News / Arts & Entertainment

'Linsanity' Details Rise of Asian-American Basketball Star

Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin (7) drives the ball around Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll (5) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Nov. 27, 2013, in Houston, Texas.
Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin (7) drives the ball around Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll (5) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Nov. 27, 2013, in Houston, Texas.
Heidi Chang
A record 92 foreign players from 39 countries began this season in the professional U.S. basketball league, but none is from Asia.

At the moment, there is only one Asian-American player in the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) and his name is Jeremy Lin.

Unlikely journey

A new documentary, Linsanity, follows Lin's unlikely journey to become a breakout NBA star last season.
 
Born and raised in California, Lin has always loved the game and even led his high school basketball team to the state championship. But no college offered him an athletic scholarship.

Lin ended up playing at Harvard, a school known for its academics, where he broke Ivy League basketball records. Still, no NBA team drafted him.

Jeremy Lin, right, playing college basketball for Harvard in an NCAA basketball game in Boston, Dec. 9, 2009.Jeremy Lin, right, playing college basketball for Harvard in an NCAA basketball game in Boston, Dec. 9, 2009.
As Lin struggled to prove he could play in the professional league, a group of Asian-American filmmakers began documenting his rocky start.

Rocky start

"We started this four years ago. You know, as a filmmaking team we went through the same journey that he [Lin] went through," said Evan Jackson Leong, who directed the project. "You know, getting cut. As his downs were going down, we were also going down with our project, because no one really cared about what was going on with our project."
 
Leong kept the cameras rolling during some of Lin's darkest hours, even after the free agent point guard was cut twice from NBA teams. The filmmakers initially planned to create a web series about Lin, never imagining how things would turn out.
 
The documentary captures the story of an underdog trying to break through barriers in a sport where Asian-Americans are extremely rare. 

Breaking barriers

Lin recalls being on the receiving end of racial taunts from spectators and other players early in his career.   
 
"When I was growing up, I was playing in the AAU [amateur] tournaments. We’d be playing games, and a couple times people would be like, 'Yo, take your ass back to China,' or like 'You’re a Chinese import,' or whatever. When I got to college, it just, like, got crazy. 'You Chink, can you even open your eyes? Can you see the scoreboard?' You know, just like crazy stuff."
 
Despite it all, he fought to stay in the game. When the New York Knicks finally gave him a chance to play in 2012, no one expected he would lead his team on such an amazing winning streak, it would spark a global phenomenon known as "Linsanity.”
The Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin waves to Filipino fans upon arrival on Oct.7, 2013, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport south of Manila, Philippines, for the first NBA game ever played in the basketball-crazy Southeast Asian nation.The Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin waves to Filipino fans upon arrival on Oct.7, 2013, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport south of Manila, Philippines, for the first NBA game ever played in the basketball-crazy Southeast Asian nation.
The film recounts how Lin became an overnight media sensation and also how some members of the media used racial stereotypes and innuendos to describe him.

One ESPN broadcaster commented about Lin, "He’s handled everything very well as you said, unflappable. But if there’s a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?"

Changing perceptions
 
By breaking stereotypes, co-producer Brian Yang said Lin is changing perceptions and helping pave the way for more diversity in the sport.
 
"NBA teams are now giving other Asian-American athletes a second look," Yang said. "I think Jeremy's story has affected the way coaches and recruiters...think and that's important."

In the documentary, Lin credits his faith for guiding him throughout his journey. And that made it especially meaningful for his cousin, Allen Lu, who also helped produce the film.
 
"For me, the thing that I draw a lot from the journey that we’ve been through is that, is like, where do you draw your hope? Where do you draw your strength?," said Lu. "And for Jeremy and myself, and a lot of us here, you know, we’re Christians. And that’s where we draw our strength."
NBA star Jeremy Lin helps a young player during a basketball camp in Beijing, China, Aug. 25, 2013.NBA star Jeremy Lin helps a young player during a basketball camp in Beijing, China, Aug. 25, 2013.
Christopher Chen, another co-producer, was moved by the audience reaction when Linsanity premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

"We had always thought that after Linsanity [premiered], this will hopefully impact the Asian community, the Asian-American community," Chen said. "But what was most impactful to me is when you have middle-aged white women and Latino women, and older black gentlemen, coming up to us, [saying] 'Thank you for telling that story.' That was very inspirational."
 
Now 25, Jeremy Lin continues to inspire children and young people through his charitable foundation. And on the court, he’s now making millions of dollars playing for the Houston Rockets, one of the NBA teams that once cut him from its roster.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Steve Wolf from: California
December 09, 2013 1:05 AM
First, "chink in the armor" is a ubiquitous phrase, and was not meant as a racial slur. Logical people know this, and so when we read the section where it's stated that it was obvious racism, we roll our eyes and the rest of the piece loses credibility. And secondly, the person who commented that Lin made her now feel that "all the talented, beautiful people on TV don't have to be white", my god, there are so many other examples of Asian excellence than a basketball player in a primarily ALL BLACK work environment! Race is constantly being injected into places where it truly isn't the factor it's made out to be, which harms youth, who then pick up the habit, with the subsequent thoughts of "why even try?"

I'm sorry Lin heard a few racial epithets in his early years, but as a white bball player, I heard them non-stop from black people. Lin is not an inspiration to me because he is Chinese, he is because he persevered. BUT thousands if not millions of other white and black bball players did as well, only to disappear. Is that racism? Bad luck? Or ultimately just NOT ENOUGH overall talent to display once the perseverance gets you seen? Everything doesn't have to be racial just because somebody isn't white. And know this: whites experience a tremendous amount of racist actions. I probably have 20 stories for every one of Lin's. That's the dirty secret of this country right now.

Blacks and Mexicans are way more likely to act out with racial bias than whites. And that's why Lin said the taunts started with "Yo". He didn't say the taunters were black. But I will.
In Response

by: Vega from: Los Angeles
December 10, 2013 5:42 PM
Do you even know what you're talking about? You write: "BUT thousands if not millions of other white and black bball players did as well, only to disappear. Is that racism?" Name one. Lin is the first NBA player to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts. Also, look at the video of the ESPN sportscaster who made that statement - he clearly meant 'chink in the armor' in the pejorative.

by: lei from: Canada
December 05, 2013 2:29 PM
Thanks you VOA for posting this, very inspiring!
In Response

by: Whitman Lam from: Los Angeles
December 06, 2013 1:00 AM
Jeremy Lin is creating opportunities for Asians across the world. And now we have a new found confidence that we are just as interesting, beautiful, and talented as the White people we see on TV.

by: Corky Lee from: NYC
December 05, 2013 7:30 AM
It's important for VOA to finally post this story, kudos to Heidi Chang. However, I not so sure the NBA is giving Asian American players a 2nd look. They like major league baseball are looking directly to Asia for prospects, not the US. Lin does provide a gleamer of hope by keeping hope alive for Asian American kids....
In Response

by: BY from: Los Angeles
December 08, 2013 11:53 PM
Corky, is that you?! Disagreeing with what I said? LOL. It's not a floodgate thing, but it absolutely is an effect of what happened. And maybe not necessarily at the NBA level right away, but D1 colleges, even D2!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Hamilton Live: Dustbowl Revivali
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
September 02, 2015 12:19 PM
Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."

Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."