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Jeremy Lin and the SI cover -- again

Jeremy Lin on the Feb. 27, 2012 Sports

Jeremy Lin on the Feb. 27, 2012 Sports Illustrated cover (left) and the Feb. 20, 2012 cover. Photo Credit: SI

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.

Upton told me in May that since moving to New York from Florida she had become a fan of the Knicks, Rangers, Yankees and Jets, for whom her older sister works in client relations.

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.

The Knicks set an MSG regular-season record with a 7.32 rating for last Friday's loss to the Hornets, then topped it with a 7.34 in a loss to the Nets on Monday.

In between, they did a 10.3 in New York on Sunday against the Mavericks, a record for a regular-season game on ABC.

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.

The company reportedly is planning a shoe named for him, but it has not confirmed that or any other details of its intentions beyond a promotional trip to mainland China and Taiwan in the summer.

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.

Eli Manning patterned himself after Jeter and has proved to be even more unbreakable. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been similarly faux-pas free.

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.

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