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Lin putting bounce back in US basketball

Updated: 2012-02-18 05:01
By David Lariviere ( chinadaily.com.cn)

Lin putting bounce back in US basketball

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (C) passes as he is guarded by Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins (L) and Tyreke Evans (R) in the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York's Madison Square Garden February 15, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW YORK - Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to the US this week has attracted a lot of expected attention from government officials, the media and the American public.

What was totally unexpected was the dramatic entry on the sports and international scene of New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin, a Chinese-American born in Palo Alto, California, to parents from Taiwan. The 23-year-old point guard has led the Knicks to seven straight victories since being inserted into the starting lineup two weeks ago.

Lin's incredible exploits included a career-high 38 points in a win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers a week ago, a game-winning three-point shot with less than a second remaining to beat the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and a career-high 13 assists in a rout of the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

The so-called "Linsanity" that has taken place, not only in New York, but all through the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a "great story" and a "marketer's dream", according to sports marketing expert and branding strategist Ronn Torossian, CEO and president of New York's 5W Public Relations.

The 6'3'' Harvard graduate was acquired in December by the Knicks on waivers from the Houston Rockets, coincidentally Yao Ming's former team.

Asian broadcaster and ESPN's Mike Yam believes Lin's "impact on the Asian community is something we can't measure yet".

"The special people are the ones who pave the path and that's what Lin is doing for every Asian-American who is watching his every move on the court," Yam said. "He has made Asians who didn't follow basketball take the time to read and watch his games. He is humble, well-spoken and a leader who has made every Asian who doesn't ‘look' the part believe in his or her abilities."

However, two other experts say Lin's new-found popularity is beyond his Asian ethnicity. "Jeremy Lin's an Asian star as much as Barack Obama's a black president," Torossian said.

Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert and founder and CEO of New Jersey-based WebiMax, said "Race is not a key motivator. Asian-Americans lost Yao Ming (to retirement) but this kind of sensation could carry over to any race."

Torossian, who has represented and marketed NBA stars such as Derek Fisher, Jalen Rose and ex-Knick Allan Houston, said Lin's "everyman" quality makes him the American dream. "How can you not like Jeremy Lin? Anybody with a brain is rooting for him. You don't hear anything on the (NFL's) Giants anymore and they just won the Super Bowl," Torossian said.

Playing on the bright lights of the New York stage gives Lin "unlimited" earning potential, said Torossian. "He has a chance to be the new face of the NBA and be one of the highest-paid players in the league. He could make hundreds of millions of dollars," he added. Lin is "only" making a little less than $800,000 this season but could stand to make a reported $5 million next year after a renegotiation.

Lin's reach goes far beyond basketball fans as a Google search returned more than 2.1 million search results in over 6,700 news sources earlier this week. He also surpassed 1 million followers on Chinese microblog Weibo on Tuesday.

Wisnefski feels the online dominance will translate to off-court fame and increase his brand awareness.

Torossian sees amazing endorsement potential for Lin with Fortune 500 firms in the areas of financial services and food and beverages lining up for him.

There have been reports that Xi, a sports fan, will attend tonight's Lakers-Suns game before boarding his flight for his next stop, Ireland. If Lin's star continues to rise, their paths are sure to cross at some point soon.

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