For Jeremy Lin (林書豪), the Taiwanese-American basketball player whose meteoric rise in the NBA last year inspired fans around the world and proved that fortitude and resilience do pay off, God has a master plan — and playing basketball is part of it.
“It’s learning to fight to constantly live and play for God, and when I do, I’d be able to walk on water,” Lin explains in director Evan Jackson Leong’s documentary Linsanity, scheduled for release throughout Taiwan on Friday. The premiere was planned to coincide with the Oct. 13 pre-season NBA game at the Taipei Arena, between Lin’s Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers, said Christopher C. Chen, one of the producers.
Faith, family and hard work are all themes in the 88-minute biopic that draws on firsthand interviews with Lin, his family, friends and coaches, and features extensive footage of Lin’s early days as a point guard in youth leagues and in college basketball, tracing the Taiwanese American’s long and winding journey from a Palo Alto gymnasium to Madison Square Garden.
“Perseverance, and that story of belief that Jeremy has, is something everyone can relate to,” Leong explained during a telephone interview. “That’s what this story really captures.”
Leong, who entered the film industry after meeting and working with fellow UCLA film student Justin Lin, director of Better Luck Tomorrow and Fast and Furious, said he first approached Jeremy Lin about filming him in 2010, while Lin was still playing at Harvard. Lin, however, was initially reluctant to accept.
“We kept hanging around, and eventually we earned his trust,” Leong said.
That trust gave Leong access to Lin, his family and friends, years before the term Linsanity entered the lexicon of basketball fans around the world. On the whole, Linsanity documents how Lin’s unshakable religious faith and his belief in God’s plan guided him through the vicissitudes of his career, from when he first encountered racism on the court as a teenager, to when collegiate and professional coaches refused to play him.
Indeed, questions about race and ethnicity loom large in Linsanity, as the six-foot-three point guard increasingly realizes that coaches, players and fans might not be willing to accept a Taiwanese American in a sport dominated largely by African Americans.
“Yeah, I’ve always said if I was black, I would have gotten a D-one scholarship, but that’s my personal opinion,” Lin says in the film, explaining how he wound up at Harvard instead of on a Division I basketball team.
In one scene, Lin recounts the incessant taunting he endured while playing in the Ivy League for Harvard Crimson.
“You chink — can you even open your eyes? Can you even see the scoreboard?” Lin says he recalled hearing on the court.
Even after Lin finally made it to the NBA in 2010, signing a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, his hometown team, Lin was given limited playing time and was frequently sent down to the D-League, a minor league for professional players.
“For me, at the end of the day, it’s all about stereotypes,” Leong explained. “For Asian Americans, we’re a lot of lawyers and doctors. If you have an African-American computer engineer applying for Google, you’re going to think twice. [Lin] had to prove himself, too, like everyone else.”
And prove himself he would. After being cut from the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day 2011, Lin would once again rely on faith, family and hard work to guide him through a new chapter of his life with the New York Knicks. In one scene, right after the trade, Lin is seen shouldering a duffel bag and looking forlorn as he shuffles through a desolated TSA airport checkpoint to board a flight to the Big Apple, to join a team of players he has never met.