Over the course of history, hundreds of gifted basketball players have been cut short and left out of their ultimate goal of making it to the NBA, either because or health issues, lack of discipline or just because they weren’t lucky enough.
With just 450 roster spots in all of the NBA, you have to literally be one on a million to have the chance to actually play a single NBA minute, regardless of how good you’ve been throughout your youth years.
Some young men are so over themselves due to their incredible talents and all the praise and hype they get from peers and rivals, that they feel like they’ve already made it and don’t need to put a lot of effort in order to reach basketball’s ultimate stage, and that winds up being their biggest mistake.
Lenny Cooke is yet another example of the gifted, yet the arrogant young man that feels like he’s a millionaire before even signing his first paycheck as a professional baller, a guy that completely wasted his talents out of pure laziness and undisciplined.
Being a physical specimen with a ballerina-like footwork and sweet touch from short, mid and long range, Cooke was drawing comparisons with some of the game’s best players at the time, such as Kobe Bryant and Amar’e Stoudemire, and was even considered to be better than Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
Averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds a game at La Salle High school, Cooke was a star in the making keen to live as a man among men but was pretty much uncoachable. He was always late for practice and didn’t care about what anybody had to say, he thought he was going to make it out of mere talents, and oh boy, he was wrong as hell.
Lenny finally had the chance to demonstrate that he was the best prospect in the country, going against LeBron James on the ABCD Camp Finals, but James eventually outplayed him with a great team effort rather than Cooke’s isolation and flashy plays.
According to CBS Local Sports:
Many believe that Cooke’s life changed in high school when he went head to head with LeBron James at ABCD’s high school basketball tournament. In the closing seconds of a game, Cooke’s team had the lead and possession of the basketball. James stole the ball, scored on a fast break and won the game. That play introduced the world to the Akron, Ohio baller who was later featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the cover titled, ‘The Chosen One.’
“My kids like LeBron James now,” joked Cooke. “He’s earned everything he’s gotten and taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. How can I be mad at him? He built his brand the right way!”
Cooke also shared with the Philadelphia crowd that the 76ers were one of his biggest suitors during the NBA Draft process. He also admitted that not showing up for team workouts hindered his draft stock and he admits that his arrogance were some of the many reasons that teams were put off by him. Cooke was adamant about the new crop of talent entering the sports workforce. He emphasized that knowing what they’re getting into is the key to having a successful career, something he now knows and he advises parent and coaches t o keep a close watch.
“Just keep positive energy with your child,” Cooke said. “Keep them out of the way of all of the negativity that you can. Focus on other things than just basketball with them. Because at the end of the day, you’re going to spend more time off the court than on the court. I try to tell kids: ‘what do you want after basketball?’ I’m still learning that.”
Cooke was forced to drop out of high school as he had already reached the age of 19, taking money and gifts from agents that lure him to Michigan where he was supposedly going to make the jump to the pros, something that obviously, never happened.
He decided to work out on his own and declare for the 2002 NBA Draft despite not playing competitive basketball in over 18 months, but his name was never called after just a handful of journalists decided to attend his press conference stating that he was ready for the pros.
Spending some time overseas and making it to a Summer League roster, Cooke was never able to actually prove that he was better than James, who had cooked him a year earlier.
Nowadays, Cooke doesn't play professional basketball after suffering a major leg injury in a traffic accident, so he has to settle for shooting some hoops with his friends on Lower East Side Brooklyn.
Check the video below.