The NBA lockout season of 2011-12 was really 11 years ago.
Remember the LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant flag football game and the barnstorming tour the NBA stars went on playing in various gyms around the country? (I’m still upset that I missed them in Atlanta.)
Lockouts that were unavoidable for both the NBA and NFL resulted in the former’s second work stoppage in less than 15 years which resulted in missed games. The NBA returned on Christmas Day with one of the greatest sports promos ever made. That season, all eyes interested in the NBA were lasered onto the Big Three Miami Heat. They were upset by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, and if the Heat didn’t win the following season they would’ve gone down as the biggest, and most satisfying, disappointment in NBA history.
The game from that season that will be remembered forever is LeBron James’ 45-point, 15-rebound performance in a do-or-die Game 6 on the road against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, there was one story during that regular season that, for a time, removed the Heat from the cover of the national sports page. For most of February 2012, the biggest story in sports was Jeremy Lin.
His star got so hot that month that an offensive headline forced America to take inventory of the way it talked about Asian-Americans in mainstream media — back when the rejection or embracing of decency didn’t decide so many elections. For those of us who remember Linsanity, it may not feel like it was that long ago, but more than 10 years later there are now adults who are only vaguely familiar with February 2012. For their introduction — and for the rest of us, a ride in the Delorean — HBO is releasing a documentary about Linsanity titled “38 in the Garden.” The title comes from Lin’s 38 points in a New York Knicks victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 10, 2012.
I was working my second job out of college when Linsanity began to engulf America. One of my coworkers was from New York, and another was a Harvard grad. They had a lot to say about Lin at work, but I had no interest in news about the Knicks — especially with Carmelo Anthony recovering from injury. Linsanity didn’t hook me until four days after the Lakers game, when he buried that top-of-the-key 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining on the road against the Toronto Raptors, and the crowd erupted as if the play had been made by Demar DeRozan.
Linsanity came for everybody. For a brief period, the Knicks had the most recognizable player in sports, and he was a player who was waived by Monta Ellis’ Golden State Warriors and Kyle Lowry’s Houston Rockets. With ESPN’s 30 for 30 series premiering in 2009, I knew that a documentary would one day be made about this moment in time. I was also worried that a major outlet would make one too quickly, especially if Lin did not become an NBA star, which he didn’t.
There was only a few years’ distance between the airing of “Press Play,” “Run Ricky Run,” and “Four Octobers” and when those events played out in real life, and those were very entertaining. However, the best 30 for 30 films from that initial group were “The Two Escobars,” “The U,” “Pony Express,” and “The Best That Never Was.” More than a decade had passed before each of those documentaries aired.
There was a documentary released in 2013 titled “Linsanity” that received mixed reviews. The critics didn’t hate it, but 2013 was far too soon to try to encapsulate everything that made Lin balling out with the Knicks so riveting and important both athletically and culturally.
America is a far different place in Fall 2022 than it was at the beginning of 2012. Cable television was unstoppable and ESPN was just beginning to challenge HBO in the sports documentary market. Now, there are major sporting events solely on streaming networks and sports documentaries are released more often than new Air Jordan colorways. Also, Lin is out of the NBA, and the Knicks… well some things never change. They’re still nowhere near title contention.
With these unstable times, including a recent rise in attacks against Asians in America, now is the right time for a thorough look back at one of the most exciting Knicks runs since their 1999 NBA Finals appearance.