New York Knicks fans awoke to the headlines none wanted to see: "End of the Lin," "Lin is Gone" - for many the loss of star point guard Jeremy Lin felt like a betrayal.
The Knicks confirmed late Tuesday they wouldn't match the Houston Rockets' three-year, $US25 million ($A24.3 million) offer for the 23-year-old.
"We're losing more than one player. He was a symbol of the city," Jason Gutierrez, a 29-year-old musician, told AFP outside the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Just six months ago, no one apart from diehard basketball fans had heard of Jeremy Lin and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was even considering releasing him before his contract became guaranteed.
An injury to recently signed guard Baron Davis gave Lin his chance in February and what followed became know as "Linsanity" as the player sparked a seven-game winning streak for a team that had lost 11 of its last 13 games.
Thrilling New York fans with his clutch shooting and passing skills, he quickly became a global sensation, especially in Asia as his parents are from Taiwan and he has a grandmother from China.
He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first five starts.
Now his sparkling Broadway run is over, but the point guard who took New York by storm says he is excited to launch the next phase of his NBA career with the Houston Rockets.
Lin's fate had been the subject of intense speculation since he became a restricted free agent this month.
He inked an initial offer sheet from Houston, but the Knicks still had the option of keeping him and were widely expected to match the reported three-year, $US19.5 million tab from the Rockets.
However, Lin eventually signed a higher offer sheet, which included a $US14.9 million scheduled payment for the third year.
That would have cost the Knicks millions in luxury-tax penalties levied on excessive salaries.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony called the offer "ridiculous", but still said on Monday he hoped Lin would return.
Teammate JR Smith told Sports Illustrated's website that if Lin came back on those terms, it could have led to tension in the Knicks locker room.