Retailers are reaping the benefits of new basketball phenom Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate who went relatively unnoticed until he came off the bench for the New York Knicks earlier this month and led the team on a spectacular winning streak.
Rich Lampmann, a spokesman for the New York City-based Modell’s Sporting Goods, said of the Lin wear, ”The demand has just been unlike anything we’ve seen.” The store sold about 10,000 Lin jerseys and t-shirts in just one week, forcing Lampmann to put out another 160,000 more the next.
“It’s really been sort of a catch-up game. We were literally pulling product off the presses to get it into the city,” said Lampmann.
In addition to being the hometown favorite for gear, Lin also has an online following. Since he had his coming out party for the Knicks on February 4, his jersey jumped to the top spot on the online NBA store, according to NBA spokeswoman Amanda Thorn. She did not give the exact sales numbers, but said nine of the top ten sellers last week were Knicks jerseys.
A lot of the new-found support is likely the result of Lin’s popularity abroad, in markets relatively untouched by NBA fever in the past. Lin merchandise from the NBA site has been sent out to 23 different countries. Lin’s Taiwanese heritage has made him a big hit in Asia — his name was recently the No. 1 search on Baidu , the Google of China.
Because official gear is expensive, retailers have been making a lot of lower-priced alternatives available. The online NBA store is selling a Lin replica jersey for $59.99, while counterfeit jerseys on eBay are going for around $29.99. Though demand could boost prices.
Lin is especially popular at his Ivy League alma mater, and New England retailers have been hard-pressed to meet demand. Monty Marks, a senior buyer at the New England-based Olympia Sports, said customers were clamoring for Lin merchandise before the store had any in stock. “We do expect it to be pretty good,” said Marks. “The build-up has been crazy.”
In addition to the sales from stores and the NBA site, fans may see more Lin-wear from Nike , which will probably look to cash in on their relationship with the player by having him make more sponsorship appearances. In 2010, Lin signed an endorsement deal upon turning pro, and according to Nike spokesman Brian Strong, he went on a two-city tour for the company last summer in Taiwan. No future plans have been announced
Strong said of Lin, “He seems to be inspiring people through his play, and we’ll continue to look at ways to celebrate that.”
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