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Jeremy Lin bigger than Tim Tebow?

Posted by Andrew Mooney  February 22, 2012 01:47 PM

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It may have tapered off slightly after Monday’s lackluster effort against the Nets, but anyone who’s tuned in to ESPN in the last few days can confirm that Linsanity is still alive and well. Linsanity officially commenced following Lin’s 25-point performance against the Nets on Feb. 4 and has continued as frenzied crowds at Madison Square Garden continue to delight in the performance of their new point guard.

Like a few other Harvard economics majors, Lin’s influence has provided his corporate employer with a tidy profit, but he hasn’t forgotten about the little guy; Lin’s play on the court has provided ticket scalpers with a bonanza of their own, as the hoopla that surrounds him has led to a surge in demand for Knicks tickets on the secondary market.

Using data compiled by ticket search engine SeatGeek, we’ve graphed the average price of tickets to four different Knicks games, from Friday’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets to Wednesday’s matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, and their fluctuations over the preceding two weeks.

As the hype surrounding Lin compounded, single-game ticket prices soared by as much as 258 percent, in the case of Sunday’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, climbing from $140.57 on February 4 to $503.82 on February 17. The average rise for the four games was 208 percent, meaning the prices for these tickets effectively tripled since Lin assumed a starring role.

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There exists a substantial correlation between Lin’s performances and jumps in ticket prices. Over the 15-day period we examined, six of the top eight single-day price increases came immediately following nights on which Lin played, and the other two came once ticket prices (and Linsanity) had already begun their precipitous rise.

The graph also shows that prices did not move significantly until Lin’s 38-point performance against the Lakers, which brought his international profile to its peak; the following day, Feb. 11, Google searches for “jeremy lin” reached their zenith worldwide.

How does Lin’s influence compare with that of another significant acquisition for the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony? In the week before Anthony’s arrival in New York on February 21, 2011, Knicks tickets sold on the secondary market for, on average, $128.51. After news of the trade broke, ticket prices rose to an average of $206.02 in the ensuing week, a 60.3 percent increase. Despite the smaller increase in ticket prices, Carmelo's impact upon them was instantaneous, whereas Lin's effect on prices took some time to gain traction.

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Ironically, after months of speculation and trade rumors, the addition of Anthony—a perennial All-Star and All-NBA selection—caused the price to jump less than the emergence of an unheralded rookie. It’s possible that prices had already risen slightly, reflecting the expectation of a trade for Anthony, but the stark difference between the two suggests that the rise in demand is attributable to more than just basketball.

Consequently, perhaps the only phenomenon with which Linsanity can accurately be compared is Tebowmania, the similarly insufferable fad inspired by the one and only Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

And if ticket prices are any indication, Lin has actually created a greater spike in demand for his team than Tebow. Last fall, Broncos tickets moved from an average sale price of $143.20 before Tebow's first start to an average of $172.92 thereafter, a 21 percent increase. Even when we compare the pre-Tebow prices with their regular season peak in December, we find only a 57 percent increase.

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Has Linsanity officially displaced Tebowmania as the most intense craze in recent sports memory? Comparing ticket prices across sports is tricky, and larger football stadiums may make it harder to drive up prices. But given that both venues were essentially sold out prior to the teams’ respective personnel changes, the 200-plus percent increase in ticket prices associated with the Knicks’ addition of Lin puts Anthony and Tebow to shame. So yes, someone may have produced cultural madness greater than that which was inspired by Tebow. Time to move to Canada.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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