'Linsanity' ends New York run, heads to Houston

Updated: 2012-07-19 20:49


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'Linsanity' ends New York run, heads to Houston 

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin watches a teammate's foul shot in the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts in this March 4, 2012 file photo. New York bid farwell to "Linsanity" on Tuesday when the point guard was allowed to leave for Houston after the Knicks declined to match a salary offer from the Rockets.[Photo / Agencies]   

NEW YORK - Basketball sensation Jeremy Lin's brief but spectacular run in the Big Apple is over. Now the question is whether "Linsanity" can play as well in Texas.

The National Basketball Association player, an Asian-American who shot from obscurity in February to spark a fan frenzy from Broadway to Beijing, is no longer a member of the New York Knicks.

The team declined to match Lin's three-year, $25.1 million offer from the Houston Rockets before midnight on Tuesday, clearing the way for the Harvard-educated point guard to head to the Lone Star State.

For seven weeks this past winter, Lin's electrifying and often unselfish play created a fan and media frenzy. New York tabloids and others dubbed the phenomenon as "Linsanity," "Linspirational," "Linflation" and Lin as "Mr. Lincredible" and "Super Lintendo."

Attending Knicks games at New York's Madison Square Garden meant you ran with "The Lin Crowd."

'Linsanity' ends New York run, heads to Houston 

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin (R) dribbles the ball as Miami Heat's Norris Cole defends during their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida in this February 23, 2012 file photo.  [Photo / Agencies]

For all the fanfare, though, Lin only started 25 games -- averaging 18.2 points and 7.7 assists a game -- and a knee injury in late March sidelined him for the rest of the season.

But the brevity of his time on the court didn't dent his popularity.

At the end of the 2012 regular season, the NBA counted US sales of Lin's No. 17 Knicks jersey as second only to Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Sales of Knicks merchandise also jumped to second place in the league, behind the Bulls.

Last week, Lin won an ESPN "ESPY Award" from sports fans as the best breakthrough athlete of the year. Two NBA teams had previously given up on Lin before his opportunity with the Knicks.

Sports business experts said the Lin marketing phenomenon will be put to a serious test when he left New York City, the NBA's biggest market and a global media "Lintropolis."

"Houston is a good market, but it doesn't have the history of the Knicks," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, who has written more than a dozen books about sports business.

The New York area's nearly 20 million people outnumbers Houston's population by more than 3 to 1. That alone should lead to a drop in sales, Zimbalist said.

Lin's health is another issue. He had knee surgery in the off season.

"Is he durable? Can he play 80 games, 40 minutes per game? No one knows," said Michael Cramer, director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas at Austin.

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