It is one of the most improbable and incredible stories in sports history.
February 2012. Jeremy Lin is sitting at the end of the bench for the NBA's New York Knicks. Lin, a wiry 6-3 guard, rarely played. And the Knicks, one of the league's worst teams, were ready to let him go.
But within a matter of just a few days, Lin suddenly, surprisingly, stunningly became the Best Basketball Player on Earth. Seriously. For two weeks, nobody could stop him, as he led the Knicks to seven straight wins while averaging 25 points per game.
It was jaw-dropping. Few people had ever even heard of Lin, the NBA's first ever Asian-American. When you're a benchwarmer, nobody knows your name.
And then, boom, everybody knew his name. Knicks fans went knuts. Asian-Americans celebrated. Christian Americans joined the party, because Lin was vocal about his faith.
The media went crazy. Headlines every morning. The lead highlights on ESPN's SportsCenter every night. The big topic on talk radio. YouTube galore.
"Linsanity" had exploded.
It's a too-good-to-be-true story that's almost impossible to mess up.
Alas, the new documentary Linsanity falls far short of the wonder that captivated the world almost two years ago.
And that's part of the problem. While it was an amazing story, it wasn't long before it faded into the background, especially as Lin's productivity slowed down and he became just another average player. Within months, it already seemed like another "15-minutes-of-fame" thing. When the season ended, the Knicks decided to let him go. He ultimately ended up in Houston, where he's now the Rockets' starting point guard. But almost two years have passed since his story mesmerized everyone.
There's no statute of limitations on re-telling a great story in film. But some just don't hold up well over time. In the case of Linsanity, the documentary is nowhere near as interesting as its source material. It feels like a series of home movies edited and patched together by a competent team of high school A/V nerds.
Director Evan Jackson Leong didn't bring much experience to the project, which was made for $125,000 from a Kickstarter campaign. Leong's brief resume included a 2009 short film called Manivore, in which a young woman invites men for dinner, and then has them for dinner (its website was, no kidding, EatAMan.com). He'd also done a documentary in 2010 called 1040: Christianity in the New Asia.
You didn't need the credentials of Werner Herzog or Ken Burns to make a good documentary out of this story. But sloppy editing, a lack of detail and explanation, and a frequently over-the-top dramatic score ("This is a sad scene!" "This is a challenging stretch that our protagonist will have to overcome!" "This is one of those big exciting moments that borders on linsanity!") prevent the film from reaching anything near its full potential.