Linsanity Hits the U.S.

For NBA fans and Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG) shareholders, the rise of New York Knicks Jeremy Lin is something new in these last few weeks. But in the player’s adopted homeland, they embraced Linsanity (known in China as linfengkuang) a while ago

In the U.S., Lin has 200,000 Twitter followers but on China’s version, he has 750,000. Last week on Baidu, China’s search engine, the ballplayer jumped to the top of search items.

Interestingly, in China, his allure is rooted in different aspects than in the U.S. It is his earning power, his bi-cultural roots, and his place in China’s relations with Taiwan that has Chinese fans excited.

Since Yao Ming’s retirement, Chinese basketball fans and NBA marketers have been clamoring for a new athlete to follow and adore. They may have found their man with Lin.

While he born in America to Taiwanese parents, it hasn’t stopped the Chinese from claiming Lin as their own. He does understand Mandarin, and can answer a few interview questions with it, but he’s not as fluent as his former Knicks teammate Stephon Marbury. He’s been in the Chinese league for two years, and well, it’s been said his pronunciation is better.

In a recent New Yorker article, chief basketball correspondent Max Klein said Chinese fans are trying to understand Lin’s quick ascent. On Chinese basketball blogs, he has been compared to “a trader laid off from a ‘second-tier’ firm”—Golden State—“who lands a janitorial position at Goldman Sachs, only to somehow win millions in fees for the firm within the first four days. A strategic pick-up for the Knicks, or did they hire their golden boy by happenstance?”

There’s also been political observations about Lin. One included a photo of Lin standing over his parents. It drew a lot of chatter about his height, including comments “that his stature is related to a lack of food [quality] scandals” in America.

To contact the reporter on this story: Debbie Baratz at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com