NBA fans who see the new movie “Linsanity” are going to see a side of basketball they will never see on the court or watching ESPN. That is because this film project actually started with plans for a web series about the life of a student athlete when Jeremy Lin was a junior at Harvard University. In 2009, no one knew whether Lin would even be recruited by an NBA team, let alone become one of the best known star athletes of this generation.
The behind the scenes footage shows facets of Lin’s basketball career that are almost never discussed outside confidential discussions between athletes and sports agents. While Lin managed to get into an Ivy League University that accepts only seven percent of its applicants and graduated with a respectable 3.1 GPA, he was not groomed for career success in the NBA and took a long journey around the edges of professional basketball. Two years later, he was a point guard with the New York Knicks and a scoring sensation.
“Linsanity” shows Jeremy Lin attending the 2010 NBA draft selection event with high hopes and walking away empty handed. His entrée into professional basketball was to play at the Dallas Mavericks Summer camp, honing the skills of the elite players who had actually made the grade with the NBA.
Lin’s next step in professional basketball came with a lucky break, mixed with a lot of behind the scenes disappointments. Lin got his big break to play in the NBA because Joe Lacob, a venture capitalist from the Palo Alto, California area where Lin grew up bought the Golden State Warriors in 2010. Lacob remembered Lin from his days as a California All State basketball champion and appreciated the marketing benefits of adding an admired hometown hero to the Warriors’ player roster. Getting a contract with an NBA team did not get Lin that far. The rookie did not get many chances to play on the court at Golden State Warriors games and spent more time playing for the minor league Reno Bighorns with other players who also yearned for a career in professional basketball.
The 2011 NBA labor dispute and cancellation of the fall season brought Lin close to the end of a professional basketball career. An end to the dispute gave him a last chance to try his best as a free agent with the New York Knicks. His 2012 stats for scoring and passing soon reached record territory and have kept him among America’s most admired pro basketball players ever since.
This unvarnished view of muscling in on an NBA career shows a much less glamorous side of pro sports than viewers see when sophisticated public relations pros carefully package what the public gets to see. Viewers see religious dedication following Lin around the court while he asks himself “What would Jesus do?” Footage also includes Lin doing his own laundry and the 6 foot 10 inch player trying to get some sleep on a friend’s six foot couch when he could not afford his own apartment in New York.
This intriguing story is repeating itself with the “let’s give it a try” national release of “Linsanity” in theaters. The program opened Friday October 4 in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. Theaters were packed to capacity, but not through the usual saturation newspaper and television spots that drive big budget films. Ticket sales were driven by social media, the media that became the foundation for Jeremy Lin’s worldwide popularity. Lin has 1.2 million followers on Facebook – that could sell a lot of movie tickets. The expected release date for the “Linsanity” DVD is January 2014.