Of the over 12,000 films were submitted to Sundance, 119 were selected. Linsanity, the true story of Houston Rockets basketball star Jeremy Lin, was one of them. Never highly recruited after high school and nearly ignored after college, Lin exploded onto the NBA scene in 2012 after circumstances pushed him off the bench and eventually into the starting lineup of the New York Knicks. The Knicks won the first six games Lin started.
Evan Jackson Leong’s Linsanity differs from Hoop Dreams, the 1994 Steve James-directed gold standard for basketball documentaries, in several ways. Jeremy Lin was raised by Taiwanese immigrants in a comfortable upbringing in Northern California. Lin never had to deal with the sort of economic or family strife that made the stories of Hoop Dreams protagonists William Gates and Arthur Agee so compelling, but particularly during his rise to stardom, Lin was the subject of numerous racial slurs. Ethnically Asian NBA players are exceedingly rare in the NBA; in fact, Lin was the first player in NBA history of Taiwanese descent. In the documentary, Lin talks about a security guard at Madison Square Garden (the Knicks’ home court) who once refused to let him into the arena because he didn’t believe Lin played for the Knicks.
First time feature director Evan Jackson Leong began filming Lin during his career at Harvard as a human interest piece about an Asian-American basketball player with an outside shot at making the NBA. The director has said he initially thought the doc would be a webseries, but that the project quickly morphed into a feature film with Lin’s surprising run Knicks run.
Lin’s underdog story opens in select cities (New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) on October 4th.