When Courtney Lee became an unrestricted free agent for the first time this past summer, the suitors began lining up. With eight NBA seasons under his belt, Lee was the type of hard-working, trustworthy guard that every team would welcome. “A pro’s pro,” as one scout told us. But when it came time to choose where to play and live, he felt there was really only one option.
“New York is the mecca,” Lee says. “The basketball tradition here is unbelievable. You could feel it as an opposing player. The fans can get crazy at times, but even when they had their down times, the building was sold out. Then you saw what they were building: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah. How could you not want to be a part of that?”
Lee is, in fact, an integral part of the Knicks’ roster, as he slides into the starting shooting guard position next to those very same players. His ability to see the big picture started at a very early age away from the basketball court.
“When I was in the fourth grade, my art teacher brought in a pot with all of these flowers in it,” Lee says. “We had to draw it first and then paint it afterwards. After I created it, it was sent to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis where it won first place in a competition, and they displayed it there.”
To Lee, who draws, paints and sculpts, art is a passion that, much like basketball, requires an enormous amount of time to do well. “I haven’t drawn anything in over a year-and-a-half,” he says. “When you see something that you want to draw, you have to dedicate yourself to it, to take the time to finish it.” And right now, that time is devoted to his new team.
“When coaches prepare scouting reports, you can see what a player likes to do in so much detail. You have to notice everything. It makes a huge difference when you’re guarding someone and you know everything about them.”
With that focus, Lee has yet to be able to explore his new home, particularly in what New York has to offer as the fashion capital of the world. “I’ve always believed in dress nice, play nice, everything will be nice,” he says. “I’m looking forward to Fashion Week and connecting with so many different brands. There’s so much to do here.”
Topcoat, Theory; Turtleneck, Whyred
Part of Lee’s New York renaissance may also include acting. He recently completed filming The 5th Quarter, a sports mockumentary series produced by OBB Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment that lampoons the 30-for-30 sports documentary format. In the feature, several NBA players, including Lee, comment on a fictitious character named Freddie Galpert, the first ugly player in NBA history.
“Acting was much harder than I thought it would be, but it was an amazing experience,” Lee says. “It’s the kind of thing that always interests people. Now that I’ve had that chance to give it a try, I look forward to pursuing it more… Once I have the time.”