Jeremy Lin, with a salary about 5 percent of LeBron James’s, is the most valuable player at the National Basketball Association’s midseason gathering of slam dunks and sponsor schmoozing.
The Harvard University economics graduate has lured record television audiences and attention from Adidas AG, the NBA’s jersey maker. His agent says he was overwhelmed by sponsor offers since Lin became the starting point guard for the New York Knicks on Feb. 6 and led a winning run. Lin was also a late addition to tonight’s Rising Stars Challenge between first- and second-year players in the start of All-Star Weekend’s on-court activities.
The timing of Lin’s success, the so-called Linsanity the Knicks and media have used to label the hoopla surrounding the 23-year-old, is what makes him so valuable. The league uses All-Star Weekend, this year in Orlando, Florida, to court business with existing and would-be business partners.
“He’s the NBA player who is completely relatable to the sponsors,” Robert Boland, chairman of the sports management program at New York University’s Tisch Center, said in a telephone interview. “He should be everywhere doing everything.”
Lin was cut by two NBA teams before joining the Knicks, whose chances of winning the league title are 18-1, down from 40-1 before his first game, according to Bovada.lv, an online sports book based in Panama.
Lin signed with New York in December and got his first significant playing time on Feb. 4 against the New Jersey Nets, posting 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds in a win. He then joined the starting lineup and led the Knicks to six consecutive wins, including one against the Los Angeles Lakers in which he topped Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, 38-34. Bryant, the NBA’s highest-paid player at about $25 million this season, has been picked for 14 All-Star Games.
Last night in Miami, Lin, with a $780,000, one-year contract, made his 11th career start, against the Heat and James, a former NBA MVP who makes $16 million a season. New York lost 102-88, leaving Lin’s record as a starter at 8-3 and the Knicks 17-18 for the season.
Tickets for the Knicks-Heat game were priced as high as $9,400 for resale, according to TiqIQ, an event ticket aggregator on for the online secondary market.
While Rising Stars Challenge tickets are part of a weekend-long package, the game was leading a 30 percent increase in inquiries for the three-day event, with some prospective buyers wanting tonight’s contest alone, according to Brian Learst, chief executive office of QuintEvents, the NBA’s official hospitality provider for All-Star Weekend.
Lin has spurred record ratings on MSG Corp.’s MSG network. The cable outlet on Feb. 18 ended a seven-week stalemate with Time Warner Cable Inc. that kept the provider’s 2.8 million New York-area subscribers from seeing the Knicks. David Joyce, an analyst at New York-based Miller Tabak & Co., cited Lin’s success as helping to pressure the two sides into an agreement.
Lin’s agent, Roger Montgomery, says he’s been inundated with e-mails and telephone calls from companies seeking to hire the guard, who is of Taiwanese descent, as an endorser. He declined to name any of the companies and said Lin would be selective.
“This is the great thing in sports,” Herbert Hainer, chief executive officer of Adidas, said in an interview. “Young athletes come up that you didn’t know six months before.”
The NBA says it doesn’t have Lin’s schedule for All-Star weekend. The annual All-Star Game is set for Feb. 26.
‘Through the Roof’
“I’m sure the requests for his appearances will be through the roof,” Russ Granik, a former NBA deputy commissioner and now vice chairman of New York-based Galatioto Sports Partners LLC, said via e-mail.
Hainer wouldn’t comment on whether Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas, the world’s second-largest sporting-goods maker and the exclusive supplier of NBA uniforms, would attempt to sign Lin as an endorser. Lin has a contract with Nike Inc., though he’s never been the centerpiece of a campaign.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said there is a lot of attention being paid in the U.S. and China to Lin, whose No. 17 jersey is the league’s No. 1 seller and who has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the last two issues.
“It’s fair to say no player has created the interest and frenzy in this short period of time in any sport like Jeremy Lin has,” Stern said yesterday while attending the opening ceremony for the All-Star Jam Session.
Adidas should start selling Lin jerseys this week in China, the world’s most populous nation where 300 million people say they are basketball fans, said Hainer, whose company’s endorsers include NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.
“Jeremy Lin definitely has some potential” as an endorser, Hainer said. “This is good for basketball, good for China, good for sport and good for us as well.”