An enigma was born to the mean streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York on April 29, 1982. At one time Lenny Cooke was once considered to be the next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. He took this country by storm like no other ball player ever had in the late 90s early 2000s. He was all the hype before guys like Lebron and Carmelo Anthony. Lenny moved to Brooklyn at a early age and was headed in the direction that so many of our young youth are today down a dead end road in life. By the grace of God he found the game of basketball that probably saved his life but has also brought about so many hard times in his life. Lenny found the game almost by mistake but soon turned himself into a phenom once he started playing. He picked the game up quick as Lenny could see things happening before they even took place on the court you’ve heard about those guys that see things happening 2 to 3 plays in advance this kid was one of those players. He had a gracefull style of running up and down the court that only the great ones have most said he moved like Jordan. Len has catchers mits for hands as he might have some of the biggest plams and fingers that I have ever seen on a human and his arms seemed that he could have reached out and touched the ocean on both sides him. All in all when you talk about the physical makeup of a ball player Lenny was blessed by the basketball God’s like few have ever been. And to go along with that he had a killer instinct like I’ve not seen in years he truly wanted to be the best player everytime he stepped on the court he didn’t come to just play he came to dominate and own the gym he wanted to win at all cost. Then there was the flashiness he had a way of making the simple look spectacular as he played well above the rim on every chance got he had the handle typical of a New York City point guard not a small forward. And when challenged he would embarass you at all cost as he has been know to light up numerous opponents for 50 plus on the regular. As early as his sophomore year at La Salle Academy in New York Lenny was being tabbed as the greatest to come through the city since Kareem Abdul Jabbar had years earlier. Pretty lofty company to keep considering all the great ball players to came through New York City in that span. After his sophomore year Lenny took his game nationwide on the aau circuit and took the whole country by storm dominating gyms all over the country. He came to Five Star camp one of the biggest in the country at the time and just dominated the competition as he destroyed Carmelo there and was named MVP. He dominated the IS8 spring and fall leagues and ever major tournament and event in New York as well. Lenny’s true coming out pary that summer was at Sonny Vaccaro’s famed ABCD Camp. When he walked in the gym he dominated from the moment he stepped on the court and came away winning the underclassmen MVP award. The biggest thing that came from the camp though is that most said he was the best player at the camp and in the country regardless of class. After a summer that left the country wanting more and more of Lenny he transferred from La Salle to Old Tappan in New Jersey to get his grades right. He only played in 9 games that season but in those 9 games he was amazing. His first game was so anticipated that they had a packed house 3 hours before the game was scheduled to tip off which never happened and they had to start the game 2 hours early and lock the gym because of fire hazzard. Anybody that was anybody was at that game you had high society millionaires to gang bangers and drug dealers sittin next to each other in the crowd. Espn, MSG, and local news networks were in the gym that night. Lennys first play of the game was a lob of the tip off that he caught above the top of the square that sent the gym into a frenzy. He averaged 33 pts and 16 reb for the season. I can remember sitting watching the news that season and the news cutting off to broadcast a game of his. He had 52 pts 16 reb in 3 quarters after the 3rd quarter he didn’t play in the fourth the news came back on where it had cut off. I can remember being amazed I had NEVER seen anybody stop the news. I knew that this kid was a once in a lifetime type talent. After the season Lenny hit the aau circuit again where he dominated again. This summer he had a bullseye on his back though. Everybody wanted him they thought that if they had a good game against Lenny then it would help boost there stock. This only drove Lenny more and more as he Had great games against top talent. He gave Amare 38 pts on his way to his first triple double. He killed it at the big time tournament in vegas. Lenny was like a rock star everywhere he went. He was partying with Jay Z hanging out with Foxy Brown and DJ Clue was sittin courtside at Knicks games Lenny had the world in his hands when it came to this basketball thing. Then the Lebron thing happened which was blew way out of proportion. See Len had just came off a court where he had dominated Carmelo Anthony. His top competition for the no. 1 spot in the class of 2002 where Lebron had been resting so the odds were stacked against Lenny from the tipoff. The game was close Lenny had his flair going Lebron was doing his thing then down 2 with a couple seconds remaining Lebron hit a runner to win the game from half court that started his legend and blew the whole Lenny vs Lebron thing completely out of proportion. After that Lenny retained his top spot in his class but had to sit out the whole next season because of academic issues. So the rest of the country started to forget about Lenny because of him not playing Lebron had took his top spot. Lenny entered his name in the NBA drat after that season in which he ended up going undrafted even though he was projected as a lottery pick because of a injury in pre draft camp in Chicago and not working out for any teams. He got invited to sonics training camp and got cut. He was still dominating the streetball circuit in New York where he was named the youngest ever MVP at the famed Rucker tournament. On the streets Lenny was giving it to pro ball players on the regular he went at guys like Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, JR Smith, Ron Artest, and numerous others. Lenny ended up in the Usbl where he won every award imaginable and just turned the league upside down he was truly on another level than all the rest of those guys. Lenny ended up going to the Philippines where he put up crazy numbers to the likes of 40 pts and 20 rebs a game. He dominated over seas and came back to play for the Long Beach Jam for a better chance to get into the league and then tragedy happened. Lenny had the car wreck that changed his life forever. Hes told me numerous times that the wreck humbled him it made him start to look at life in a different light. They thought they were going to have to amputate his leg and the doctors said that he would never walk again. With that will and determination that took the country by storm years before Lenny worked hard and made a come back. He was playing in the CBA whern injury struck again. Lenny is now working out and filming a documentary about his life so that he can let the world see the real Lenny Cooke story. There are many many legends and storys all acorss the country but this will finally shed a light on his story coming from him. Today Lenny is also doing motivational speaking for young kids so that he can have a positive impact in there lives and help them to not make some of the same mistakes. Life is about the people we surround ourselves with Lenny has said to me. When I was young I partied with rappers and guys in the hood. I had the wrong people in my circle and didn’t listen to anybody because I thought I was grown and could make decisions for myself. If I had listened I wouldn’t be where I am at today. God has a plan for all of us and I’m not gonna question that. I just hope that I can help just one kid be able to reach his dreams. I can sit hear today and say that I’ve yet to see a talent like Lenny in the last few years. Back in the early 2000’s we people in basketball didn’t realize how truly special this kid was at the time. Legends never die they live on in our hearts forever.
1. Tell the country who you are.
LENNY COOKE My name is Lenny Cooke im the former no.1 player in the country class of 2002 was ranked ahead of guys like Amare Stoudemire,Carmelo Anthony,and Raymond Felton. Once said to be the next great 2 guard to play the game I was the hottest thing since sliced bread. People compared me to Jordan back when I was in high school.
2. How did you start playing the game of basketball?
LENNY COOKE I was out in the park one day playing around and a guy named Jeff Farley asked if I played anywhere. I said no so he asked if I wanted to try out for the Panthers aau team. At first I said no then I said if my friends could come along I would he said that was fine so we went and tried out and thats when I first started playing the game.
3. Did the game natural to you at first?
LENNY COOKE I never took it serious I just played around mostly to give me something to do me and my boys would hang out at the courts. When I got in the Panthers organization I started to realize that I was pretty good and that I could do things in life with this game. I started going places and having things that I never had just because I could play the game of basketball. I was good so people treated me different they did things for me talked about me alot so I knew that I must be okay.
4. At La Salle your legend started to grow around the city of new york. You took the city by storm your sophomore year break that down a little for us.
LENNY COOKE I averaged 24 pts a game we went to city championship and won. My name got to buzzing during the season I went from the no. 10 to no. 1 player in the city. I scored 50 in a game that season against All Hallows and started to notice that I was alot better than all the other players in the city. I shattered my first of 3 backboards that season and was drawing crowds everywhere that I played. People were saying that I was the best sophomore to come through New York City since Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
5. The summer going into your junior year you blew up what happened.
LENNY COOKE On the aau circuit we won from Vegas to Rhode Island and everywhere in between. At abcd camp I was underclassman mvp came out ranked no.1 in the country in my class. Most people said I was no.1 player at the camp. I was mvp at five star killed Carmelo there just destroyed everybody. I felt that I had something to prove and everywhere I went I brought my A game.
6. Your junior year you transfered to Old Tappan how was that experience?
LENNY COOKE I transfered because of grades so that I could attend St. Johns. I wanted to bring a championship back to the city me Omar Cook, Curtis Sumpter, Darius Miles, and Marcus Hatten would of been there. Theres no way with that core group that we would not have dominated college ball. Things happened and we ended up not all going there. If it would of went down that way it would have been history in the making. At old tappan I played 9 games averaged 33 pts 16 reb 4 blks with a game of 52 pts in 3 quarters couldn’t nobody stop me I was on top of the world. I was like a rock star. My first game there it sold out and they started the game 2 hours ahead of schedule. They locked the gym down would’nt let anybody else in the gym. My first play there was a lob of the tip off I was around the top of the box when I caught it. When I got rolling there wasnt anybody in the country that could stop me.
7. Your senior summer break that down a little for us.
LENNY COOKE I did aau went back to ABCD Camp at abcd played against I lebron. I killed Amare at Bob Gibbons I had my first triple double 38 pts 13 reb 10 asst. I was one of leading scorers at the big time tournament in Vegas I averaged 27 a game out there. Won championship at Rucker in New York City I was the youngest mvp there ever that season. I dominated IS8 in the city set all sorts of records at the time.
8. What really happend at the game where you played against Lebron?
LENNY COOKE It was crazy all the hype surrounding it. Most people dont know that right before I played Lebron I just got done going at Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo came to camp saying that if we went head to head and he got the best of me he would be ranked No. 1 in the country. Long story short it didn’t go down that way I killed him then left and went strait to play Lebron. Lebron was rested I had just got tested against a now multiple time all star and quite possibly the best scorer in the game today. Lebron had more points but I had a off game and still had some good highlights. The biggest thing was that Lebron hit that shot at the buzzer to win the game from half court over me. If not for that all the hype surrounding the game wouldn’t be what it is today.
9. Your senior year you sat out and then declared for the nba draft what really happend with the draft.
LENNY COOKE I was projected as a lottery pick went to Chicago for pre draft camp got injured. I didn’t get to play as much as expected and my stock dropped because I hadn’t played alot in months and that was when everybody was gonna get to see me. It was just alot of bad luck at the time that keep me from going undrafted.
10 After going undrafted you went into the summer with the Sonics and was cut what happened?
LENNY COOKE I injured my foot broke it. They released me before regular season started. I had a roster spot had that not happend. It was just another in the long line of bad luck things that happened to me. I was killing everybody at the time.
11. After being cut from the Sonics you went on to the USBL how did you do there?
LENNY COOKE At first I was cut by John sSarks Westchester team because of injury once again. I went to the Brooklyn Kings and represented the city. I played against Starks team my first game of the season had 45 pts 16 reb and hit the game winning shot. At the end of the game Starks was kickin the scorers table and cussin. He didn’t know how good I was he said I was a pro and why didn’t anybody tell him I shoulda been in the nba and not there. I averaged 31 pts 15 reb and won multipe awards. I won rookie of the year, made the rookie team, led league in scoring and rebounding, led league in steals, field goal leader, free throw leader, 2 time player of the week, league mvp, as well I had a high game of 46 against the Brevard Blue Ducks.
12. People don’t realize as much as you did in aau, pro leagues, and in high school you also owned the streets in New York City. Break down your legend for us and what did they call you?
LENNY COOKE At the Rucker I was Mr. Everything. I was the Comeback Kid after the car accident. I wasn’t intimidated by anybody pro or not. I never backed down from nobody and was not gonna let you get the best of me no matter what. I was 2 time champion and 1 time mvp of Rucker. I would have been more but I missed some of season because of NBA camp and pro ball. My best game at rucker was 46 pts against Rufff Ryders with JR Smith, Ill Be Right Back, God Shammgod, and Reggie Freeman among others. I played in all the tournaments I could and just wanted to prove that I was the best in the city. Holding the crown of the king here goes along way. I also had a battle with Sean Banks that they still talk about to this day up here in the Uptown League that was a classic.
13. You went to the Philippines and set the world on fire ive herd story’s about the exploits you had over there tell us what went down during your time there.
LENNY COOKE I averaged 40 pts and 20 rebs I just exploded was about 225 chisled muscle I was in the best shape of my life. Couldn’t nobody hold me over there I was in another league than those guys. I had a high game of 52 over there I was real consistent with my game everytime I stepped on the court they knew what to expect. I walked onto the court every night thinking im gonna own this shit for the next whatever mins.
14. Lenny you were a scorer like grassroots ball has rarley seen where did that come from?
LENNY COOKE I looked at it like I might not have been the best defender but my mentality was if I cant stop you I know you cant stop me so im gonna give it you. I tried to out score everybody that I went head to head with. I came after everybodys head I hated to loose and felt that alot of time I had to have huge games scoring wise for us to win. If I went for 45 plus we weren’t losing.
15. For years you held records at IS8 what where some of them.
LENNY COOKE I had 49 pts in a playoff game which was a record at the time. I held plenty of scoring and rebounding records there. I also destroyed Charlie Villanueva and Julius Hodge there and anybody that I went head to head with. The biggest thing about the league is that I felt the compitition there was as strong as anywhere I ever went across the country to play if not stronger. Every game was really a battle in the city.
16. Tell me about the rivalry with you and Julius Hodge.
LENNY COOKE We never liked each other we were first enemies on the court. He didn’t like that I came and stole his shine in the Catholic League and other various tournaments and things that we played in. Everywhere we went I killed him I head hunted him wanted to destroy him once dropped 37 on him at the Wheel Chair Classic at St. Johns which was a big deal.
17. What happend with the car wreck in California?
LENNY COOKE After a game we went to dinner and was in the wreck I went into a comma didn’t know anything that happened unless somebody told me. They said that I would have been called up to the NBA from there if it weren’t for the wreck. They thought they would have to amputate my legs said id never walk or play ball again. The accident humbled me alot made me look at life different realized I had to live more responsible and keep beetter people in my circle. I didn’t want something to happen to me because of my kids. Didn’t want them to grown up without a daddy.
18. Lenny tell me about your kids.
LENNY COOKE My son Anahijae is eleven his dream is to play ball in the nba. He plays ball and video games all day long. My daughter Heavyn 8 wants to be a model she puts makeup and stuff on dresses up for me alot. MY youngest is about to turn 1 on may 5th her name is Nyvaeh daddys little girl. I want my kids to get a education and do whatever they want in life take advantage of there gifts that god has given them. I want them to have something to fall back on and look back one day and be proud of there dad and know that things dont always go the way there supposed to but Gods got a purpose in everything.
19. What are you working on right now?
LENNY COOKE I am doing motivational speaking for kids so that I can have a positive impact in peoples lives. If we can help one kid or person out in life we have done more than most ever will. I have the Lenny Cooke documentary coming at end of the year. Im also trying to start the Lenny Cooke foundation a non profit organization. Im also workinn on gettin back in shape so that I can try and make one more run at this thing.
20. Any shoutouts.
LENNY COOKE Thank you Bob, Mom, Dad, my brothers Vernon, Darius, Shamar, and Budah, 2 sisters Tierra and Keirris. Hobo hold your head up see you soon stay strong. The Fairground Family, my best friend Dominic, my girl Anita for having my back and pushing me to do better. Joakim Noah, Debbie Bortner, Chubb, Bolo, and my number 1 fan my grandma Velma Cooke R.I.P. I love you. And last but not least to all the Lenny Cooke fans around the country and anybody else that has had a positive influence in my life.
21. Any last words.
LENNY COOKE I will be back. I fell off a minute but the world has not heard the last of Lenny Cooke.
22. How do you want your legend to be remembered?
LENNY COOKE That no matter what cituations ive been through I always bounce back and ive proved alot of people wrong my whole life. Im very loyal always got my peoples backs no matter what. As good a ball player as I was and am im a better person and thats what will last a lifetime for me. I would do anything to try to help somebody thats why I think the motivational speaking is so important so that maybe I can have a positive influence on some kids life and help him or her not go down some of the same roads that I have had to travel.