From New York to Asia, Lin is a hoops sensation

Bigger than Shaq? Larger than LeBron? The Knicks as NBA

champions?

(Don’t laugh too hard at that last one. The odds are getting

better, according to one online sports book.)

Nothing seems too Lin-possible now after Jeremy Lin’s incredible

first week as an NBA starter, and the story keeps getting

better.

The undrafted player from Harvard made a 3-pointer with

five-tenths of a second left Tuesday night to give the Knicks a

90-87 victory at Toronto.

Lin and the Knicks returned home Wednesday night and ran their

winning streak to seven games with a 100-85 victory against

Sacramento that got them back to .500 after an 8-15 start.

Lin joined the rotation only then, starting the last five games,

so hold off on making him a Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal or

LeBron James just yet. But the Knicks have seen enough to believe

this ride may last a while.

”I don’t know when there’s an ending, maybe there won’t,”

coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Lin’s story has blown straight past the New York sports pages

and all their cute headlines such as ”Va-Lin-tine’s Day,” all the

way to a basketball-crazed continent on the other side of the

world.

Lin also has done wonders for shares of Madison Square Garden

Inc., the company that owns the Knicks, the Garden and the namesake

sports network. The stock has surged 9 percent since Lin began his

heroics Feb. 4, reaching an all-time high of $33.18 earlier this

week before retreating slightly to close at $31.91 Wednesday.

”Rangers and Knicks fans do tend to buy the stock when the

teams are doing well,” Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce said.

And Linsanity has reached America’s most powerful basketball

fan, with President Barack Obama talking about Lin’s winner

Wednesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called Lin ”just a great

story, and the president was saying as much this morning.”

Lin arrived in New York in December with no guarantee he’d last

more than a few weeks. Already cut by Golden State and Houston this

season, he was so hesitant to get comfortable in his new home that

he refused to even get his own.

Instead, he slept at his brother’s place in the city, and had

crashed on teammate Landry Fields’ couch the night before his

breakout game against New Jersey on Feb. 4.

Even an Ivy League education couldn’t help Lin explain what’s

happened since – the most points in any player’s first five games

as a starter since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976, and a

contract that’s guaranteed for the rest of the season.

”No, but I believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing God who

does miracles,” Lin said.

If that sounds familiar, yes, Lin has been frequently compared

to Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Both relied on their faith as much

as their previously overlooked skills to guide them through hot

streaks that made them sensations even beyond their sports.

Tebow carried the Broncos right into the playoffs, and now there

are some who believe Lin can do the same with the Knicks.

The Knicks were 40-1 odds to win the NBA championship on

Bovada.lv before Lin’s run began. Now, they’re down to an 18-1 shot

and conjuring up memories of another New York team.

”A guy like this is great for the game and has drawn a lot of

interest from bettors on the Knicks games also,” Kevin Bradley,

the sports book’s manager, said in a statement. ”I am having

visions of how the public was treating the Giants going into the

Super Bowl being the hottest team in the NFL and costing us a mint,

and right now the Knicks are by far the biggest loser for the

book.”

Not everybody is convinced. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. played

down Lin mania on Twitter, saying that Lin is just doing what

plenty of black players do but is getting more attention because of

his Asian heritage.

And Lin is certain to cool off. It’s one thing to beat teams

such as the Nets and Wizards when they’ve barely had time to learn

your name. It’s another when NBA defenses are prepared to stop

you.

”He’s a marked man now, he’s not going to sneak up on anybody,

and every night’s going to be tough,” D’Antoni said.

Then again, Kobe Bryant had said he wasn’t familiar with Lin’s

game and would have to study up on him. The next night, Lin burned

the Lakers for a career-high 38 points in a nationally televised

victory.

That was a huge moment in Taiwan, which Lin’s parents left in

the 1970s. Asia lost its biggest basketball star when Yao Ming

retired last summer, but ratings are up in China, and TV stations

around the continent have rushed to add Knicks games to their

broadcasts.

”I like Jeremy Lin (more than Yao Ming) because Yao Ming was

already famous (when he started playing in NBA). For Lin, it’s like

nobody had heard of him before. Kobe gave an interview saying he

did not know who Lin was. So this is truly a rising star,”

Taiwanese university student Zhang Gan-yu said.

Lin, the NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or

Taiwanese descent, has been gaining followers on social media and

had the NBA’s top-selling jersey online in the first week it was

available. With Knicks games blacked out to many New Yorkers

because of a local cable dispute, the Knicks held their first

viewing party in Chinatown on Wednesday night.

Their hero had a relatively quiet game, scoring only 10 points

with a career-high 13 assists in a 100-84 victory at home against

Sacramento. Still, when it was over, the adoring Garden fans

chanted ”M-V-P” as he was doing a postgame interview on the

court.

But Lin will have to have lasting success to be just a

short-term phenomenon, even to Asians. Yao was beloved because he

proved to be an All-Star. Yi Jianlian, drafted in 2007 and now with

his fourth NBA team, has seen his popularity wane because he is a

journeyman.

Not to worry, D’Antoni says. Lin’s the real thing.

”He’s going to be a good player,” D’Antoni said.

AP Business Writer Dave Carpenter in Chicago contributed to this

story.

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