Was his residency in New York City a necessary factor in the outbreak of ‘Linsanity’ earlier this year? Would Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American who came into the Knicks’ starting line-up to take the NBA by storm, have become a global star if he wasn’t in the Big Apple?
That is something we don’t know but what we do is that starting next season, New York will only feature in the point guard’s story when he visits there with his new team Houston Rockets on December 17, a date already marked on the calendars of all fans and media.
Last month, the Knicks confirmed that they were not going to match Houston’s three-year, $25 million deal for the man with Taiwanese parents who sparked a seven-game winning streak in February to be feted around the world and especially in Asia.
It looked as if New York wanted to keep him but in sport, things change quickly even if there does seem to be some regret on Lin’s part.
Honestly, I preferred New York," Lin told Sports Illustrated. "But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me," he told Sports Illustrated. "I wanted to have fun playing basketball…. Now I'm definitely relieved."
For New York, the gamble is that while Lin was huge in February, he only played in 35 games and averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists. $25 million is a lot of money to spend on a talent that has only been seen in bursts.
The debate rages as to whether it was a good decision or not.
That also means that Lin, despite any misgivings, has played his hand well. Turning 25 starts into $25 million is no mean feat. If the events of February turn out to be a flash in the pan, he already has the deal of a lifetime. If not, he will get an even better one in 2015.
Although Houston is a smaller market than New York, Jeff Nalley, chief executive of Houston-based agency Select Sports, told USA Today he believes Lin can thrive there.
"Houston is such an international city, a melting pot, that for a number of reasons, he'd be well-received," Jeff Nalley, of Houston agency Select Sports told USA Today.
Houston was the home of that great Chinese hero Yao Ming who played there from 2002 to 2011 when he retired from the game.
Lin may never match the brand power of Yao in Asia but his Asian heritage has already made him a big name in China and elsewhere on the giant continent. With Yao, Houston’s commercial value grew just over 100% from 2001 to 2009. Over the same time frame, the average growth in the NBA was 63%.
There’s reason to think Lin could emulate Yao in this regard. For example, from April 2011 to April 2012, Lin’s was the second-best selling jersey on NBA.com and its store in New York. That fact is made all the more significant by the fact that no one had heard of him during 10 of those 12 months.
Commercially, Lin is valuable but just how much so remains to be seen. As plenty have pointed out, it all depends on what he does on the court – not with New York Knicks but with Houston Rockets.