I just returned back to DC on Monday afternoon after attending the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando (which is the best place to network and conduct business with sports executives). The hot topic continues to be the unbelievable and amazing story of Jeremy Lin of the NY Knicks.
I’ve had lots of interesting discussions, emails, texts, Tweets, FB messages, etc since my long-time nickname has been J-Lynn. Some of my fellow baseball and softball teammates have been calling me that for over 20 years (since it’s common in Sports to call the person with a combination of the initial of the first name and their last name). Also, when I left AOL in March ’09 to start my own strategic advisory sports business, I had to come up quickly with a name — so I called it JLynn Associates. So, my friends have had fun with J-Lin vs J-Lynn.
But, getting back to the real J-Lin, the story is simply spectacular. The recent articles in Sports Illustrated are stating that his marketing endorsement deals could be worth between $100 million to $1 billion. That is staggering. Has this ever happened before in the history of Sports? Or, even in Business? When has a relatively obscure athlete / personality become so wildly popular in such a short period of time that his representatives can generate that type of income? It really is amazing.
It’s also the perfect storm … J-Lin’s playing skills match almost perfectly to Coach D’Antoni’s system; he’s playing in the number one media market in the US; there’s a strong Asian and Asian-American segment in NY; the Chinese and Taiwanese have a love affair with basketball, etc. Also, due in part to the massive popularity of social media, this has quickly become a global phenomenon.
If J-Lin played in Minnesota or Milwaukee … or, if this was before the explosion of social media, the story would not be as hugely popular. But because of these various factors, this is indeed one of the greatest Sports stories in history. It’ll be fascinating to track this story in the coming weeks and months. The Knicks have already announced a deal with a Taiwanese tire company … there will be many more deals announced (for J-Lin, the Knicks and the NBA).
Speaking of the NBA, they deserve great kudos for their foresight … they are the American professional sports league that first fully understand the power of the global opportunities facing them. They opened their first NBA office in Asia in ’92. They laid the foundation and worked feverishly at over the years. Having the “US Dream Team” play in the ’92 Olympics was a great start …. and they’ve smartly and strategically marketed this sport … and basketball and soccer (or football as many call it outside of the US) are the two biggest Sports played and watched in the world.
As one who is half-Asian, I do take great pride in watching the successes of J-Lin. I’ve read that he’s been called racist names while growing up playing Sports as a youth. I can certainly relate — I was called racist names while playing baseball, basketball and football during my youth years. I used to laugh it off and sometimes it made me play harder. Also, ironically, I went to the same high school, WT Woodson, as J-Lin’s terrific coach at Harvard, Tommy Amaker (who must have passed on the many lessons he learned from Coach K while playing at Duke).
So, from one J-Lynn to the real J-Lin, wishing you the best of luck. There are many, many people rooting and cheering you. Not only are you a very good NBA player, you are so well-grounded, respectful and authentic. This is particularly refreshing in this day and age when a number of star athletes are so consumed with themselves and their individual stats. You, J-Lin, are a great teammate and leader. And, we will continue to cheer and root for your success.