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There’s a lot of money to be made off Jeremy Lin

Feb 14, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Getty Images

The NBA is a business. First and foremost. If you ever forget that, think back to early November when we should have had the start of the NBA season and instead had lawyers in suits hammering out a labor agreement.

Jeremy Lin is the kind of player, the kind of story that can make you forget the NBA is all business.

But this is all tied to money, too.

The Madison Square Garden Company is making money, as reported by the New York Times.

On Monday, shares of Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Knicks, the arena where they play and the cable network that broadcasts their games, hit a record high because of the sudden emergence of Jeremy Lin, the team’s previously unknown point guard.

Shares of MSG rose 3.8 percent Monday to a record-high $32.32, with three times the average number of shares being traded.

Jeremy Lin jerseys are suddenly a hot item, and more simply Knicks fans buy MSG stock when the team is good. Also, Madison Square Garden is also locked in a fee dispute with Time Warner Cable that has Time Warner not carrying MSG Network — and Knicks games — in large parts of New York City right now. Lin and his popularity give MSG leverage because ratings are up 66 percent in recent games.

Forbes broke down the Lin impact this way — and notes his personal brand is now worth a lot.

The Knicks had $226 million of revenue during the 2010-11 season, roughly equating to 20% of MSG’s overall revenue. Obviously, you cannot assign Lin one-fifth ($28 million) of MSG’s $139 million increase in market value since he began his magical run (in the past we have determined athlete brand values are the amount by which their endorsement income exceeds the average of the top peers in their sport, but that methodology can’t be applied to Lin, who was a no-name player until very recently).

But we can still get a reasonable estimate. The New York Times reports that Lin has helped push up television ratings for the Knicks 66% over last season. So if we give Lin credit for half of the $28 million, his brand weighs in at $14 million, which would place him tied with Bryant for sixth among the top athlete brands in the world.

But it’s more than the suits — Lin can make money, too. The American of Taiwanese descent can make more money off the court than on it, particularly in China where state-run television are showing his games already. Reuters looked into that.

“There’s no question brands will be interested in Jeremy Lin,” Jeremy Walker, head of sports marketing and branded entertainment for GolinHarris, told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong on Monday.

“You only have to look at what Yao Ming has done not just for the NBA but for brands that he represents both in the States and in China. Every top Chinese star that comes out from the Olympic Games or wherever it might be, there’s always going to be an awful lot of interest for brands because all the major brands in the world are still looking to China for growth.

“A lot of brands want that positive ‘halo effect’ association they are going to get from being involved with a superstar.”

Yao made a lot of money endorsing Pepsi, Reebok shoes and more in China. You can bet at Harvard they taught Lin something about brand marketing and how to make money. He’s going to get an NBA raise next season, but soon that may be the smaller share of his income.

  1. africanballer - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    this kid is the perfect example of preparation merting opportunity

  2. Justin - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Sounds like he is helping them make milLINs of dollars.

  3. cantonbound13 - Feb 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Wow! LeBron lost out on millions just to look like a failure & coward in South Beach. Not a smart business man is he?

    • snoopy2014 - Feb 14, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      Because Lebron is an undrafted player of Asian-American descent who came out of the Ivies and bounced around different teams, getting cut twice, who suddenly went from the end of the bench to putting up historic 1st-game numbers as a starter and turned around one of the most joyless franchises in the league?

      Lebron’s a tool, don’t get me wrong. But you’re a moron if you think Lin’s value is only because he’s playing on the NY stage, and that Lebron would have made similar money just by putting on the Knicks uniform.

      • cantonbound13 - Feb 14, 2012 at 4:35 PM

        Ah snoopy, get a clue. Basketball is huge in New York. It’s a simple fact : the Knicks have been WINNING since Lin has been getting the playing time. That’s all NY fans care about. If he averaged 25 pts a game & they were losing it would not be a big deal. Just ask Stephon Marbury, Jamaal Crawford & Zach Randolph. Anyone that helps that team win and become a contender (especially after the 10 years of disaster brought on by Isiah Thomas) will be praised and make a fortune. LeBron definately could have done that. If the Knicks just win 1 championship Lin, Carmelo, Amare, Chandler will be rewarded like no other athletes in the league. It is the biggest stage, period.
        The Knicks have had 2 all stars in the past that were undrafted in Starks & Mason. If they were on any other teams back then you would not know who they were. They didn’t win a championship but still they were well known. Probably because they played most of their games on Broadway, aka the Mecca, Madison Square Garden.
        Get a clue Snoopy. You’re probably an uneducated Heat fan that just started watching the NBA 2 years ago, like most of their fans.

  4. snoopy2014 - Feb 14, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    canton – You’re right and wrong. Anyone that helps the Knicks win after the awful past decade will be worshipped in NY. Definitely agree with that. And despite a small sample size, Lin is definitely playing the right way and helping them win.

    But the Lin mania that’s taken over the country is far, far greater than that. You think Lin’s fortune is coming only from Knick fans? Lin vaulted to Kobe status (in terms of financial potential, according to that Forbes report) over a few games. He’s appealing to the masses, not just Knick fans. Part of that is his ethnicity – he’s the first Asian-American to make an impact in so long, of course other Asian-Americans will want to buy his jersey.

    Most of it is the undrafted came-out-of-nowhere aspect. America loves an underdog story.

    The fact is, Lin appeals to Knicks fans because of his impact on the court. But his vast endorsement potential is due to his mass appeal to people all over America and even across the world. Lebron putting on a Knicks jersey wouldn’t give him that same underdog story that’s driving the Lin mania.

  5. pistolpete0903 - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Reasons are obvious.
    Chinese heritage (and the big Chinese market), playing at the Mecca, feel good story (and good image).
    Once they get tape on this guy, it could be interesting as to how he adapts.

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