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(Courtesy photo) A scene from "Linsanity," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance: Making of ‘Linsanity’ as insane as Lin’s rise to fame
Profile » Filmmaker started documenting Lin years before he became NBA phenom.
First Published Jan 24 2013 09:25 pm • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:33 pm

The backstory of "Linsanity" is almost as amazing as Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise to worldwide fame.

Evan Jackson Leong started working on the documentary years before Lin became an NBA star. Years before he even sniffed pro basketball. He started when Lin was an unknown college basketball player.

At a glance

‘Linsanity’

The film about the all-Ivy League Harvard basketball player who rose to fame after not being drafted out of Harvard, and bouncing around the NBA until he landed in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks in Feb. 2012.

Saturday, Jan. 26, 6 p.m. » Temple Theatre, Park City

Sunday, Jan. 27, 6:30 p.m. » Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City

Need a ticket » Most screenings are sold out, so try hitting the box office at 8 a.m. to seek day-of release tickets (Trolley Square, 700 E. 600 South, Salt Lake City; Gateway Center, 138 Heber Ave., Park City; or Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden). Or get in the wait-list line at the theater two hours before the screening.

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"We heard about him, actually, when he was at Harvard — when he was tearing it up and doing a lot of great things," Leong said. "So we approached him, and in the beginning he didn’t really want the cameras on him. He didn’t want to be a reality star. But we persevered."

Leong had no inkling what they had on their hands. That, in the space of two weeks in early 2012, Lin would go from being an unknown to being just about as known as anybody in the NBA, thanks to a hot playing streak that landed him in the starting lineup of the New York Knicks.

"To have a turn like this in a documentary is the dream of any filmmaker," Leong said. "But when we approached him, we already thought it was a fantastic story. Him making it to Harvard was farther than any of us had ever made it."

The filmmaker was thinking about the students who might see the documentary — that it could inspire them to reach for the Ivy League and beyond. And, despite Lin’s not getting drafted out of Harvard, and bouncing around the NBA and being waived by several teams, "just when he got into the NBA, that was a great story. It was amazing that he got that far."

But as they were filming, Leong and his team didn’t really have an ending. "In February last year, he gave us an ending."

The documentary includes a postscript indicating that Lin has since signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. Which is another pretty happy ending.

For the filmmaker, getting into the Sundance Film Festival was a happy ending of his own. "This is an amazing opportunity," he said. "This is any director’s dream. I was speechless when I found out we got in."

spierce@sltrib.com


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