Directed by: Frank Chi
Distributed by: HBO Max
Written by Patrick Hao
As a long-suffering Knicks fan, there is nothing like Madison Square Garden when the Knicks are good. I was there for the ten-game stretch ten years ago when undrafted 12th-man Jeremy Lin led the Knicks on a historic run. As an Asian American who liked sports, Linsanity meant something, not only as a Knicks fan but as someone who rarely had Asian American sports heroes. (Fun fact, my high school made up of 72% Asian Americans tried to get Jeremy Lin to come speak at our commencement ceremony including this cringe-worthy video. He said no.)
“38 at the Garden” is a 38-minute short (see what they did there) that contextualizes the Linsanity moment and its legacy since. The film features talking heads from the subject Jeremy Lin, to other Asian American pop culture figures recounting the stretch of games, including Lisa Ling, Pablo Torre, and Hasan Minhaj.
Construction-wise, this documentary feels like a non-Jon Bois SB-Nation video mixed with Vox’s incessant graphics. The 38 at the Garden refers to the game Jeremy Lin had against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in which he scored 38 points against the heavily favored team after Kobe made statements about not caring about who Jeremy Lin even was. Recaps of contemporaneous NBA and news footage at the time make the film best served as a nostalgia trip.
Then there are attempted insights into Anti-Asian American racism that feels very Intro to Asian American Studies because of how surface level it is. When director Frank Chi attempts to tie that into the recent trend of Anti-Asian hate, it is inorganic. Maybe 38-minutes is not the right length to weave such a complex topic. The only moment of insight is when Jeremy Lin recounted some of the racist experiences he had as he attempted to enter the league. Unfortunately, that is too few and far between.
“38 at the Garden” works well as a memento and testament to a moment. As a film that offers new insight both into Jeremy Lin as a basketball player or into the Asian American experience, “38 at the Garden” offers very little.