By BRIAN MAHONEY, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Bigger than Shaq? Larger than LeBron? The Knicks as NBA champions?
(Don't laugh too hard at that last one. The odds are getting better, according to one online sports book.)
Nothing seems too Lin-conceivable now after Jeremy Lin's incredible first week as an NBA starter, and the story keeps getting better.
The undrafted player from Harvard made a 3-pointer with half a second left Tuesday night to give the Knicks a 90-87 victory at Toronto. The Knicks returned home Wednesday to host Sacramento, looking for a seventh straight victory that would get them back to .500 after an 8-15 start.
Lin joined the rotation only then, starting the last five games, so hold off on making him a Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal or LeBron James just yet. But the Knicks have seen enough to believe this ride may last a while longer.
"I don't know when there's an ending. Maybe there won't," coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Lin's story has blown straight past the New York sports pages and all their cute headlines like "Va-Lin-tine's Day," all the way to a basketball-crazed continent on the other side of the world, where he's been "kind of like the great Asian hope," said Orin Starn, professor and chair of Cultural Anthropology at Duke.
Lin has done wonders for shares of Madison Square Garden Inc., the company that owns the Knicks, the Garden and the namesake sports network. The stock has surged 9 percent since Lin began his heroics Feb. 4, reaching an all-time high of $33.18 earlier this week before retreating slightly to close at $31.91 Wednesday.
"Rangers and Knicks fans do tend to buy the stock when the teams are doing well," said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce.
And Linsanity has reached America's most powerful basketball fan, with President Barack Obama talking about Lin's winner Wednesday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Lin was "just a great story, and the president was saying as much this morning."
Lin arrived in New York in December with no guarantee he would last more than a few weeks. Already cut by Golden State and Houston this season, he was so hesitant to get comfortable in his new home that he refused to even get his own.
Instead, he slept at his brother's place in the city, and crashed on teammate Landry Fields' couch the night before his breakout game against New Jersey on Feb. 4.
Even an Ivy League education couldn't help Lin explain what's happened since — scoring the most points (136) in any player's first five games as a starter since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976, and a contract that's guaranteed for the rest of the season.
"No, but I believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing God who does miracles," Lin said.
If that sounds familiar, yes, Lin has been frequently compared to Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Both relied on their faith as much as their previously overlooked skills to guide them through hot streaks that made them sensations even beyond their sports.
Tebow carried the Broncos right into the playoffs, and now there are some who believe Lin can do the same with the Knicks.
The Knicks were 40-1 odds to win the NBA championship on Bovada.lv before Lin's run began. Now, they're down to 18-1 and conjuring up memories of another New York team.
"A guy like this is great for the game and has drawn a lot of interest from bettors on the Knicks games also," Kevin Bradley, the sports book's manager, said in a statement. "I am having visions of how the public was treating the Giants going into the Super Bowl being the hottest team in the NFL and costing us a mint, and right now the Knicks are by far the biggest loser for the book."
Not everybody is convinced. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. played down Lin mania on Twitter, saying that Lin is just doing what plenty of black players do but is getting more attention because of his Asian heritage.
And Lin is certain to cool off. It's one thing to beat teams such as the Nets and Wizards when they've barely had time to learn your name. It's another when NBA defenses are prepared to stop you.
"He's a marked man now. He's not going to sneak up on anybody, and every night's going to be tough," D'Antoni said.