Wednesday, September 3, 2014   




'Linpossible' dream for all

Mary Ma

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jeremy Lin Shu-how was a nobody until capturing the attention of a vast audience with his meteoric rise in the National Basketball Association as a New York Knicks point guard.

Now, it's not an exaggeration to compare him with a former superstar in view of the "Lin" whirlwind he has created in Asian and US communities.

The media has started comparing him to Yao Ming, with some commentators even predicting he will surpass the now- retired Yao's achievements.

Is it going to be the case? It took a few seasons for the Houston Rockets to groom the Shanghai-born Yao after selecting him first overall in the 2002 NBA draft.

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Yao provided the NBA with the key to tap China's commercial potential. For the Rockets, it was a long-term investment generating steady returns.

But the US-born Lin's rise is more sudden, like an explosion. He has overtaken Yao in at least one aspect - his name has been made a wordplay. New terms such as "Linsanity," "Linpossible," "Lincredible" and "Linfinite" have become a media phenomenon.

It's attractive for anyone who is business minded. It is hardly surprising that Chinese sports firms are trying to associate their brands with the rising NBA player one way or another, after reading reports of attempts by Li-Ning, Peak and Qiaodan to sign contracts with him.

But the "Linsanity" that helped to drive up the share price of the Peak recently was a matter of dismay. The company has confirmed its chief executive Xu Zhihua arrived in New York in the middle of the month to negotiate an endorsement contract with Lin. The fever is boiling. But can the "Linpossible" sustain? Will the "Lincredible" be a value-for-money investment?

It depends on when the investment is made. The 23-year-old Lin has a three-year contract with Nike that won't expire for another year. Little has been said about how much it is paying him. But it's safe to say Nike would have to cough up a lot more if the deal was signed today after Lin shot to fame.

Perhaps Nike should be praised for being an early bird, making extra efforts to discover players with star potential at a later stage.

The moment has come for the US sports brand to harvest its investment. I am afraid latecomers will have to pay a premium if they want to share in the "Linfinite" heat.

Just like the stock market, clever investors usually buy valuable shares when the market is down. By the time the market jumps, it doesn't take too long for the stocks' full values to be reflected in the prices because the curve will only increase steeply amid expectations.

A month after his stunning rise from obscurity, Lin's current market value has soared to US$4 million (HK$31.2 million) per endorsement contract and his full worth is estimated to be US$20 million. Glittering diamonds are attractive, but expensive too. Maybe it will be wiser for the Chinese competitors to learn from Nike and start searching for the next raw gem before it is cut and polished.

The Lin story is a classic example of the American dream, in which a nobody can become a somebody overnight.


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