Lenny Cooke was arguably the best high school basketball player in the nation during a time when the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire were also making some noise in the prep ranks. Cooke had it all—NBA-ready body, size, inside/outside game, athleticism, handle, and vision. However, he also lived the NBA type of life before getting to the L—women, entitlement, and materialistic things.
The documentary “Lenny Cooke” is a cautionary tale about being so good in high school that you no longer work to get to a higher level. Kobe Bryant, a player that made it big-time in the NBA, was also a high school phenom, but luckily had great and sensible support from his parents, his father being a former NBA professional. In the trailer below, Bryant warns Cooke and other high school stars about making basketball their means of happiness and (in)famously, Cooke challenged Kobe to a one-on-one game. The documentary is produced by the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah, who as a player a few years younger than Cooke, admired him immensely. Check the trailer:
It was at the 2001 ABCD camp that Cooke’s reign of being highly-touted would make way to LeBron James, who was a year behind Cooke. During that title game, LeBron scored more than double the points that Cooke did (24-9), but more importantly, LeBron raised up on Cooke at the three-point line and made the game-winning basket for the one-point victory. Many believe it was after this that Cooke lost all of his power, stripped with one shot from James.
The following year, Cooke declared for the NBA Draft straight out of high school. He held a press conference at Brooklyn’s famous Junior’s Cheesecake joint, but the NBA wasn’t biting as Cooke wasn’t picked. In 2003, LeBron was the first overall pick.
“Lenny Cooke” has sold out and received standing ovations at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival recently, and while this isn’t the rain of applause Cooke was hoping for, it seems it will be the only one he’ll get.