Interview: Lenny Cooke and the Filmmakers of His Documentary Talk About LeBron, Their Process, and Lenny's Regrets

Interview: Lenny Cooke and the Filmmakers of His Documentary Talk About LeBron, Their Process, and Lenny's Regrets

Do you still follow the game?
LC: Yeah

Do you have a team you root for?
LC: Chicago. Always have been a Bulls fan. I’ve been a Bulls fan since I knew the game.

It was cool to know somebody that’s playing for your team. It’s a good feeling, and [Joakim's] a good guy. He wanted to be a part of this project, because he felt that it was a story that needed to be told too. I appreciate that.

And Joakim Noah is a good friend of yours.
LC: It was cool to know somebody that’s playing for your team. It’s a good feeling, and he’s a good guy. He wanted to be a part of this project, because he felt that it was a story that needed to be told too. I appreciate that.

In the movie, there was a part where you were in Brooklyn arguing with your friends. Do you still keep in touch with them?
LC: I was just letting them know how I feel. If I can’t talk to them, then they don’t need to be my friends.

That’s true. Where you ever in love with the game?
LC: I did love the game, but it was a while ago. When I first started playing, no. Then once I started seeing that I could potentially go pro, then I was like, shit, I might be in love [Laughs]. But I didn’t take the game serious.

JS: You’re talking about the rapper or are you talking about basketball? [Laughs]

LC: This guy. [Laughs] But I never took it serious. I just played off pure potential, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t work hard.

You were just naturally good at it.
LC: I didn’t work. I didn’t go to practice. Sometimes I’d look and say, “What if I did work out every day, three to four times a day?”

JS: First time he got handed the basketball he became the best in the world.

Growing up in New York, you had to have heard about Lenny, right?
JS: Yeah, of course. You couldn’t not know about Lenny. I think people—as the film is being released throughout America—are seeing that anyone who was into basketball for the last 15 years knows about Lenny Cooke. He’s still a conversation. Just two days ago in the [Andrew] Wiggins-Jabari Parker matchup, people were talking about Lenny. Lenny vs. LeBron. It was the same conversation. Lenny’s friend walks in, “Wow, he’s got the Knicks hat on?” [Laughs] He’s in the movie. He’s the one saying A.I. is better than Kobe.

You still think that?
Denton Foster: At the time and year, yes, but as the years go by—when Shaq left—he pulled his own a little bit more.

JS: That’s true.

LC: I can’t believe this guy.

DF: To me, you’re great when they can’t replace you on a team. You can take Kobe off the team, and Shaq would’ve still won the championship.

I feel what you’re saying.
DF: Think about Iverson. He went to the Finals with [Dikembe] Mutombo. Tyrone Hill! Aaron McKie. Eric Snow was his starting point guard. Eric Snow couldn’t hit the rim!

JS: I will agree with you with the fact that Iverson is more original than Kobe because Kobe just stole all of Mike’s moves.

DF: That’s another thing. Even MJ said it. Mike said, “I gotta pick up Kobe.” Why? “Kobe takes some of my moves. You think I’m going to play against myself? Why would I play against myself? “He stole all my moves. Why wouldn’t I pick him up? I can trust him. That’s like trusting me!”

You came up with Amar'e, with Melo, with LeBron. Do you still follow their careers closely?
LC: Yeah, I follow their careers. Like I told the guys earlier, I’m proud of those guys. Those guys worked hard, and they dedicated themselves to something that they wanted a career in. I didn’t work hard. It took me a while to say that LeBron is the best basketball player on the planet, you know what I mean? It’s fucking true. This man is the greatest basketball player maybe ever.

DF: I’m telling you he’s gonna be better than Mike.

LC: This guy still has at least 12 more years to play, yo. That’s what’s amazing.

You couldn’t not know about Lenny. I think people—as the film is being released throughout America—are seeing that anyone who was into basketball for the last 15 years knows about Lenny Cooke.

He’s kind of like Jordan too, where he doesn’t get injured. Jordan just broke his leg that one time.
DF: Jordan broke his leg one time and didn’t he come back and average 36?

I think he won the Defensive Player of the Year and MVP two seasons after breaking his leg. Like I was saying, did that matchup against LeBron really devastate you like everyone suggested at the time?
LC: I didn’t see it as being devastated.

People made a big deal about it at the time.
LC: Yeah, he blew up off of me [Laughs].

DF: That’s what I don’t like that people don’t realize.

LC: He had a good game against me. He blew up. Like I just told the dude earlier, if LeBron would’ve missed that shot and I would’ve won by one how would my career have turned out? You know what I mean? Who’s to say? He did his thing. He hit the winning shot.

That was the thing, too. That winning shot hyped everything..
LC: Media sells.

When you were getting all that attention, where you cocky?
LC: Hell yeah, fuck yeah.

Like you made it?
LC: I ain’t say I made it, but I was on my way. I was the shit. Simple as that.

DF: That’s an understatement.

It’s kind of refreshing you’re not bitter about any of it. You’re willing to share. The last scene where you’re talking to a younger version of yourself, that was powerful. How do you feel watching it?
LC: Yeah. I was just letting him know that I actually was you 10 years ago. I shouldn’t have made some of those choices. I was telling him, this is what you’re going to run into soon. It’s up to you to make the right choices and be successful or make the wrong ones and don’t be successful.

It took me a while to say that LeBron is the best basketball player on the planet, you know what I mean? It’s f***king true. This man is the greatest basketball player, maybe ever.

When did you know that you were the shit? What moment?
LC: They should’ve never put me as No. 1 player in the country. [Laughs] They did that and it was a wrap.

DF: And it was after what? The summer?

LC: Yeah.

Adam Shopkorn: That’s an interesting question. When did you really know you were really, really good?

LC: When I came out of nowhere and took my team to the city championship.

AS: When you were playing at La Salle?

LC: Yeah. When we went to the city championship and my name just started ringing around the city and I just killed it. When my name started rising…

AS: Then you won the MVP of underclassmen at the 2000 ABCD Camp. Guess you had a bigger target on your back.

LC: Then when I won those championships, that really did it.

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Tags: lenny-cooke, documentary, nba, lebron-james, joakim-noah
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