Jeremy Lin: Los Angeles-born, Palo Alto raised. Star high school jock. Harvard graduate. Starting point guard for the NBA’s Houston Rockets. To the uninformed, Lin is as typical a California twentysomething as, say, a WongFu or KevJumba groupie, or even a follower of the Fung Brothers. But in the eight electrifying years between 2005 and 2012, the focus of director Evan Jackson Leong’s new documentary LINSANITY, Jeremy — age 24, diligent, humble, at times even goofy — has developed his own overwhelming cult of personality more influential than that of any run-of-the-mill YouTube superstar. To wit: by dint of his passion for basketball and determination to succeed at the uppermost level of professional sports, Lin’s successes — leavened by more than a few challenges along the way — has inspired legions of fans, many of them fellow Asian Pacific Americans unaccustomed to cheering for a home-grown, American-born folk hero in a profession long-thought to be inaccessible to them.
Employing as a framing device that night in February 2012 when Lin, at the time an undrafted free agent languishing at the bottom of the depth chart with the New York Knicks, was given a chance to prove himself, director Leong (an alumnus of Visual Communications’ Armed With a Camera Fellowship — SUCKERBALL 73, Festival 2003) chronicles Lin’s remarkable story beginning with his upbringing in a Bay Area-based Taiwanese American family. The roots of what was to be branded as “Linsanity” were planted at Palo Alto High, where Lin led the Paly Vikings to the California State prep title in his senior year. When an expected scholarship offer from a top-tier university failed to materialize, Jeremy swallowed his pride and enrolled at Harvard, where a standout collegiate career with the varsity Crimson provided a first good look at a phenom-in-waiting (perennial hoops powerhouse Connecticut, whom Lin lit up for 30 point in a nationally-televised broadcast in 2010, could attest to his abilities). When Lin was once again passed over, this time in the 2010 NBA draft, his free-agency sojourn — from his hometown Golden State Warriors, to the Houston Rockets, and ultimately the Knicks — began. Along the way, brief glimpses of Lin’s estimable skills appeared: he famously “schooled” overall top draft pick John Wall of Kentucky in a summer league game, and established his ball-hawking skills, seemingly to no avail. By the time he entered a losing effort against the Boston Celtics on February 3, 2012, Lin, on the verge of being given his release by the Knicks, was staring at the end of his NBA dream. But then, unbeknownst to all, most of all Lin himself, an amazing personal and professional renaissance was about to unfold….
The legend of “Linsanity,” with its improbable successes, incessant media scrutiny, and inevitable discussion of race, stereotypes and perceptions that came along with it, has been copiously documented and available for any and all with access to the internet. That discussion is recounted here in LINSANITY, but what director Leong trains his eye on is the man behind the phenomenom. In candid moments, Jeremy — a guarded, private individual as is his close-knit family — gives wide berth to his development as a person as much as his basketball exploits, and intimates his Christian faith as a factor for keeping him level-headed and humble even during the times that his many successes threaten to blow up his ego. Staying focused on the man instead of the phenomenon, director Leong delivers an inspiring story celebrating an original American hero, one whose journey is still, as judged by the Rockets’ current playoff drive, very much a work-in-progress.
Synopsis written by: Abraham Ferrer