14 The Hampton Roads Messenger
Volume 8 Number 4
‘Linsanity’ Revisits the Incredible Sports Phenomenon
changed things forever. I guarantee you that, next time there is an Asian American baller with the same kind of potential as Jeremy, people will give him a lot more credit.”
Throughout the documentary,
Lin’s Christian faith serves as a primary character. The athlete talks a great deal about how his faith allowed him to persevere during the low points of his career. He also said that he believes God orchestrated Linsanity because of the way circumstances perfectly lined up in order for it to happen. “God did something supernatural to me,” says Lin, in a voiceover, during a climactic scene in the film. “Learning to fight to constantly live and play for God. And when I do that, I’ll walk on water.”
Once Lin blew up in February of BY YOUNG RAE KIM It was Christmas Day, 2011, and
Jeremy Lin was alone on a plane flying back home to Palo Alto, Calif. The second-year NBA player had just been placed on waivers again, this time by the Houston Rockets. Two days later, Lin learned that he had been picked up by the New York Knicks. But this was not necessarily cause for celebration. After being tossed around by teams and sent to the D-League numerous times, Lin, at this point, was frustrated, burnt out and unsure of his future in the NBA.
“I am literally going into the
game tomorrow night, and I have no idea who my teammates are. I never played with them one time. I have no idea what plays we run, I don’t know a single play, and I haven’t even talked to the coach yet,” said Lin. “It’s going to be interesting.”
This frank, on-camera confessional
is from a new documentary, Linsanity, which gives an intimate look into one of the greatest sports phenomena in history.
The film captures Lin’s journey
from struggling rookie to overnight superstar, after his breakout series of games leading the Knicks onto an incredible winning streak.
What really makes this movie
stand out is the surprising inside access into the normally very private Lin, long before he became a worldwide sensation.
Filmmaker Evan Jackson Leong
had been fascinated with Lin, ever since the latter’s college days at Harvard, when he was already making smaller headlines for dunks and game winners. What particularly drew him to Lin was that he could relate to him in many ways.
“Both Jeremy and I were Asian
American, grew up in the Bay Area, played basketball our whole lives, and had dreams of the NBA,” said Leong. “Obviously, I wasn’t good enough.”
Back then, there was talk about
Lin potentially making it to the NBA, and that was the story Leong wanted to tell, initially in the form of a web series.
“If he made the NBA, it would
have a great ending to our piece,” said Leong. “I thought that Jeremy represented something we haven’t seen, and this could inspire the next generation of our community.”
After a dozen unsuccessful
attempts over the course of a year to convince Lin and his family to allow the cameras to film them, Leong and his producers finally got them to agree during the start of his rookie year with
the Golden State Warriors. But that was just the first hurdle
Leong and his team had to clear. After Lin’s uneventful rookie season with the Warriors, the director was unsure about the project’s story arc. While an Asian American making it to the NBA was noteworthy in it of itself, he had hopes that there would be a bit more drama to this story.
But Leong kept filming, and then,
of course, the unimaginable happened in New York in February of 2012. Lin, the last man on the Knicks’ roster at the time, came off the bench in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4 and scored 25 points to lead the Knicks—largely lifeless until then—to a thrilling victory over the New Jersey Nets. He would continue to shock the world by outdueling the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, and later, made a game-winning buzzer beater in Toronto.
Leong, who enjoyed a front
row seat to Linsanity, admits that he was just as surprised by the global excitement around Lin as the rest of us, but in hindsight, he also notes that it all made sense.“In Jeremy’s career, he has always had to prove that he can play,” said the filmmaker. “At every new basketball level, it takes a few years and some time to get to the level he wants to, but he always reaches it.”
The film also highlights some of
the negative stereotypes against Asian Americans that Lin had to endure throughout his career. His mother recalls that, since middle school, teams had ignored her son, even when he was clearly the best player on the court.
Even after leading his high school
to a state championship, Lin did not receive an offer from any Division I colleges, and instead went to Harvard.
Lin frankly states in the
documentary that, if he had been African American, this would not have been the case. However, because he did not fit the mold of what a NBA basketball player should look like, he was overlooked.
Even during the height of Linsanity,
American racism also reared its ugly head in subtle and overt ways. There was the memorable ESPN headline, “A Chink in the Armor,” after Lin turned the ball over nine times in a game that would end the Knicks’ winning streak.
However Leong believes that more
good than bad was revealed through Linsanity. More importantly, Lin paved a way for Asian Americans to be taken seriously in the sports world.
“When we talk about what Jeremy
did, we have to talk about stereotypes,” Leong said. “Jeremy broke a stereotype, and in that process, we got to see how people really think. But this moment
2012, the project changed directions from a web series and was reimagined as a full-length documentary. The film opened Oct. 4, and has been playing in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. It is being distributed grassroots-style, and Leong is optimistic about its
Mourning an Icon FROM PAGE 1
the history of his country and people and how whites had arrived and taken the country from them.
Chief Jongintaba began
grooming the teenage Mandela for high office, sending him to a Wesleyan -- Methodist -- mission school and Wesleyan College, which most Tembu royalty attended. Mandela succeeded there academically and also pursued track and boxing.
At 21 Mandela enrolled at the
University College of Fort Hare, the only higher-learning center for blacks in South Africa. It was considered to be Africa's Oxford or Harvard. He studied Roman Dutch law, which would have prepared him for a career in civil service as an interpreter or clerk -- the best jobs available for black men. He also met Oliver Tambo there; the men would develop a lifelong bond.
During his second year,
Mandela was elected to the Student Representative Council, or the SRC. But many students had been unhappy with how powerless the SRC was on campus, and a majority voted to boycott the elections. Mandela resigned from his post to join those students in their protest. School officials expelled him for insubordination.
Furious with Mandela, Chief
Jongintaba told him to apologize so that he could return to school in the fall. The chief also announced that he had arranged a marriage for Mandela. Feeling trapped, Mandela ran away to Johannesburg, where he worked at odd jobs. He also finished his bachelor's degree through correspondence courses at the University of South Africa.
In 1942 he enrolled at the
University of Witwatersrand to study law and became active in the anti-apartheid movement and the African National Congress. For several decades, Mandela headed up a peaceful, nonviolent campaign against the South African government's racist policies that included the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the1955 Congress of the People. He and Tambo also founded a law firm through which the pair offered free and low-cost legal advice to blacks.
prospects, even though he does not have the marketing budget of mainstream movies.
It’s hard not to imagine that this
film may have been embraced by big distribution companies had it been released at the height of Linsanity.
While Lin had a good season with
the Houston Rockets last year, it is safe to say that it wasn’t the season that many people were hoping for.
“That’s safe to say,” acknowledged
Leong. But he added, “The public’s perceptions, and even Jeremy’s expectations, were set at a really high bar that is hard to accomplish. In my opinion, he has a lot of potential still, and we haven’t even seen what he can do.
“We wanted to make a film about
what led up to Linsanity. I wanted to make a legacy film,” Leong said. “No matter what he does after Linsanity, no one can ever take that away. When we pop this movie in the DVD player 20 years from now, no one will care what happened the next year.”
The Revolutionary Mandela was arrested, along
with 150 other dissidents, in 1956 and charged with treason; all were acquitted. During this time, a new generation of activists, known as the Africanists, was developing within the ANC and questioning the organization's pacifist approach, which reflected the Mahatma Gandhi model of civil disobedience.
By 1959 the Africanists had
broken away from the ANC to form the Pan-Africanist Congress. At a peaceful PAC-organized rally in the township of Sharpeville in 1960, in which thousands of people gathered to protest apartheid laws, police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people, including women and children. The South African government banned both the ANC and PAC in 1960, and both groups went into exile -- and moved from passive to armed resistance.
Mandela made the move, too. In
1961 he co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, an armed offshoot of the ANC that focused on political sabotage and guerrilla tactics. He coordinated a three-day national workers' strike that same year, for which he was arrested. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had tipped off the security police about Mandela's whereabouts.
In October 1962, Mandela was
sentenced to five years for coordinating the strike. But in 1963, during what became known as the Rivonia Trial, he and other ANC leaders found themselves facing life imprisonment. They were charged with guerrilla warfare and sabotage -- the equivalent of treason -- and for planning an invasion of South Africa. Mandela admitted only to sabotage. However, he, along with eight other defendants, received a life sentence.
The Political Prisoner Mandela would spend 27 years in
prison, 18 of them on Robben Island, off the Cape Town coast. While he received the harsh treatment as a black political prisoner, he was able to earn a bachelor of laws degree through a University of London correspondence course. His mother and a son died in the late 1960s, but Mandela was not allowed to attend their funerals.
In a 1981 memoir, South African MOURNING AN ICON PAGE 15
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