LIN-stant stardom is a rare gem

Jeremy Lin made a huge jump, graduating from Harvard to achieve NBA celebrity status.

In less than two weeks, Jeremy Lin has gone from the Erie BayHawks in the D-League to LIN-finity and beyond.

He’s burst upon the scene like a supernova, eclipsing out-of-the-box scoring records legends like Bird, Magic, Jordan, Kobe and others in the process. Jeremy is a LIN-ternational celebrity.

This kind of breakthrough is extremely rare in professional sports, where  prospects are pampered, primed and projected before they’re old enough to shave.

Very few athletes slip through the cracks and become household names as quickly as Jeremy Lin.

And no, Tim Tebow doesn’t qualify. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida, a football powerhouse. That’s a lot different than undrafted Jeremy Lin from Harvard.

Another invalid compare is Steve Nash, the veteran 16-year point guard for the Phoenix Suns. Nash, like Lin, thrived in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. But unlike Lin, he was a first round pick in the NBA draft.

Here are some other rising sports starts through the years, LIN-instant hits so to speak. Some went on to long and glorious careers, others flamed out as suddenly as they appeared.

NBA

John Starks bagged groceries for a time after high school and played for three junior colleges. He went undrafted out of Oklahoma State, and like Lin spent one year at Golden State before signing with the Knicks in 1990,

Starks, right, broke his arm in practice attempting to dunk over Patrick Ewing. Eventually he became a starter at shooting guard and made the NBA All-Star team in 1994.

That year, the Knicks made the NBA Finals, where they lost Game 7 to the Houston Rockets when Starks shot  2-for-18.

Long-time Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan, who recently announced he is retiring following the London Olympics, compared Lin to Billy Ray Bates.

A third-round pick from Kentucky State in the 1978 NBA draft, Bates was cut by the Rockets, but emerged two years later with the Portland Trailblazers.

Bates went on to have two solid seasons with Portland, but by 1983 his career was finished.

NFL

Considered one of the best undrafted players of all time, Kurt Warner was cut by the Packers in 1994 and wound up stocking grocery shelves for $5.50 an hour in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Warner also played Arena League football and was a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, before joining the St. Louis Rams in 1998.

One year later, Warner passed for a record 414 yards and was named Super Bowl MVP when the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans.

Warner was a two-time NFL MVP (1999 and 2001) and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. He still holds the top three passing yardage records for the Super Bowl.

MLB

Several pitchers achieved instant star status, including Mark “The Bird” Fidrych of the 1976 Tigers and Fernando Valenzuela of the 1981 Dodgers. Valenzuela won both the National League Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards, and finished his career in 1997, 173 victories later.

Fidrych, left, won 19 games and was named American League Rookie of the Year. He would win just 10 more times before he career ended in 1980.

That same year, Joe Charboneau broke in with the Cleveland Indians, and was voted AL Rookie of the Year  after belting 23 home runs and batting .289. He wound up playing just 70 more games in the majors, his career finished in 1982 before his 27th birthday.

Kevin Mass made a big splash with the Yankees in 1990 when he hit 10 homers in his first 72 at bats, the best start in baseball history. Clearly a one-hit wonder, Maas was shuffling between the majors and minors two years later, and wound up playing in Japan.

Another Yankee outfielder, Shane Spencer, “The Home Run Dispenser,” had a brilliant September in 1998 for a World Championship team. However,  Spencer never lived up to the promise of that meteoric start.

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle had an amazing start with the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, hitting .403 as a late call-up to help his club win the National League pennant. A year later, he was out of baseball.

NHL

Don Murdoch scored eight goals for the Rangers in his first three games, including five in one game. He was on a pace to set the single-season rookie goal-scoring record when an ankle injury ended his year. During the off-season he was busted for cocaine possession, and suspended by the NHL.

Murdoch played 320 career games, but never came close to living up to the promise of  his first season,

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