Linsanity: How the Internet Made Jeremy Lin a Star in Less Than a Week

The Knicks point guard's lightning-fast journey from benchwarmer to phenom could only have happened in 2012.


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"Lin's rapid rise from benchwarmer to crowd favorite also stoked a 13-percent spike in average prices for the game [Friday] against Kobe Bryant's club, to $312.51 from $276.39, and bump of 36 percent for next Wednesday's more affordable matchup against the Hornets ($89 to $121)."
-- New York Post

"It's the perfect beginning of what could either be Knicks fans' latest colossal disappointment or the league's favorite marketing figure since Yao Ming."
-- Deadspin

Minutes played by Jeremy Lin this season: 135

How to explain Linsanity? How can a cast-off point guard who couldn't crack the 12-man rotation of two different NBA teams galvanize one of the largest and most cynical fan bases in the league? How can two above-average games against two terrible defenses by a 23-year-old point guard cause ticket prices for upcoming Knicks game to skyrocket? How, in the city of Eli and the Giants, can Jeremy Lin be above the fold?

Some of Linsanity can be explained by Knick-fan desperation. Lin plays the position that has plagued Knick fans since Chauncey Billups was cut to make room for free-agent center Tyson Chandler: point guard. The New York faithful have ample reason to yearn for a quality PG, currently the most glaring weakness on a team with two dominant scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire and a defensive stopper in Chandler. The mantra for Knicks fans during the team's awful 8-15 start was: Just wait for a point guard to run the offense, get our stars the ball and run some pick and rolls, and then you'll see.

The team's need for a good point guard is so overwhelming that fans (including myself) have been waiting with bated breath for a 32-year-old cast-off with a herniated disk in his back and a history of weight problems to hopefully get healthy. So when Lin reeled off 25 points and seven assists off the bench against the New Jersey Nets Saturday night and followed that up with Monday's 28-point, eight-assist bonanza in a win over the Utah Jazz, New York fans were justifiably overjoyed.

But Linsanity is bigger than New York—much bigger—and the phenomenon is more a function of the calendar than anything else—the year, not the date.

If Tim Tebow was the first athlete whose fame and cultural impact vastly outstripped his playing abilities, Lin is the first who created a Tebow-like impact in less than a week. Both owe the vast majority of their Q rating to the Internet, social media, and the user-generated buzz of whatever sociologists are calling this latest generation.

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Jake Simpson is a New York-based writer.

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