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I have got a raging case of Linsanity. I’ve been declared legally Linsane,” squawked Stephen Colbert recently on The Colbert Report, talking about overnight sensation Jeremy Lin, the unknown Harvard grad-turned-NBA starter. Since Lin led the Knicks on a seven-game winning streak in mid-February — including a victory over the Lakers when Lin scorched Kobe Bryant for 38 points — he’s become an obsession of the New York entertainment and media worlds and been spoofed by everyone from Jimmy Fallon to David Letterman (who showed a fan with a sign reading “Truly a Lin-derella Story.”) Most important, Lin has made catching the Knicks at Madison Square Garden the most exclusive VIP list in Manhattan right now. For the first time in years, the 20,000-seat arena (the team’s home on 7th Avenue since 1968) is consistently selling out, with the price of a ticket on the secondary market jumping an average of 49 percent. Among the big names spotted in “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in recent weeks: Jay-Z, Showtime’s Matt Blank, Univision’s Randy Falco, Seth Meyers and Paul McCartney, along with decades-long loyalists Woody Allen and Spike Lee. Former Laker Magic Johnson has traveled east to see the phenom in action, as has Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who attended Harvard a few years before Lin. New York-based The Kids Are All Right producer Celine Rattray admits she’s returned to the Garden after losing interest in recent years (the team has made the playoffs just once in the past eight seasons): “Not since the Patrick Ewing era have the Knicks made a difference in the NBA as a whole. The Garden feels like the center of the world,” she says. Knicks games are also back on the air in Manhattan since Time Warner Cable, in the heat of Linsanity, made a deal to renew carriage of MSG’s channels. And the building is undergoing an $850 million transformation, which will be completed in 2013. It includes floor-level suites with access to VIP lounge 1879 (where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often can be spotted). Even pre-Linsanity, floor seats had been sold out since December, and now ticket resellers like StubHub are hawking those seats, which generally run $3,600, for as much as $7,500. Of course, folks like filmmaker Ed Burns can snag gratis courtside spots through the arena’s VIP relations office. “I’ve never felt anything like the excitement around the Knicks this year,” says Nurse Jackie‘s Edie Falco. “The Garden has been jam-packed, not an empty seat.”
HOLLYWOOD AT COURTSIDE
WME: In addition to Ari Emanuel’s courtside seats at Staples Center for Lakers games, the agency has two behind the Knicks’ bench.
Woody Allen: The camera-shy filmmaker and quintessential New Yorker posts up behind the media table — his seats aren’t actually on the floor — and next to the players’ tunnel.
Julianne Moore: A onetime season-ticket holder, the actress is a courtside regular.
Ed Burns: The actor-writer-producer is a diehard fan, but he usually sits a few rows up to stay out of the limelight. A seat on the floor (known as “celebrity row”) practically guarantees a spot on-camera.
Mark Zuckerberg: The Facebook entrepreneur watched fellow Harvard alum Lin and the Knicks beat the Mavericks from behind the visitors bench.
Seth Meyers: The SNL star sat next to Kevin Costner and Eva Longoria during the Feb. 19 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Meyers recently quipped that the SNL writers from Harvard have become “insufferable” since Linsanity started.
Jay-Z: The New Jersey Nets part-owner sits in the prime VIP section when his team plays the Knicks. His seats are directly across from the players’ benches and have an unobstructed view of the court. He and wife Beyonce attended as their first date night after the birth of their daughter.
Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber: The Manhattan-based couple often hit the arena for cheering sessions, where they have been spotted cuddling during time off from their two kids.
Paul McCartney: The Beatle was seen cheering enthusiastically from the front row alongside his wife, Nancy Shevell, during the Feb. 17 win against the New Orleans Hornets.
Spike Lee: The longtime season-ticket holder recently was seen at center court in a Harvard basketball jersey in honor of Lin.
Edie Falco: The Brooklyn-born Knicks fan sat courtside at the Feb. 15 game against the Sacramento Kings. “It’s as ifeveryone is in the game. The feeling of the crowd is palpable and very powerful,” she says.
Jeff Kwatinetz: Prospect Park’s co-founder and co-partner has two floor seats. The Malibu resident bought a place in Manhattan last year because he’s such a fan of the team. He even wears a pair of custom cuff links, a gift from a friend, made from a basketball.
Martin Bandier: The chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing has been a season-ticket holder for 20 years. With two seats on the floor and two in the second row, he says, “It almost feels like it’s worth the money … but still a long way to go.”
Pauly D: “I love watching the Knicks,” says the Jersey Shore star, a new face at the games.”The energy in Madison Square Garden is unbelievable, and New York fans know how to show support.”
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AMENITIES
The VIP Entrance: Season-ticket holders can enter and exit through a space on 31st Street, between 7th and 8th avenues. Staffers are assigned to assist the VIP game-goers.
Fine Dining: Sausage Boss is just one of the enhanced concession stands with new menus and food items from chefs Andrew Carmellini and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, renowned restaurateur Drew Nieporent and Aquagrill’s chef and owner Jeremy Marshall. There are also recently opened options from Carnegie Deli and Hill Country Barbecue.
Delta Sky 360 Club: The elite event-level dining area is just steps from the court and offers views of the players going to and from the locker rooms. The space is reserved for 800 VIPs as a perk of the season-ticket package.
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