Jeremy Lin’s legend continues to grow in New York

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New York’s love affair with Jeremy Lin only got steamier on Valentine’s Day.

At Stout, an Irish pub on 33rd Street about half a block from Madison Square Garden, cheers rang out and arms were thrust triumphantly into the air Tuesday night after Lin made the winning three-point shot with half a second to play, lifting the New York Knicks to a 90-87 victory over Toronto at Air Canada Centre.


“S-A-T! S-A-T!” chanted a group of Taiwanese American and Chinese American friends and family who had gathered around a table to watch the game, alluding to Lin’s Ivy League pedigree as a Harvard graduate.

PHOTOS: Jeremy Lin

The smartest guy on the court was also the most dynamic; the Knicks point guard had not only led his team to six consecutive victories but also galvanized a community in the process.

Alan Ma, 30, a city planner from Queens, said he had gathered with his cousins four times in the previous week to watch Lin — one more time than they had seen each other the entire previous year.

“To see an actual live Asian American hero unfold before our eyes, it really is something special to us,” said Jerry Ma, 36, a Taiwanese American who works for a company that creates Asian American superhero characters. ‘It means a lot more than anyone could ever imagine.”

Waived by two NBA teams, Lin has materialized in Manhattan like something out of a comic book. He finished with 27 points and 11 assists in the Knicks’ come-from-behind victory over the Raptors, his sixth consecutive game with at least 20 points.

Lin also did it with forward Amare Stoudemire back in the fold after missing the previous four games to attend his brother’s funeral, allaying concerns about a potential dropoff in production for Lin.

Because most Knicks games are not shown locally in the wake of a contract dispute between MSG Network and Time Warner Cable, many fans must splurge for increasingly expensive tickets or venture to bars to watch their new hero.

Judging from the robust turnout at three Manhattan bars Tuesday, they’re more than willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of the Lin-sanity.

As he sat at the bar at the Molly Wee Pub and Restaurant on 8th Avenue, about a block from Madison Square Garden, Kevin Carroll marveled at how Lin had revived his moribund team. “Knicks fans needed something to cheer for,” said Carroll, 38, who works for an investment banker and lives in Queens. “Before, it was just depressing.”

As the Knicks’ deficit crept into double digits in the second quarter on flat-screen TVs at the Ainsworth, a swanky bar in Chelsea, the mood darkened and a few doubts surfaced about Lin.

“I think the guy was playing over his head,” said Craig Koestler, 27, who works for a digital media company and lives in Manhattan. “The guy was shooting 60%. You don’t shoot 60%. I think he’s going to regress to the mean.”

Then came the second half. Back at the Stout, fans’ roars intensified as New York rallied. Lin was fouled on a driving layup with 1:05 left, making the ensuing free throw to pull the Knicks into an 87-87 tie.

He wasn’t done, adding his final heroics to cap a run in which Lin scored the game’s final six points.

“Just when you thought he had a down game,” Alan Ma said, “he pulls off a game winner.”


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-- Ben Bolch in New York