Linsanity movie: hoops, hopes, Harvard, heaven

Posted December 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

by Rusty Wright

Ever feel like giving up on your dreams? Basketball star Jeremy Lin understands.

Linsanity – the new documentary of Lin’s electrifying basketball career (opens October 4) – will inspire you. After viewing it, I can understand why a screening at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival got a standing ovation.

It’s a feel-good underdog tale with plenty of hope and faith for anyone who’s contemplated caving in to life’s disappointments. Plus lots of exciting hoops action.

Success, then Rejection

A star high school player in Palo Alto, California, Lin received no college scholarship offers. A basketball whiz at Harvard, no NBA team drafted him.

Did his Asian-American heritage have anything to do with this? Lin’s parents were born and raised in Taiwan. Fans could be ugly, even in the sophisticated Ivy League. “You chink; can you even open your eyes?” and other racist slurs followed him.

After the NBA’s rigorous summer league, Golden State and later Houston signed, then cut, him – once on Christmas Day. He felt like quitting.

The New York Knicks picked him up, but he played little, even in practice. His coach finally gave him significant minutes against Boston, but he performed poorly.

Garden Party: A Magical Night

Lin sensed that the following game could be his last. His contract was about to expire. There were clues from the coach that he might get cut. He was still a transient in NYC, sleeping on his brother’s couch.

That next game against New Jersey became a magical night in Madison Square Garden as he lit up the scoreboard and led his team to an unlikely victory. As an announcer put it, “The hero from Harvard [had] the game of his life.” His teammates swarmed him.

The magic continued for six more wins in a row. He broke records for new starters. “Linsanity” gripped New York and the media universe. TIME and Sports Illustrated featured him on their covers. NBA fans worldwide – especially in Asia – ate it up. “The best story in sports today,” opined one commentator.

Buzzer Beaters

Linsanity has plenty of thrilling basketball action. For hoops fans, seeing Lin’s game-winning, triple-overtime, on-the-run, buzzer-beating 3-pointer for Harvard against William and Mary is worth the cost of admission. His NBA game-winning 3-pointer at Toronto is etched in Lin-lore.

But this film carries much more than sports thrills. We see a sensitive human wrestling with doubts, insecurities, and anxiety – learning to cope with setbacks and working out the life philosophy that he’s chosen.

His Harvard coach, former Duke standout Tommy Amaker, lauds Jeremy’s hard work, devotion to the game, and talent: “He was very much underrated … He’s a hard charging, aggressive, fearless player.”

Can You Believe It?

Sometimes overlooked amid the hoopla is that Lin’s faith is central to his life. At his basketball academy, he tells kids that understanding God’s love “and that He has a perfect plan for me” helped sustain him when he wanted to quit: “His plan will take me through a lot of ups and downs. But if I stay faithful to Him, in the end I know that He’s going to work everything for my good.”

He cites a favorite biblical affirmation: “…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit….”

His faith has helped him handle both racist scorn and player trash talk with grace and dignity, and persevere to demonstrate his considerable skills.

Sport often furnishes metaphors for life. Jeremy Lin’s example provides life lessons that profit and inspire.