Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
At this point nothing should surprise us about the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, including the fact that this week he became the 13th athlete -- and first from a New York team -- to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated two issues in a row.
So why not take it a step further? Any chance he could match Michael Jordan's record three in a row, achieved in both 1991 and 1998?
"Anything's possible," Terry McDonell, editor of Time Inc. Sports Group and the man who will make that decision, said Thursday after briefly pondering the notion.
Realistically, it is highly unlikely, especially given the NBA's All-Star break is at hand. But McDonell said to this point Lin's saga has been irresistible.
"Everything about it screams 'cover,' " he said. "I have never had a story like it. It touches every bumper there is in sports, not just how many assists and points and whether they're winning and losing, but all of the sociology."
Beyond the appeal of the story itself, McDonell said, was that a member of the writing staff, Pablo Torre, had known Lin since they were at Harvard together.
"When it broke, we were in a great position to say, 'Hey, look at this, it's breaking,' " McDonell said. "And boy, did it break."
What makes Lin's distinction more remarkable is it came during the regular season; most of his predecessors were on multiple covers during postseason runs.
The cover of SI remains the most hallowed piece of real estate in print sports journalism. McDonell said choosing the subject is "extremely collaborative" but that in the end someone must make the call -- him.
"It's the most fun part of my job," he said.
That is especially so when it is a tale as much fun as this one. McDonell likened it to something "magical" out of Greek mythology, in this case the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and eventually fell into the sea.
Only in Lin's case so far, there has been a twist. "Is he going to fall?" McDonell said. "Well, no."
Upton is a model fan
Jeremy Lin's two-week stay on Sports Illustrated's cover actually is part of a larger, three-issue run for the Knicks -- sort of. The previous feature subject was model Kate Upton, who landed the cover of the annual Swimsuit Issue.
Upton is based in New York and is a regular at the Garden, including for Lin's 38-point performance in a victory over the Lakers Feb. 10.
And, like Lin, she has appeared on MSG, for which she hosted a summer music series last year.
Knicks are must-watch TV
Three weeks into the Jeremy Lin Era, the Knicks' newfound popularity as a TV attraction shows no sign of abating -- even before the numbers are in for what surely was a massive viewership last night on TNT against the Heat.
Wednesday's victory over the Hawks averaged 6.46 percent of homes in the New York area on MSG, which sounds modest only because the previous three games rated better locally.
A month ago it would have been an unimaginable number for a blowout victory against a low-profile opponent.
Perspective: MSG's average rating for its 20 Knicks games before Lin became a starter was 1.81.
Lin is a business major
Jeremy Lin has become big business, from the skyrocketing price of Knicks tickets on the secondary market to sales of merchandise, especially replica No. 17 jerseys.
Still to be determined is precisely what Nike, which wisely signed him before his rookie season, plans to do with him, especially given the impact he could have on the massive Chinese market.
Meanwhile, Hachette Book Group announced it will publish "Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity," written by Timothy Dalrymple and due in stores in May. Just in time for the playoffs!
Can't spell 'Jeremy Lin' without 'Eli'
The most visible basketball player in Big Town is following a path set by his baseball, football and hockey counterparts in understanding the secret to surviving daily dealings with the New York media.
Derek Jeter is the master, of course, able to be friendly and accessible while avoiding anything overly controversial or even quotable.
All of which brings us to Jeremy Lin, who already is exhibiting the same characteristics as the men above. The guy has perfected the art -- and it is an art -- of amiable blandness.
That is not great news for journalists with a voracious need for Lin-related material. But for Lin and the Knicks, it bodes well for a long, relatively angst-free ride in the New York spotlight.
Jeremy Lin this week became the 13th athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated at least twice in a row. Michael Jordan accomplished that six times, primarily during playoff runs, twice landing on three straight covers. Here's the entire list:
Dirk Nowitzki (June 13 and 20, 2011)
Jimmer Fredette (March 21 and 28, 2011)*
Michael Phelps (Aug. 18 and 25, 2008)
Carmelo Anthony (April 7 and 14, 2003)**
Rich Gannon (Jan. 20 and 27, 2003)
Mark McGwire (Sept. 7 and 14, 1998)
Michael Jordan (June 8, 15 and 22, 1998; May 27 and June 3, 1996; March 20 and 27, 1995; June 21 and 28, 1993; June 15 and 22, 1992; June 3, 10 and 17, 1991)
Mike Tyson (June 30 and July 7, 1997)
Steve Young (Jan.16 and 23, 1995)
Emmitt Smith (Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, 1994)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (June 10 and 17, 1985)
Bill Walton (March 25 and April 1, 1974)
*March 21 was a regional cover
** April 7 was with a group of players