Joba Chamberlain appreciates the 'Lin-sanity'

Joba Chamberlain celebrates in a 2009 file photo.

Joba Chamberlain celebrates in a 2009 file photo. (Credit: Kathy Kmonicek)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Joba Chamberlain and John Starks completely understand the hoopla surrounding Jeremy Lin.

The Yankees pitcher went through something similar in August 2007. Starks, a former guard for the Knicks, also came out of nowhere to star in New York in the 1990s.

For Chamberlain, it was "Joba-mania," complete with back-page images and headlines, T-shirts and chanting fans.

"If there's anybody in New York City that knows what he's going through, it's me and I'm very honored to be able to say that," Chamberlain said Wednesday morning. "It's been fun to watch. I'm happy for him, somebody that worked so hard, got cut and was told he wasn't supposed to be anything and look what happens. All you can say to those guys is, thank you for giving me that opportunity and cutting me. It's been fun to see the shirts, the sayings, everything that goes along with it. He's got a name that fits it and I guess I had a name that fit it, too."

Chamberlain, now 26, experienced it all upon being brought to the big leagues in 2007, electrifying Yankee Stadium with a dominant fastball and slider.

"It's a lot in a really short period of time," said Chamberlain, who went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 24 innings that year. "My best advice to him is to continue to embrace it but enjoy the fact that you get to play baseball or basketball or whatever you're doing and just know that it's one of those things where you need to continue to work. And especially in New York City. Because it's one of those things where a couple bad games and it's a different story."

Like Lin, Starks was undrafted and cut by the Golden State Warriors. Starks played in the Continental Basketball Association and World Basketball League. But he became an All-Star as a Knick and won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.

"It's exciting to see a young man come here and take the bull by the horns," said Starks, who now works for the Knicks as their alumni relations and fan development adviser. "It's not easy to do in New York. It's a pressure-packed place to play. Just listening to his comments and the way he has control on the court it looks like he's got it under control."

Chamberlain said the instant stardom could be overwhelming and it took some getting used to.

"It's just weird walking down the street and having people yell at you from cabs," Chamberlain laughed. "You don't ever get used to that. And it's weird seeing your name on the back of people's shirts. There were free meals out of it, which was great and the things that come along with it. But it's just one of things you don't really expect and when it comes at you, it's awesome. People always asked me, did it get old? No, when they stop asking because I'm not doing something right or my career's coming to an end."

Chamberlain said he has an open line should Lin ever need an ear.

"It's fun being able to talk about it with somebody else because I've been through it," Chamberlain said. "If ever he would need somebody to talk to who understands, I would be more than happy to talk to him."

Starks said New Yorkers have embraced Lin because his remarkable stretch of performances was totally unexpected.

"I think the underdog standpoint is what New Yorkers are all about," Starks said. "They love to root for the underdogs. When you have a young player that comes out of virtually nowhere and is doing what he's doing and being successful and helping your team win New York loves you even more. This city is about winners. He definitely has a big heart."

With Al Iannazzone

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