The NBA Playoffs are in full swing! Today, Simon Trabelsi muses on the potential story lines surrounding New York Knicks Guard Jeremy Lin. Lin became the nation’s media darling earlier this year through a string of impressive performances and a movie-like personal story. He became marketing gold in a matter of weeks, and the stage is set for yet another plateau in basketball and branding for Jeremy Lin.
THE NBA MIGHT EXPLODE! Really though, I think it’s possible. I’d like to outline the dynamite of compelling (and a bit far-fetched, but that’s the fun part) storylines, and what could detonate them all. It’s all surrounding one particularly Milleniall-ish Millennial.
Today: The Miami Heat is currently up 2-0 against The New York Knicks in their 1st round playoff series. Jeremy Lin is still out with a knee injury. Here’s the back story:
February 2012: Linsanity sweeps the nation. Talking heads, press, fans, the stock market, marketers and everyone/thing in between are captivated by the undrafted Harvard grad and his unlikely rise to NBA stardom.
March 2012: Linsanity dies down a bit while Lin continues to post solid performances. On March 24th, Lin suffers a season-ending knee injury, with a small chance of returning if the Knicks stay alive long enough in the postseason. Shucks.
Back to today: Jeremy Lin “looks healthier” in practice every day, and continues to nurse his injury while watching from the sidelines as his team goes down 2-0. The Knicks haven’t won a playoff game in over a decade, and right now it looks like they’re heading for a good ol’ fashioned sweepin’ at the hands of Wade & Bron-Bron’s All Star-studded Miami Heat. While that storyline might be expected, and even kind of cool if the Heat end up winning the championship, the stage is set for something much bigger – one of the best underdog/sports/Disney Movie/Superhero/Cyber Warrior (too much?) stories in basketball.
Jeremy Lin reported on April 30th that the earliest he would come back is Game 4, which will be played on Sunday May 6th.
Let’s say the Knicks lose Game 3 on Thursday – awesome! The same way he came out of nowhere to reverse the fortunes of his ailing team back in February, a day-to-day Jeremy Lin comes back in Game 4 to will his team back from a 4th quarter 28-point deficit and avoid a clean sweep (hey, why not some extra drama?). He then leads them to unlikely game 5 and 6 victories, followed by closing out in Game 7 and making the ’11-’12 Knicks the first team to come back from being down 3-0 to win a 7-game series. He would do this via a buzzer beater over a Lebron, Wade and Bosh triple team while being fouled. And when the ball enters the net, it shatters the backboard (like one of Shaq’s throwback dunks). This would create… LINSANITY 2.0: THE DELUXE VERSION!!
…and the NBA would explode
So really I’m just being funny (or not) when I mention the NBA exploding, but I do think it’s a fitting play on words considering what an impressive story like Jeremy Lin’s can accomplish beyond the basketball court.
One of the only Asian-Americans in NBA history, Jeremy Lin has put many butts in seats at Madison Square Garden as New York’s Asian-American population turns out in numbers to show their support and admiration. So much so, that the Madison Square Garden stock rose swiftly in the weeks following the onset of Linsanity. Other teams sold out home games on a regular basis when Lin and The Knicks came to town, mostly due to a surge in Asian-American fan attendance. Even the NBA’s international ratings soared as fans overseas tuned in for the madness.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however – Jeremy Lin official and unofficial merchandise flies off shelves and street vendor carts, and though he started as a Knick for less than two months he exceeded future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant’s jersey sales for the entire 2011-2012 season. Easy there, young fella.
When most players hit the hardwood, they’re hoping their prowess in filling stat sheets and win columns land them additional off-court infamy, reverence and advertising dollars. Jeremy Lin has already established all of the aforementioned and is ahead of the curve for second year players by most standards. If he continues to deliver, Lin can elevate the entire sport of basketball as Yao Ming did – by bringing its popularity to new heights in Asian countries – while simultaneously breaking down racial barriers in America as a rare Asian-American NBA player. Any brand that aligns with this force on the ground level would likely reap great benefits in the future.
Because aside from galvanizing a new demographic and playing terrific basketball, Jeremy Lin is a perfect product and reflection of today’s society (doing my best not to go in all-out Sociology mode, bear with me). He’s multi-cultural in the true sense of the word, having bits and pieces of the American culture he grew up in, his parents’ Asian culture, and the sliver spoon culture of his Alma Mater*; his infamy exploded at the rate it did because of social media and the rapid information sharing typical of the Millennial generation (shout out to us) – millions of views for his Youtube highlights and tribute videos, trending topics on Twitter, heavy traffic to his Facebook page; most of all, the reason we all connect with Lin (especially Millennials) is the dream he represents.
On a much larger scales than most of us, Jeremy Lin has weathered storm of choosing dream chasing over rationality, ultimately achieving huge success. The “dream chaser” story is what appeals to all generations, but the intricacies of Lin’s is what makes us Millennials feel connected to him. Lin wasn’t exactly down and out while fighting to keep his spot on the New York Knicks – after all, he had a Harvard degree to fall back on – but he also wasn’t afraid to discard the standard Ivy League-grad pressures to pursue an unconventional route. This is exemplary of our generation – in spite of the angst we experience while trying to figure out life, we refuse to settle (even when it’s logical to do so), we dream big, we take risks, we prioritize happiness, and we’re driven by a hope/ belief that the hard work we put in will one day pay off even if progress is slow. Lin wasn’t drafted out of college but fought his way to the NBA through summer leagues, only to be cut from his first team (my favorite team, the GS Warriors who can NEVER seem to get it right), yet he persevered. When faced with failure and setbacks, we’re each pushing for our own personal versions of Linsanity.
That is why we continue to be intrigued by the Jeremy Lin brand. Once corporations understand what we see, perhaps they’ll strike on a larger scale.**
*Slight dagger… Jeremy is a graduate of one of my Ivy League rivals, Harvard University, so I can’t let that go unnoticed.
**One company has capitalized on Lin’s celebrity thus far – Volvo, out of all brands. Check out the story here
The opinions within this column are those of the writer and contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IMAGES USA
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