Joakim Noah is teaming up with Lenny Cooke once again, albeit in very different circumstances.
The Bulls' All-Star center has boarded the documentary about the former basketball phenom as a producer, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The film, simply titled Lenny Cooke, charts the rise and fall of a high school athlete once thought to be the next Magic Johnson, only to fall victim to the easy lure of money and hangers-on that often seize like vultures on promising prospects. The film will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Noah, still new to the United States after emigrating from France, played with Cooke -- two years his senior -- for the AAU team The Panthers in 1999.
"Lenny has always been one of my biggest inspirations as a basketball player," Noah says. "His story always reminds me to keep my eyes on the prize and to keep distractions away."
Cooke declared for the NBA draft in 2002, despite high profile college opportunities, and his decline in play, and the distractions around him, led him to go undrafted. After making an effort in the NBA's Developmental League and the USBL, he blew out both of his knees, and now works as a cook in his native New Jersey.
"I hope Lenny will push his story out to the next generation of kids who aspire to one day play competitive basketball at any level," Noah added. "If his story can make an impact on just one or two kids who have the opportunity to see the film, I believe we'll be making a difference."
Noah, who was just 5'9 when he played with Cooke, grew to 6'11. He won two national championships while at the University of Florida, and was named an NBA All-Star this past season.