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Linsanity: Former Harvard star develops into phenomenon with Knicks and fans

02.09.12 at 11:10 am ET

Call it #Linsanity. Call it #Linning. Call it luck, even.

One thing is for certain: former Harvard hoops star Jeremy Lin is taking over the NBA’s spotlight, both on the court and on social media websites. In the absence of Knicks mainstays Amar’e Stoudemire (taking a leave in the aftermath of his brother’s death) and Carmelo Anthony (groin injury), Lin came off the bench to play 36 minutes last Saturday in New York’s game against the Nets. Lin excelled in the game, leading the Knicks to a 99-92 win via his 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Since then, Lin has become a sensation. He has totaled 51 points and 18 assists in the Knicks next two games and gained incredible popularity on Twitter and his Facebook page.

Some are likening Lin to football sensation Tim Tebow — with the caveat that the “Linsanity” phenomenon is happening as if it’s Tebow on fast-forward. Still, there are affinities between the two.

Like Tebow, Lin is a devout Christian. While Tebow started the season as a third-string quarterback, Lin rose from the lowest of lows in the NBA. Lin was undrafted, released by both the Warriors and Rockets, and played in the Development League before finally getting into a game with the Knicks. Like Tebow’s seven wins in his first eight starts, Lin’s early success has helped his team embark on a three-game winning streak.

But Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in college. Tebow was a first-round draft pick. Tebow played at a known football powerhouse at the University of Florida. In the college basketball world, Harvard has comparatively little relevance.

And so Lin’s meteoric rise to success in the NBA has impressed many. He now has over 69,000 followers on Twitter and over 129,000 likes on Facebook. (It is also worth noting that the Taiwanese-American Lin, according to the Wall Street Journal, quickly is emerging as an internet phenomenon in China as well.) Lin has drawn the attention of celebrities, too. That list includes director Spike Lee, who tweeted at Lin to praise him for his run with the Knicks, writing:

Yo JLin,This Is Spike Lee.Thanks For Ya Great Game Last Night.Keep It Goin’.Let’s Turn This Thing Around.Orange& Blue Baby.GO GIANTS

Vinny Guadagnino of Jersey Shore fame also tweeted about Lin, as he wants credit for the #Linning trend on Twitter, tweeting:

Tonight @nyknicks we’re #Linning <— you heard it here first guys. New trend

Lin’s strong play in his first three games has even impressed his teammates. After a Lin dunk in the Knicks 107-93 win over the Wizards Wednesday night, Knicks center/forward Tyson Chandler told that he did not know Lin was capable of dunking.

“I didn’t know he could dunk,” Chandler said. “When he was going in for a dunk I was like ‘No Jeremy, just lay the ball up’ and all of sudden he dunks it. I probably was just as excited as the crowd was. I was thinking after he dunked, for at least 20 seconds I was thinking, ‘Did I know he could dunk?’ I don’t remember him dunking.”

While the early results are promising, it remains unknown as to whether Lin’s success will last. It is entirely possible that, like baseball’s Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie, Lin’s success will be just a passing moment in a long season. It could be that, like Tebow, Lin’s performance will help his team to a postseason berth.

But whatever the long-term results, one thing is clear as of this moment: Lin has the potential to be the biggest social media hit out of Harvard since Facebook.

Read More: Jed Lowrie, Jeremy Lin, Sam Fuld, Tim Tebow