Jimmer, Linsanity, and Boban: What Do They All Have in Common?
Have you ever watched a movie a thought “wow I have no idea why anyone likes this movie?” You know maybe something like Napoleon Dynamite or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. These movies are called “cult classics,” but could there be “cult” followings in sports as well. The answer is absolutely. Throughout sports there tends be certain players that fans gravitate towards. Basketball seems to be a sport that has a lot of these players with a “cult” following. The reason for this definitely has to do with the star power of the NBA. Player recognition is one of the most important things in sports. It is easy to sit there and say that LeBron James has a “cult” following, which he does but he is the one of the best players to ever play basketball. The players that are most fascinating are the ones that are stars just by certain events or were showed moments of brilliance and have not lived up to it after that. They also could be players that do funny or interesting things. Here is a list of some of these players and why they are so popular.
Currently, Jimmer Fredette is one of the most relevant players this week. He managed to score 73 points in a game in the Chinese Basketball Association. Now take that for what it's worth. Chinese Basketball is not the NBA, but it does still have Stephon Marbury. Jimmer’s rise to fame did not come from playing in China but came from his time at BYU. According to an article by Brian Litvack with Bleacher Report, Jimmer Fredette led the country in scoring in 2011. There were multiple times where Fredette was ridiculous and scored over 40 points a game. This was the start of the phrase “Jimmermania,” which became a trending hashtag on Twitter. The BYU star became something of an anomaly. He was accomplishing video game type statistics.
After BYU lost in the “Sweet Sixty” in 2011, Fredette was still the talk of NBA fans everywhere. It seemed like everyone was interested in having Jimmer on his or her team. According to basketball reference, Fredette was drafted 10th overall and was immediately traded to the Sacramento Kings. The thing is, once Fredette hit the NBA, he was exposed. He was no longer the fun player to watch that gave us “Jimmermania.” The fan base was still out there though. He bounced around from a couple of teams for four seasons, spending some time in the D-League as well. Anytime Fredette put up big numbers in the D-League he never seemed to get a shot. That leads us to today, where Fredette is excelling in the Chinese Basketball Association. When he put up 73 points, the Internet went wild. There are definitely fans right now that want their teams to sign him, maybe even a Knicks fan that’s also a sports writer wouldn’t be opposed. Either way he has a huge fan base and is still young enough to make an impact. Maybe we will see “Jimmermania” again in the NBA soon.
When the name Jeremy Lin comes up, everyone automatically thinks of his amazing run in 2012 dubbed the nickname “Linsanity”. Lin’s story was the most amazing thing because he was really a nobody trying to catch on with a basketball team that got an opportunity and seized it. This rejuvenated a Knicks team that was struggling all season. Jeremy Lin came into the most famous arena in the world and made basketball fun again. If anyone out there is a Knicks fan they know how miserable it can be at times. This was the first time in a long time that Knicks fans all rallied around one player. This player became a global phenomenon. He was able to grow basketball to markets around the world. Lin was the jersey everyone had to have during that time. New York was buzzing back then, but it all changed.
After that season, the Knicks held exclusive rights to Jeremy Lin in free agency. Meaning they could match any offer that was given to Lin by any other team. In the efforts to re-sign Lin, the Houston Rockets swooped in with a back-loaded contract that the Knicks were not willing to match. That was the end of “Linsanity”. Since leaving the Knicks, Lin has been a serviceable player but has bounced around a few teams in the league. The magic that Lin once brought to the Garden is a distant memory now, but he still has a “cult” following probably bigger than anyone else on this list.
This is easily the most interesting case on this list. Boban is by far one of the most popular players in the NBA and there it definitely is not because of a big game or a run of big games he had. Maybe the fans are attracted to his size. Maybe it's his work ethic. Maybe it’s the fact that he had an awesome car commercial in San Antonio. The only thing we really know is that Marjanovic is a backup player that is very popular in NBA circles. He was a “cult” hero in San Antonio and that has transferred over to Detroit as well.
According to a New York Times article by Marc Tracy, there was a Twitter account dedicated to whether or not Boban played in Spurs games last year. He was always cheered loudly at the stadium and even had plenty of people come out to see him at events outside of basketball. People seem to be just fascinated by the man. He is the largest player in the NBA (tied with Kristaps Porzingis). He also performs when given a chance. Which is how he earned a large contract with the Detroit Pistons.
Overall, these three players have this interesting following that cannot be discounted. The impact of having any one of these players on a team will increase jersey sales and exposure to different markets. Their play may not be the thing that is keeping them afloat in professional basketball, it could be their following. Jimmer Fredette is perfecting his game in China; he may get another shot in the NBA. Jeremy Lin is currently back in New York, playing for the Brooklyn Nets. He has been hit with the injury bug lately, but has a shot to try to help the Nets turn the franchise around. Then there is Boban Marjanovic. He is stuck behind two centers in Detroit. One day he will get a chance to shine and grow to his full potential. That day will be a great day for the NBA and all of their fans.
Statistics and info courtesy of NY Times, B-Ball Ref, Bleacherreport