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BETTER THAN LEBRON? Two decades ago, many scouts considered Lennie Cooke the #1 player in the nation.

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Today, he is just an overweight guy who barely moves. Barely enough to see the highlights of the 2020 NBA playoffs, especially the ones which feature the player who could be the GOAT - LeBron James. Deep inside him, he knows that it could have been him, not LeBron, in that GOAT position. Two decades ago, LeBron James wasn’t the top US-born talent. It was Lenny Cooke.

Lenny Cooke is another example of a gifted yet the arrogant young man that feels like ‘he’s a millionaire before even signing his first professional contract. A guy that completely wasted his talents out of pure laziness and undiscipline.

Being a physical anomaly with ballerina-like footwork and the soft touch from short, mid and long-range, Cooke was drawing comparisons with some of the ‘game’s best players at the time. He was even considered to be better than Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

Averaging around 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 would make it out of mere talents, and oh boy, was he wrong.

The unexpected turning point of the Cooke stellar career came in the 2001 ABCD camp. It was two and a half years younger LeBron James, a phenom from Akron, Ohio, who, in a direct match-up, overshadowed New York area best and reigning ABCD tournament MVP, Cooke. That was the begging of King James’ basketball reign we are still witnessing.

From there, it all went downhill from for Cooke. After becoming ineligible to play high-school ball one year before the graduation, Cooke stayed in shape playing pick-up games. Eventually, he received letters from colleges such as North Carolina, Seton Hall, St.John’s, Miami, Ohio State. Still, he decided to listen to several NBA agents who were all considering him to be a sure-fire pick in the 2002 NBA draft.

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The tides turned even worse for Cook when he eventually wasn’t selected in the 2002 NBA draft. But being sure in his skills and stamina, he didn’t lose hope. He ultimately tried to fight his way to the league by showcasing his skills by the NBA Boston Summer League. Even though he had a strong showing for a hometown squad, his wish to play in the NBA eventually never came true.

Still, Cook's showing in the 2003 NBA Summer League remains shadowed with the eventual DNP in the showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers team, which featured rookie phenomenon, LeBron James.

Many still question if Cooke, who was at that point highly determined and motivated to make it to the league, could present a potential threat for LeBron, an NBA star in the making?

In years that followed, forgotten by the NBA and NCAA, he bounced around the globe, with stops in the Philippines and China, before eventually returning to the States to play in CBA. While playing for Minot Skyrockets in 2007, he blew up his other Achilles’ tendon, which ended his basketball career.

The story of Lenny Cooke is another sad story of basketball wasted talent. He traveled, not making the right turns at the most critical crossroads of his young basketball career.

However, Cooke’s sad basketball destiny moved the NBA back in 2005 to rule out all players younger than 19 and one year removed from their high-school graduations for being eligible for the NBA draft.

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