“Linsanity” Documentary Review


Jeremy Lin did not fit the mold of what an NBA player was supposed to look like. He excelled at basketball wherever he went, but never got the credit he deserved and worked so hard to earn. After making it to the big leagues, and days away from the chopping block, a miracle happened that allowed him to prove his mettle not just to his team, but to the entire world. And thus, “Linsanity” was born.

It also happens that “Linsanity” became the appropriate name for Evan Jackson Leong’s documentary about one perseverant basketball player’s story. Lin’s tale is not just hoop dreams, as Jeremy battled against expectations of other people, stereotypes, and keeping his faith whole while being tested during his journey.

As a young child, Jeremy was always interested in basketball, in part thanks to his father becoming addicted to it. Jeremy and his brothers would constantly play, mimicking the moves they would see during televised games, and Jeremy quickly rose through the ranks in school, coming out on top at the end of his time in High School. However, it seemed few schools were interested in him despite his abilities, and Lin ended up playing ball for Harvard University. As time went on, Lin climbed through the ranks, and eventually made it to the NBA, a tumultuous period for him with much time spent wandering from team to team, praying that he would find a team that he could call his permanent home.

Lin soon found himself on the NY Knicks, where he spent the majority of his contract sitting on the bench, even during team practice. Sleeping on his teammate’s couch and then his sister-in-law’s, Jeremy was running out of options, but never ran out of his faith in God. You could call it a convenient coincidence or an act of a higher power, but Lin found himself pushed into a game with days before his contract expired, and Lin played the game of his life, breaking out and finally proving to the rest of the world what he already knew – that he could not only hold his own with the best of the best, but that he was one of those best in the world. From there, Jeremy began a craze and started to change the way people saw not just him, but Asians in the pro sports world.

This inspiring look at Jeremy Lin effectively transcends its own expectations, making it a documentary that is as human as it is about race and religion. Jeremy is incredibly down to earth and a guy that has left more sweat in the gym in a year than most do in a life time, but his humility and openness make him a great role model to viewers of all ethnicities. What might be my favorite thing about this entire doc is how it does not linger on the negativity of racial stereotypes in the sport, nor Lin’s Christian background and how important it is to him. While these topics are absolutely discussed and are critical to the doc, it’s the fact that anyone can be inspired by this story, because it’s the tale of the underdog who refuses to give up, no matter who says he should. Lin never stopped moving forward, even when he was pushed down, and came out on the top and will forever have a legacy as something more than a short-lived crave.

As someone who is not a basketball fan, I still greatly enjoyed the film and the story told and quickly got into it. You barely need to know anything about the sport to appreciate and be affected by it, making it a universally watchable story. Lin overcomes his adversity through his strength in God, as well as hard work, and it is a story that resonates in all of us. The cinematography feels like the viewer is a bystander in a story that even the film makers did not expect to turn out the way it did. I did find it odd that Jeremy himself does not talk as much as I expected him, especially in the first hour, with most of the film being talking heads discussing Lin with footage of him in various games to support them. Once we get into the meat of Jeremy’s rise with the Knicks, we get a more consistent amount of him, but for the first two-thirds, it’s other people telling us their stories about him.

Special features on the DVD include a “Behind the Scenes” feature that is under two minutes long and shows the green screen process of him doing certain interviews and some of the special effects scenes, such as where he is walking on water. That has a quick interview with Jeremy talking about being part of the documentary, which is not too much to write about. You also get the two-minute long pitch video that was part of the director’s Kickstarter campaign, and the trailer for the film.

You can order “Linsanity” from Amazon.com for about $20 and is worth picking up. I found myself very into the narrative by the end of it, and it reminded me with a great quote from Sergio Aragones that I felt was appropriate to share here. During an interview he did with Stan Lee in his “Comic Book Greats” series, Stan asked Sergio about his cartoons, and he responded with something to the effect of that he has to use certain stereotypes with his drawings to make them easier to understand, such as a nurse being a woman and a doctor being a man (nothing necessarily racial). The cartoonist said that he hopes that one day he will not need to do that, but it is up to us as the viewers to begin to make those disconnects of what we expect from a certain person so that drawings, and anything else, can open to being about the topic and not about who is doing it. This documentary is a great step in that direction, and is a great doc to watch and learn from.

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