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Lenny Cooke - Film Review
by Kathryn Loggins

Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie

In the 2001 NBA draft, the top two draft picks were Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler. They were both drafted out of high school. Observing this historical moment unfold in his New Jersey home was Lenny Cooke. At that moment in his life, Lenny was the number one high school basketball player in America and his future looked extremely bright.

Adam Shopkorn, the producer of the film, had chosen Lenny as the subject of his project to document a high school student being drafted into the NBA. Shopkorn wanted to try and answer a pivotal question that was being posed at that time: are high school kids too young to be drafted into the NBA? Unfortunately, Shopkorn never got his chance to answer that question, because the 2002 NBA draft left Lenny Cooke undrafted and the project died.

In a fortunate turn of events Shopkorn was able to reveal another side of this story years later. He got connected with filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie (Daddy Longlegs), who had actually heard of the documentary Shopkorn had started and decided to help him finish his project. The film took a different turn and sought to answer who Lenny really was and what factors contributed to his apparent failure.  The result of this collaborative project is a glimpse into the life of a young man, who has the world at his feet but choses the wrong path.

It becomes clear throughout the film that Lenny is talented, but does not have a love for the game. He just happens to be good at basketball. The problem is that he thinks he can get by on talent alone, but this does not prove to be the case. In his famous matchup against LeBron James (younger than Lenny at the time) he is put in his place and seems defeated. A few months later LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The film explores Lenny’s path after this incident and follows his career all the way to the present day. This exploration is a raw and truthful look at how our lives are formed by the choices we make.