league has to walk a thin line. The NBA has been notorious for battling with racial stereotypes throughout its history. With Lin, the league has to market the player without relying solely on his race as a point of interest. It’s the modern version of “Fernandomania.”

What happens from here will be the most intriguing. How does the NBA quell the elephant in the room with the race issue? What happens to the international growth of the sport? And how long will Lin remain popular if his play begins to diminish?

Photo (cc) by nikk_la and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


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