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Modell's Takes Biggest Bet On Jeremy Lin

Mitch Modell
Photo by Darren Rovell for CNBC.com
Mitch Modell

Mitchell Modell stood in the corner of his flagship store in Times Square with his flip phone pressed to his ear, trying to find out when the truck with his new merchandise was showing up.

Ten minutes later, boxes of gear arrived, marked “Lin #17” in black Sharpie.

Two store employees, armed with X-Acto knives, sliced through the taped cardboard as 25 or so fans looked on, waiting for the blue and orange shirts and jerseys to be placed on the rack.

Moments later, customers were rifling through, trying to find the right sizes, as TV crews filmed the frenzy.

Sometime, in the very near future, there will be a company that might take a big bet on Jeremy Lin.

Until then, Mitchell Modell has more riding on the 23-year-old Harvard graduate turned Knicks point guard, than anyone else in the country, save for Knicks owner James Dolan.

“By the second day, when my daughter said, ‘Dad, I need a Jeremy Lin jersey,’ I almost fell off my chair,” said Modell, who is the fourth generation CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, which was founded in 1889.

Jeremy Lin Jersey
Photo by Darren Rovell for CNBC.com
Jeremy Lin Jersey

In the past 48 hours, Modell says he has secured 168,000 items with “Lin” or “Linsanity” on it, including everything from jerseys in every size to t-shirts to towels with his name and number on it.

Because Lin became so hot so fast, Modell has had to secure blank items and then pay a printer to put customize it.

“We had to tie up every local printer,” Modell said. “We took every royal (blue) blank, every white blank, every orange blank. We put basically a lock on everything Lin in the entire country.”

For those who don’t know Modell, they might think his bet on Lin could be irresponsible.

Jeremy Lin Towels
Photo by Darren Rovell for CNBC.com
Jeremy Lin Towels

Sure, it looks good seven games in, as the Knicks are 7-0 with Lin is averaging 24.4 points and 9.1 assists per game, but what happens when Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is put back in the lineup?

Will the dynamic hurt Lin’s ability to remain a star?

But those who know Modell know he’s an entrepreneur at heart.

Risks don’t scare him.

“When someone is on the front and back page, you know this guy is sizzling,” Modell says with a big smile on his face.

Jeremy Lin Merchandise Boxes
Photo by Darren Rovell for CNBC.com
Jeremy Lin Merchandise Boxes

Under his leadership, Modell’s Sporting Goods now has 147 stores, 96 of them in New York and New Jersey alone.

Before the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, he ordered 332,000 pieces of Giants gear worth $10 million.

If the Giants lost, he would have had to donate it all.

Others who have benefited off “Linsanity,” include the MSG Network, whose ratings were up 87% in Lin’s first five starts, ticket brokers who have sold seats for hundreds of dollars more and card collectors who have sold his signed rookie cards for more than $2,000 each.

Jeremy Lin Merchandise Modells
Photo by Darren Rovell for CNBC.com
Jeremy Lin Merchandise Modells

One company that hasn’t cashed in yet is Lin’s only endorser, Nike, which signed him to a three-year deal for an undisclosed sum last year.

While they haven’t turned around any Nike Lin gear yet, Lin did travel with Nike to Taiwan this past summer to run skill clinics and the company did have the foresight to make Lin one of 17 players that took part in a preseason photo shoot.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com