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How LeBron destroyed a phenomenon


How LeBron destroyed a phenomenon

The highly acclaimed super talent Lenny Cooke is about to embark on a glittering basketball career – until an encounter with 16-year-old LeBron James changes everything.

One is a three-time NBA champion, has been an MVP four times and participated in the All-Star Game 16 times. The other did not get beyond stations like Purefood TJ Hotdogs, Magnolia Hotshots (both Philippines) or Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (China) in his career.

But in the summer of 2001 a lot of things looked as if Lenny Cooke and not LeBron James would shape the face of the NBA in the following years.

In the search for basketball stars of the future, Cooke was at the top of the list of the teams’ scouts. In 2000, the New Yorker won the MVP award at the adidas ABCD summer camp high school tournament, where Kobe Bryant had celebrated his big breakthrough a few years earlier.

“He was number one in the country, so we all looked to see what Lenny would do,” the then high school player and later NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony told The New York Times. “He was big, strong and he could pass. A little bit like Magic Johnson, and incredibly explosive.”

Cooke challenges Bryant to a one-on-one
Cooke scored 25 points and ten rebounds per game the following season, and numerous high school and later NBA stars looked up to the 19-year-old.

“I didn’t care who I was playing against. If I had my rhythm, I believed that nobody in this world could stop me,” Cooke remembers. On the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, the youngster even challenged newly crowned NBA champion Bryant to a one-on-one match.

In the tournament, the Guard dominated Anthony’s team at first, and shortly afterwards he made it to the final in a confident manner, where he faced LeBron James and his high school from Ohio, who were considered an insider tip at the time.

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