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Jeremy Lin Drives Sales of Knicks’ Merchandise as MSG Shares Reach Record

Jeremy Lin’s one-week rise from backup to the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week helped drive shares in his boss, Madison Square Garden (MSG) Co., to a record high and produced the league’s best-selling jersey.

Since the beginning of the weekend, the Modell’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlet on 34th street and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, near the Knicks’s home court, has run through multiple shipments of Lin gear, including his No. 17 jersey and T-shirts celebrating “Linsanity,” the catch phrase adopted by the team since the Asian-American Harvard University graduate led the club to a season-best five straight wins in eight days.

The jersey is the NBA’s top online seller since Feb. 4, when Lin first dazzled NBA fans. Sales of Knicks merchandise are higher than any other team in the league since then, accounting for five of the 10 most popular items.

“Just last week I was reading in the paper about him for the first time,” Miguel Gutierrez, the 28-year-old assistant manager at Modell’s, said in an interview. “I didn’t see this coming. We’re pretty much going to be getting new stuff every day.”

Lin, a 23-year-old second-year player, was cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets before joining the Knicks on Dec. 27.

He introduced himself to Garden fans with a 25-point, seven-assist performance in a Feb. 4 win over the New Jersey Nets, playing extended minutes for the first time with the team.

Streak Continues

Two days later he had 28 points and eight assists against the Utah Jazz, the first player since Isiah Thomas in 1981 to reach those numbers in his first career start.

He followed with a 23-point, 10-assist game against former No. 1 draft pick John Wall and the Washington Wizards before eclipsing five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant with a 38-point, seven-assist performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 10.

No other player in NBA history has scored at least 20 points and collected seven assists in his first four starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Knicks’ average household television rating is up 70 percent since Lin, who was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, moved into the starting lineup. The win at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 11 was the highest rated on MSG since Carmelo Anthony’s February 2011 debut with the team.

Shares in Madison Square Garden, which also owns the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, climbed 3.8 percent to $32.32 today at 4:04 p.m., after trading at a record-high $33.18 this morning. It’s up 10 percent since Feb. 3, the day before the team’s winning run began. Madison Square Garden, now valued at $2.45 billion, was spun off by Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) in February 2010.

Buy Time

“We even talked about buying MSG stock because of him,” said Li Ouyang, a Manhattan resident who bought a white Lin kids’ jersey for $39.99 even though she said she’s not a big basketball fan. “We should have done that before the Lakers game.”

Lin’s play might help Madison Square Garden shares by bringing an end to the programming-fee standoff between the company and Time Warner Cable Inc., according to David Joyce, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. Time Warner Cable’s 2.8 million MSG subscribers lost access to the channels on Jan. 1, with the two sides haggling over prices.

“Shares keep going up because he’s come on and is doing a great job,” Joyce, who doesn’t own MSG shares and gives them a neutral rating, said of Lin. “That hope then translates into maybe this gets Time Warner Cable and MSG back to the negotiating table.”

Small Impact

Increased Knicks’ merchandise sales would be worth “single digit millions” to Madison Square Garden revenue, Joyce said in a telephone interview.

“It’s a rounding error compared to not having the ad revenue or affiliate fees but it does help to some degree,” he said.

The Knicks had their first winning season in a decade last year and moved to 13-15 two nights ago against Minnesota. Lin, 8-for-24 from the floor, set up Steve Novak for a game-tying 3- pointer and New York won 100-98 after Lin sank a foul shot for a one-point lead.

“It was an ugly one, it was a gutsy one,” Lin told reporters. “Everybody was tired. But that’s the duty of basketball. We never gave up. I struggled a lot tonight but, I mean, everyone who came in gave us a lift and picked us up.”

Upcoming Games

Anthony has missed the win streak with a groin injury sustained against the Jazz, while an All-Star teammate, Amar’e Stoudemire, probably will return tomorrow night at the Toronto Raptors after missing four games following the death of his brother in a car accident. The Knicks lost 90-85 when the teams met January 2.

The Knicks have climbed into postseason contention. Entering last night’s games they were in eighth place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.

After playing the Raptors, the Knicks begin a five-game home stand against the Sacramento Kings, the New Orleans Hornets, the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks, the Nets and the Atlanta Hawks.

The average price for a ticket to one of those home games has surged by 20 percent in six days, according to TiqIQ, an aggregator of the online ticket resale market.

The average price for the Kings visit on Feb. 15 was $190 yesterday morning, a 26 percent increase, Chris Matcovich, a spokesman for TiqIQ, said in an e-mail.

Shirt Appeal

With more exposure, including increased television coverage for the Knicks in Asia, NBAStore.com is selling Lin jerseys at three price levels and will offer the same styles in youth sizes this week, along with additional T-shirt styles and women’s apparel.

Karen Devries, a nurse at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, couldn’t wait. She bought a white kids extra-large Lin jersey because Modell’s was out of adult sizes.

“It’s been a long time since we had somebody get the Garden to that level of excitement,” Devries, a Knicks season- ticket holder, said in an interview. “I don’t think he’s a one- week thing.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net; Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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