American-Chinese basketball player Jeremy Lin has shot to stardom in the past few days after an astonishing run of performances for the New York Knicks. This has rocketed the 23-year old’s fan-base on Sina Weibo well past that of his number of Twitter followers, and Lin now has nearly 348,000 microblog fans in China. That dwarfs the 78,000 he has on Twitter.
I notice that his Weibo followers are currently going up at the rate of about 1,000 every 30 minutes. The Mail Man Group helpfully points out that Lin “multiplied his Weibo followers by 13 [times] in just 5 days.” That’s down, presumably, to his past few games, and especially the dramatic 99-92 Knicks victory over the Nets last week in which the young Lin scored 25 points. After that game he posted on his Weibo, in Chinese as well as English:
God is good during our ups and our downs! Glad we got the win tonight! Thanks to Landry for lettin me crash on his couch last night too lol.
That got him 3,400 comments. Using the same @jlin7 handle on both Weibo and Twitter, Lin seems to have captured the imagination of Chinese netizens, partly for his skills, and also because he’s the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. As with some ethnic Chinese, he retains a Chinese name: Lin Shu-hao. His ascent is also very fortuitous timing for sports enthusiasts, filling the (large) void left by national hero Yao Ming who retired last year.
Jeremy Lin is also good news for Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) though not so much for its rival, Tencent (HKG:0700), whose own microblog platform is now devoid of the hottest NBA star. Tencent has been aggressive with signing-up sports stars in order to get more people onto its own Weibo site, and we’ve recently seen it work closely with Barcelona football club. But Tencent has missed out this time.
Lin joined Sina Weibo back in May of last year, but this month is when we’ll see the number of his Chinese followers go through the roof. It no doubt helps that he usually tweets on his Weibo in the local language.