The year was 2001, and the high school basketball scene included some players you have probably heard of before.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were highly touted prospects who would all go on to become household names at the NBA level. James is even included in many conversations about the greatest players of all time.
However, there was one player who you may not have heard of that had more hype surrounding him at the time than all of those future pros.
That player was Lenny Cooke, and he never once was given the opportunity to step on the court at the NBA level. A documentary from filmmaking brothers Joshua and Benny Safdie depicting Cooke’s fall from the spotlight will air on Showtime on Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The trailer can be found here: http://www.lennycookemovie.com/ (trailer is NSFW at 1:34 mark due to strong language).
Interestingly enough, Chicago Bulls’ center Joakim Noah was a teammate of Cooke’s at the AAU level and is listed as an “executive producer” of the documentary.
Noah told Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com the following:
I'm proud to be a part of this. Lenny is like a brother to me. I don't think he realizes the impact he had on me.
I think it's very hard to put your story out there, not just your good times, but your hardships.
I think Lenny's doing that. I hope that he can use this documentary as a tool to help young kids.
The movie gives audience a glance into the life of Cooke, from the fame that came too fast to his struggles with unemployment as an adult. It could serve as a warning to all basketball prospects who are given fame and the keys to the world before they are ready to drive.
Not surprisingly, Cooke dealt with many distractions as a teenager with so much fame. The film chronicles how many people simply wanted a piece of him when he was famous but were not around when times were difficult.
Jahlil Okafor is one prospect who will likely heed the film’s warning. He is one of the most highly regarded high school prospects in the Class of 2014 and will be joining Mike Krzyzewski at Duke next year.
Okafor saw the film and commented on it to Greenberg:
I loved the film. It's heartbreaking to see how amazing he was. That moment when he was in the garage crying, it was heartbreaking to me. It's really humbling with him being in the same position I'm in right now, with him saying everybody wanted to be his friend. It's very eye-opening.
If the documentary does nothing else but open up the eyes of the country’s top prospects like it did for Okafor, it will be a success.
Note: More information can be found on the film’s official website here:
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