Wed, Jul 18, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Point guard Lin’s Knicks exit would hit merchandising


If the New York Knicks do not match Houston’s contract offer to point guard Jeremy Lin (林書豪), perhaps nobody would be more disappointed than Mitchell Modell, whose namesake sporting-goods retailer will have to sharply discount its 40,000 Lin team-related items in stock.

“We’re going to have crazy, crazy prices — like US$5,” Modell said in a telephone interview.

T-shirts list for US$24.99 on Modell’s Web site, with jerseys going for as much as US$89.99.

The Knicks announced on Monday that they had reacquired point guard Raymond Felton as part of a trade with Portland. Along with the team’s signing of point guard Jason Kidd earlier this month, the Felton trade makes it much less likely that New York will match Houston’s contract offer to Lin.

The Knicks had until 11:59pm New York time last night to decide whether they would match the three-year, US$25 million contract offered by the Rockets to Lin, whose apparel is the top-selling among National Basketball Association (NBA) players this year, according to Fanatics Inc, an online retailer in Jacksonville, Florida.

Merchandise related to Lin, a Harvard University graduate who is the first Taiwanese-American to play in the NBA, has outsold Most Valuable Player LeBron James of the Miami Heat by more than 50 percent, Anne Lacey Whitaker, a Fanatics spokeswoman, said via e-mail.

Modell said his company would wait until the morning after the deadline before altering the price of any Lin New York-related item.

Fanatics offers about 300 Lin-related items, including T-shirts and jerseys, Whitaker said, declining to number the total products in stock.

“If Lin leaves, this product is going to be worth virtually nothing,” said Matt Powell, an analyst with Charlotte, North Carolina-based SportsOneSource, an analysis firm focused on the sporting-goods industry.

Nike Inc spokesman Brian Strong, whose products are endorsed by Lin, said he did not immediately know how much merchandise linked to the player the company had.

Lin’s rise to prominence last season was captured by the term “Linsanity,” which the 23-year-old point guard has moved to trademark. It also fueled a rise in ticket prices, merchandise sales and television ratings for the Knicks.

One team sponsor, the Coca-Cola Co, added advertisements in Chinese to reach the TV audience in China, where the team’s games were added to the broadcast schedule amid Lin’s rise in popularity.

Lin was even credited for playing a role in helping the MSG cable network, part of Madison Square Garden Inc, the Knicks’ parent company, settle its pricing dispute with Time Warner Cable Inc.

Some retail outlets are not waiting for the deadline to discount their Lin merchandise amid an ESPN report that the Knicks will not match the offer.

At Steiner Sports, for instance, a Knicks T-shirt with Lin’s No. 17 is priced at US$9.99, down from US$24.99. Brett Schissler, an executive vice president at Westchester, New York-based Steiner, said the company, which focuses on autographed memorabilia, does not have much Knicks-centered merchandise. Rather than have a player sign a team-related item, which could be obsolete with a trade, Steiner usually asks players to sign basketballs.

“For us, the autograph side will always be there, whether he’s in New York or Houston or San Antonio,” Schissler said via telephone.

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