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Basketball Fan 04-17-2013 11:13 AM

Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke

Bulls Star Joakim Noah Joins Film About Fallen Basketball Phenom Lenny Cooke (Exclusive)

The All-Star center is a one-time teammate of the Tribeca Film Festival-premiering documentary's subject, who went from being considered the next Magic Johnson to total flame out.

Joakim Noah is teaming up with Lenny Cooke once again, albeit in very different circumstances.

The Bulls' All-Star center has boarded the documentary about the former basketball phenom as a producer, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The film, simply titled Lenny Cooke, charts the rise and fall of a high school athlete once thought to be the next Magic Johnson, only to fall victim to the easy lure of money and hangers-on that often seize like vultures on promising prospects. The film will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Noah, still new to the United States after emigrating from France, played with Cooke -- two years his senior -- for the AAU team The Panthers in 1999.
"Lenny has always been one of my biggest inspirations as a basketball player," Noah says. "His story always reminds me to keep my eyes on the prize and to keep distractions away."
Cooke declared for the NBA draft in 2002, despite high profile college opportunities, and his decline in play, and the distractions around him, led him to go undrafted. After making an effort in the NBA's Developmental League and the USBL, he blew out both of his knees, and now works as a cook in his native New Jersey.
"I hope Lenny will push his story out to the next generation of kids who aspire to one day play competitive basketball at any level," Noah added. "If his story can make an impact on just one or two kids who have the opportunity to see the film, I believe we'll be making a difference."
Noah, who was just 5'9 when he played with Cooke, grew to 6'11. He won two national championships while at the University of Florida, and was named an NBA All-Star this past season.

Real Men Wear Green 04-17-2013 11:24 AM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
Cooke the cook. Not the NBA but at least he's not breaking law.

9512 04-17-2013 11:25 AM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
How unfair life can be.

We got Lennie Cooke who now cooks.

Then we got some 5 foot 9 dude from France who shoots up to 6 foot 11 and makes millions.

Hoopz2332 04-17-2013 02:21 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
lebron took lenny's soul:coleman:

Rake2204 04-17-2013 02:45 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
Always thought this was an interesting Lenny Cooke clip, titled, "Remember When We Played With Lenny Cooke?". Cooke transferred into this guy's school in 2001 and as you all know, he was NBA-talent-in-waiting at that time. Can you imagine someone like that randomly moving in and joining your team?

I'm pretty sure if I were a high school guy coming through that program and maybe being its primetime player, I'd have been a little immature and jealous when a random NBA prospect came to town and started selling out my gym and throwing down alley-oops on the very first play.

tomtucker 04-17-2013 03:51 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke

Originally Posted by Hoopz2332
lebron took lenny's soul:coleman:

angel heart !

Da KO King 04-17-2013 04:08 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
A shame what adults with a shady agenda can do to a young guy's life/dreams.

tin man 04-17-2013 04:48 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
big deal, they could make these types of doc about any basketball pheom

ErhnamDjinn 04-17-2013 05:24 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
I remember when Lenny came to the Phil. to play i the PBA he was highly touted and beasted in most of his games, he just didnt have the right team that time.

Jyap9675 04-17-2013 05:57 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
6'9 with handles.. so why wasn't this guy drafted?

Rake2204 04-17-2013 06:24 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke

Originally Posted by Jyap9675
6'9 with handles.. so why wasn't this guy drafted?

There's a good article about him from last year that provides some insight.


Vaccaro recalled a conversation with Cooke — a lecture, really — in which he warned him about making a good impression in Chicago, not doing anything to fuel the already burning speculation.

“I told him, ‘Every N.B.A. scout is here, and they’re watching you,’ ” Vaccaro said. “I said, ‘If you’re going to do something stupid, don’t do it this week, or do it in your room.’ And what happens? It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, people are hanging around in the lobby of the Hyatt, and here comes Lenny with his entourage, all the partiers, all the jewelry. I said: ‘What the hell are you doing? We talked about this.’ ”

Cooke by that time was driving a new Mercedes and with Bortner had distanced himself from his personal documentarian — though not before Shopkorn recorded his choreographed declaration for the N.B.A. draft at Junior’s restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. Tears rolled down Cooke’s cheeks as he held his young son, Anahijae, and told reporters that he was ready to run with the world’s best.

June 26, 2002. Cooke waited anxiously at a Manhattan hotel, expecting his name to be called in the lower part of the first round or early in the second. Yao Ming was the first pick that night, going to Houston. Stoudemire, one of Cooke’s main rivals in his grade, went ninth to Phoenix, also out of high school. The night dragged on. Players Cooke had never heard of — some from countries he had never heard of — were selected, 58 in all.

“I waited, I waited, I waited,” he said. “Like on Christmas Day, you think you’re getting this toy, and then Christmas comes, it’s not under the tree. It breaks you down emotionally. I broke down, realized I got bad advice. But you wonder, why not? Why didn’t my name get called?”

No longer a commodity, no longer surrounded by those seeking to cash in on an prospective fortune, Cooke was soon looking for new representation and a place to play. He tried the new N.B.A. developmental vehicle, known as the D-League, but carried a star’s sense of entitlement. Or maybe it was a case of not enough desire. In one of Shopkorn’s many recorded scenes, Cooke responded to a request for a 6:30 a.m. training session at a camp with incredulity, wondering why the start time couldn’t be changed to 8.



midatlantic09 04-17-2013 07:12 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke

Originally Posted by Rake2204



Yea, but he still got dat fresh shapeup doe.

Hoopz2332 04-29-2013 10:48 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
More backstory


Lenny Cooke & LeBron James: The Shot That Altered Basketball History

At the time, not a soul realized a Lenny Cooke vs. LeBron James matchup in the 2001 ABCD title game would ultimately alter the course of basketball for the next decade. And beyond.

The summer of 2001 was trademarked by sheer dominance. Coming off the heels of their second consecutive championship and a postseason run forever remembered by dictator-like dominance, Kobe Bryant’s stock was through the roof. He was the high school kid who made the jump to the NBA only to find a few speed bumps of bad press but a seeming neverending surplus of success, more than fellow high schoolers-turned-All Stars Kevin Garnett or Tracy McGrady. He was 21 with two championships under his belt and during LA’s 15-1 playoff run, he put up 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals a night on the biggest stages possible. This included going going toe-to-toe with Allen Iverson and 48-point, 16-rebound closeout game in Sacramento. So, yes, having Kobe serve as the keynote speaker at the 2001 ABCD camp – the same camp where he took home 1995 MVP honors – was as close to a no brainer as there was at the time.

The four-day extravaganza in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, was littered with a who’s-who of NBA talent, including current scoring champion Carmelo Anthony who was entering his senior year at Oak Hill Academy. In the stands sat future national champion and the present-day heart of the Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah. At 13-years-old, Noah told the New York Times last year his eye was only focused on one player, then-prodigy Lenny Cooke. “He was really my hero because the way he could dominate a game was unbelievable to me.”

For good reason, too. Standing at 6’6, Lenny was the star of the camp and he – more than James or Anthony at the time – was the “can’t miss” prospect. He was blessed with an outside touch, as well as an inside buffet of moves capable enough to wear defenders down throughout the course of a game. Plus, he entered the 2001 camp as the reigning MVP; an honor which came with its fair share of consequences.

Following Kobe’s words of wisdom – both useful and prophetic – the games tipped off. Throughout the camp, Cooke continued to impress both pro scouts and colleges coaches in attendance (and his challenge to play Kobe one-on-one became the stuff of legend around ABCD). His team defeated Carmelo’s en route to the championship game and – as the story has painted since – the most important basketball moment in Lenny’s life. Melo admitted looking back Cooke was was the player everyone in the camp admired. He played like the number one prospect in the country and a guy destined for inevitable superstardom; he went as far to refer to him as “kind of like Magic.”

Melo left the day before the championship game. Throughout the camp, members of LeBron’s entourage had planted bugs to nearly anyone who’d listen that James was the true star of ABCD. Some entertained the thought, some – like Louisville’s Rick Pitino believed the hype from the moment he dropped his first no-look dime – and some showed a tad-bit more restraint. After all, high school talent came a dime-a-dozen, and claims of the next great transcendent talent emerge every year.

Cooke’s undeniable moment of glory came when he rocked LeBron several times on a crossover and then nailed the jumper. The gym erupted – including an uber-ecstatic Joakim – but LeBron owned the game. James ran the floor better, passed better, rebounded better, played on-court general better, anticipated the passing lanes better and ran out to a 21-9 scoring advantage over Lenny. In an eerie representation of LeBron’s first several years in the NBA, however, his team still trailed by two in the closing seconds.

Expecting LeBron to attack the basket, Cooke was caught off guard when James elevated from the three-point line hitting nothing but the bottom of the net. James walked off the court with a newfound aura of invincibility and suddenly the narrative of the entire camp shifted into his favor. His camp looked like geniuses. Cooke, so befuddled by the moment, could only utter the quote, “How’d he make that? Oh my God.” Give or take a curse word here and there.*

Both Carmelo and ABCD founder Sonny Vaccaro agreed through one way or another, Lenny was never the same after LeBron came on his turf and waxed the floor with him. “After that, we just didn’t hear very much about him,” said Anthony. The next fall and spring resulted in a tale of two explicitly different high school careers; one destined for pop culture legend and the other for self-inflicted destruction.

Still believing the hype those pumped in his ear, Cooke flashed jewelry, drove expensive cars and declared for the NBA draft largely because his academic career had dropped off the face of the Earth. Lenny never played his senior year in high school aside from all-star games. In one of the more sombering and embarrasing moments of any draft prospect, Cooke announced his plans to go pro at Brooklyn’s famous restaurant, Junior’s. Only on June 26, 2002, he was never selected. His sense of what has been dubbed “entitlement” and an overall loss of enthusiasm for the game was evident as he drove himself to the D-League, European ball and eventually out the game as a whole.

LeBron, on the other hand, wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated his junior year taking Cooke’s place as the premiere high school basketball miracle-monster in America. He even caught 61 passes for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns as a wide receiver, earning All-State honors. While Cooke was effectively driving his career into the ground, James ascended his into the heavens with his high school games moonlighting as ESPN circus events. The thirst for his impending leap to the NBA reached levels of unprecented anticipation, not witnessed before or after since. And over the course of the next decade, LeBron morphed himself into an irreplacable figure in basketball’s hierarchy. Fifty years from now, however, when historians attempt to trace the moment when LeBron hoisted himself into the national consciousness, it was that moment in New Jersey at the Adidas ABCD Basketball Camp in 2001 where they’ll come to an agreement that the game took on another facelift changing forever. Six weeks before Aaliyah’s passing and eight before 9/11, LeBron James became a star.

Lenny Cooke never received his opportunity to play against LeBron, Carmelo, Kobe or even Joakim in the pros. His story became arguably the biggest example as to why the NBA and NCAA implemented the mandatory one-year college rule after the 2004 draft. Following years of being unable to watch LeBron, Cooke has since come to grips with the fact this was the way the story was supposed to pan out. “As long as every time I go on the Internet and somebody is talking about Lenny and LeBron, I guess my name’s still being mentioned with this guy — you know what I’m saying? Give my kids something to read, some way to know without me telling them that I was there with LeBron, a guy with a $100 million contract. It used to bother me when they said, ‘Lenny Cooke was supposed to be something and he isn’t.’ Not anymore. I’m living my life.”

Perhaps the story of LeBron, but more so Lenny represents the intoxicating risk that is being so talented at a game that can feed one’s family for decades if handled correctly. LeBron James is so celebrated because there are so many Lenny Cookes in the world. That supremely talented genetic freak from high school who seemes guaranteed for fame and fortune. Only to find out basketball can turn dreams into reality, but even quicker it can leave a young man in a state of confusion and depression many never emerge from. A bad decision at an impressionable age can turn destiny into fate, and potential into despair.

Cooke’s life isn’t terribly bad, though. The subject of his own self-titled documentary – directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, executively produced by Joakim Noah and scored by Boi-1da – has resulted in three sold out viewings at the Tribeca Film Festival. Each earned a standing ovation. Conceivably now, the story of the kid who dominated high school basketball headlines 12 years ago will rightfully have his memoir told from the meteoric highs, to the depressing lows and everything in between. And if we’re lucky, maybe the shot that changed the course of basketball history will finally surface.

Hoopz2332 04-29-2013 10:49 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke


It was the summer of 2001, weeks before 9/11, and Cooke returned to the popular ABCD Camp for the nation’s most prominent high school players at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Teaneck, N.J., campus as the defending most valuable player, the presumed chosen one.

“He was coming from being the No. 1 player in the country, and we all looked at Lenny like that,” said Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn but relocated to Baltimore. “It was his size, how strong he was, how he could pass the ball and play the point, kind of like Magic, I guess. He was really explosive.”

Anthony’s team was defeated by Cooke’s group. Cooke dazzled the packed gym and set up a showdown between him and a lesser-known player who was generating interest and who was one grade behind Cooke. His name was LeBron James, out of Akron, Ohio, a comparative basketball backwater.

During the camp, a person in the James entourage noticed Shopkorn’s shadowing Cooke and wanted to know why. When Shopkorn told him, the James ally said: “You should come up to Akron and shoot LeBron. He’s the real deal.”

Shopkorn declined the offer, electing to go with the known commodity, or at least the commodity he knew.

“Lenny was local, so you had all the media outlets there, all the newspapers, all the scouts and coaches,” Shopkorn said. “There was this buildup to the game, and it kind of took on a life of its own.”

Sitting in the stands with Debbie Bortner that day, Joakim Noah says he remembers Cooke’s climactic moment — crossing over James on the dribble several times before draining a midrange jumper. The gym erupted, but it was only the first half of a game that would go down to the last possession, a much leaner James with the ball and his team trailing by 2.

James had already outscored Cooke, 21-9, but he saved his best for last. Guarded by Cooke, he dribbled out of the backcourt, to his right. Just as he approached the 3-point line, with a step on Cooke, James went airborne, kicked his feet back and floated the ball toward the rim. He hit nothing but net — game over — while Cooke’s jaw dropped.

“How’d he make that?” he said to a friend afterward, mixing in profanity. “Oh my God.”

Sonny Vaccaro, the former sneaker company executive who founded the camp, was stunned to learn that Shopkorn had footage of what he considered to be a historic shot. He called it the “one physical moment that symbolized the beginning of LeBron and the downfall of Lenny Cooke.”

“He beat Lenny on his own turf,” Vaccaro said. “I mean, you can say it was one shot, one game, but in a way, Lenny never recovered.”

James would land on the cover of Sports Illustrated and star in a nationally televised high school game on ESPN. With his scholastic eligibility exhausted, Cooke was limited during his senior year to all-star classics and pickup games.

He would never again be considered the next brand name. Anthony, who left New Jersey the day before the Cooke-James showdown, said, “After that, we just didn’t hear very much about him.”

PrettyCool 04-29-2013 10:58 PM

Re: Joakim Noah joins film about fallen phenom Lenny Cooke
^^^^Did young Pauk write that huge essay about a meaningless block in a meaningless game?

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