Monday, February 27, 2012

Lessons from Linsanity

Like many basketball fans worldwide, I've been captivated by the story of Jeremy Lin.  In case you've missed the seemingly endless coverage of the Jeremy Lin story (dubbed "Linsanity") on ESPN and elsewhere, Lin is the starting point guard for the NBA's New York Knicks.  Since getting his first NBA start earlier this month, Lin has been terrorizing the NBA.  Among the amazing bullet points about Lin are as follows:

  • Lin is a 2010 graduate of Harvard University.  As a 1998 graduate of Harvard Law School myself, I can tell you that it is very rare for a Harvard man to excel in the NBA.  How rare?  The last Crimson player in the NBA was Ed Smith in 1954!   
  • Lin is a Taiwanese-American and the first American-born NBA player ever to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.
  • Lin was undrafted out of college, waived by two other NBA teams, and was in-and-out of the NBA's developmental league (D-league) before landing as a back-up for the Knicks this year.  At some points during his brief NBA career his prospects were so uncertain that he was sleeping on his brother' couch rather than signing a lease on his own apartment.
  • The Knicks were 8-15 with their season circling the drain until injuries and poor play by other Knicks forced Lin into playing time and into the national spotlight.  Then, Linsanity struck and the Knicks won 7 straight games.
  • During Lin's first 5 games as a starter, he scored 136 points (27.2 points per game), the most by any NBA player in his first 5 games as a starter since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger.

There is very little about Linsanity that is not amazing and unprecedented, so what can we learn from all this?  Well, here are a few timeless nuggets that are reinforced by the Linsanity story:

1) Dream Big.  We shouldn't let stereotypes or other people's preconceived notions limit the dreams or goals we set for ourselves.  Jeremy Lin had let the facts that he played basketball at Harvard, or that he was a Taiwanese-American, or that he was undrafted, cause him to give up on his dream of playing in the NBA.  He believed in himself and eventually the rest of the world started believing in him too.

2) Be Ready.  Although Jeremy Lin began his career in the D-league and began the season as a back-up player, he worked hard and was prepared.  So when the coach called his name, he was ready to perform.  There is an old saying that "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."  Lin wasn't lucky - he was prepared when he got his opportunity.

3)  Be Bold.  Beyond being ready, Lin was bold and played his game when his number was called.  Given his humble background, he knew he might not have many chances to show what he could do in the NBA.  So when he got the chance, he didn't play safe - he played with confidence and aggressiveness.  And that has made all of the difference.

4) Have Fun.  Lin's joy for the game is obvious on the court, making his journey more fun for all of us to follow.  As Mae West famously said, "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Last week I saw a very interesting presentation by a representative of the OTC Markets Group Inc.  That's the company that runs the world's largest trading market for companies whose stocks are traded over-the-counter (OTC).  OTC companies are not listed on a stock exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq.  OTC Markets operates three tiers of trading markets for OTC companies:

  • OTCQX (its top tier);
  • OTCQB (its middle tier); and
  • OTCPink (its bottom tier).
OTC Market competes with OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) for quotation of OTC stocks, though a security may be dually quoted on both OTC Market and OTCBB.  According to information provided by the representative of OTC Market, the securities marketplace seems to be moving in OTC Market's direction.  In 2008, both OTC Markets' OTC Link platform and OTCBB each provided about 35,000 quotes.  Today, OTC Link provides about 65,000 quotes, while the OTCBB provides about 5,000 quotes.

The representative of OTC Market seemed to attribute much of their success to the fact that their OTC Link platform is electronic while the OTCBB platform is telephonic, thereby making the OTC Link system more user-friendly.  I don't know if the OTC Link system is truly more user-friendly (I invite any readers who are registered broker-dealers to comment on that issue), but I would note that the OTCBB requires its companies to be current in its SEC reporting obligations under the 1934 Act, while the OTC Market has no such requirement. The OTCBB loses companies on the top end that "graduate" to become exchange-listed companies and those on the bottom end who choose to "go dark" and cease their SEC reporting obligations. OTCQX companies need not be SEC-reporting, but the OTCQX does have requirements regarding asset size ($2 million), revenues ($2 million), minimum share price ($0.10), etc., while the OTCBB does not.

As of today, there are 330 securities quoted on the OTCQX and 2,355 securities quoted on the OTCBB.