A year and a half ago, the sports world saw Jeremy Lin become one of the most popular athletes in the United States. Now, the 25-year-old’s journey is being chronicled on the big screen.
“Linsanity,” the story of Lin’s quest to make it in the NBA and his subsequent rise to fame, debuted in theatres on Friday, Oct.4. The documentary premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January and opened the CAAMFest film Festival in San Francisco on March 14.
Throughout the film, Lin recounts how his ethnicity affected his basketball career. Despite winning a California State title at Pal Alto High and winning North California Player of the Year honors, the point guard didn’t receive one scholarship offer from a Division 1 school. Lin feels that wouldn’t have been the case if he were black. He eventually went on to play for Harvard and went undrafted
When the New York Knicks signed Lin in December 2011, he became the only Asian-American in the NBA. Only a handful of Asian-Americans have ever played in the history of the league. Wataru Misaka was the first in 1947, who also played for the Knicks.
According to Lin, his struggle to be taken seriously by other coaches was only a small part of the racism that he encountered playing basketball. In college, fans hurled racial epithets at him, poking fun at him for his ethnicity. Fortunately, Lin says he hasn’t experienced any bigotry from his fellow NBA players.
"I don't really experience anything from the players' standpoint (in the NBA), like, 'Oh, he's Asian,' or whatever," Lin said. "But I think you kind of have to (play well in the league) a little longer to really get other people to believe that you can do it."
The players may not have treated him differently, but Lin became the subject of many race-related jokes in the media. An ESPN anchor was suspended for making a pun that was deemed inappropriate, and "Saturday Night Live" even performed a skit, parodying all of the attention Lin received for being Asian.
As an undrafted free agent, Lin wasn’t given much of a chance to succeed. The Golden State Warriors released him after just 29 games, and he was cut by the Houston Rockets before the start of the season. During his brief time with the Warriors, Lin feared that the organization may have brought him in because of his race, and not because they thought he could contribute on the basketball court.
The documentary has received general positive reviews from critics, with “fresh” rating of 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director Evan Jackson Leong began making the film before “Linsanity” became a well-known phrase and the point guard gained notoriety. His ascension to stardom is covered in the film, though his battles with a knee injury in 2012 and his decision to sign with Houston Rockets as a free agent are recognized only briefly, according to critic Daniel M. Gold of the New York Times.
It its first weekend, the film grossed just under $100,000. It is narrated by actor Daniel Dae Kim.