'Linsanity' slammed into hockey-mad Canada with the force of a winter storm on Tuesday as Jeremy Lin, the National Basketball Association's (NBA) newest sensation, set hearts aflutter with a Valentine's Day visit to the league's most northern outpost.
Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon drives to the basket against New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, Feb 14, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
A game between two losing teams would not normally qualify as a must-see event but Lin, the anonymous benchwarmer turned NBA superstar in a week, made the New York Knicks' visit to the Toronto Raptors the hottest ticket in town.
Part of Lin's immense appeal is his made-for-Hollywood back story of sleeping on a teammate's couch one day and living the American dream the next.
The 'Linderella' story continued at the Air Canada Center as the Asian-American from Taiwan stepped up and coolly dropped a three-pointer from the top of the arc with a half-second to play to stun the Raptors 90-87.
That spell-binding piece of magic gave the Knicks their sixth straight victory, with Lin the driving force after starting in the last five games.
On a day dedicated to love, Lin's last-minute heroics to cap an occasionally ragged performance gave Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni hope the 23-year-old might be set for a long-term relationship with the NBA, rather than the occasional one-night stand.
"He's a tough kid, you don't know that until you go into games with him," D'Antoni told reporters. He's really tough, mentally he's there.
"I have complete faith in him. He was pretty confident that was going in. He's a marked man now. He isn't going to sneak up on anybody."
New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (R) and Jered Jeffries celebrate their win against the Toronto Raptors during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, Feb 14, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Lin committed eight turnovers but with the game on the line he was again the Knicks go-to guy, scoring New York's last six points, including his long-range winner to finish with a game-high 27-points with 11 assists.
The first Asian-American from Taiwan to play in the NBA, Lin's rise from obscurity to toast of the Big Apple is an extraordinary tale that is hard to resist.
The point guard from Harvard, a college better known as a springboard to the US presidency than the NBA, went undrafted and was cut by Golden State and Houston before finding a place at the end of the Knicks bench in December.