by Marcel Mutoni

A little while ago, I posted an article on my blog Bench Renaldo, essentially asking how the fine folks at EA Sports could possibly give the same player ranking to teammates Renaldo Balkman and David Lee for the NBA Live 07 video game. A reader (Robert Greene) left a comment in which he casually mentioned that he took an acting class with Lee at the University of Florida a few years back. Naturally, I asked him to elaborate, and he was kind enough to do so. Below is Robert’s David Lee story.

Okay. A bit of a preface: This was a few years ago, so my memories are a bit vague.

My friend Dave (who will hereafter be referred to as “Dong,” which was his last name) and I were both pretty big into improv comedy. In fact, if you catch an improv show at UF now, you’ll notice Dave as the hilarious and somewhat muscular Asian guy on stage. We both decided to take on Theater minors, to utilize our improv time and credits for something semi-useful. The first class they make you take for a theater minor is “Acting for non-majors,” an extremely basic acting class. Coincidentally, our friend Tarik was also in this class.

Now, contrary to UF’s reputation as a huge school, this was a very small class, no more than 15 people. Due to the class’s small size it was taught by a TA (teacher’s assistant), not a professor. The TA was a nice enough guy, but he was your stereotypical wanna-be actor from Southern California, and as such, very often on the receiving ends of jokes. Unfortunately, he recognized Dong and myself from improv and would make us demonstrate EVERY warm up he wanted to teach.

I digress, but with purpose. Anyway, David Lee was actually there the first day of class, and of course, was immediately recognizable. The class was in one of UF’s older buildings, and had very small old school desks. So a guy Lee’s size sitting in a tiny, high school-sized desk was my first impression of him, and it was hilarious. It being a small class, and Dong and myself being drafted as “assistant TAs,” Lee quickly noticed and befriended Dong. Dong and Lee, both being named David, became “the Daves,” and were scene partners several times. Because of this random friendship between one of my friends and David Lee, a little clique was formed. Lee, Dong, Tarik and myself. This clique really only existing inside of the classroom, and with a few exceptions, I never saw Lee outside of class. He wasn’t a friend, and I’m sure he doesn’t remember my name now. But since I’m a sports junky, I remember, and think it was pretty funny.

David Lee was a smart kid. While it was obvious he had never had to work for ANYTHING, he was quick on his feet and very witty. He would constantly do impersonations of our TA while his back was turned and mouth off in class. He would always act embarrassed before a warm up and initially refuse to do it (acting warm ups are pretty emasculating), but more often than not would eventually join in and sometimes enjoy himself. There is a warm up called “Crazy Eights” where you shake your hands and feet widly, almost as if they were on fire, and watching Lee do this was hilarious. Lee would constantly hit on one of the girls in our class, a very skinny, very sexy, cross country running freshman. As far as I could tell, he never made any progress: “Come to this party tonight”; “My boyfriend wouldn’t let me”; “We won’t tell him”; “I can’t” (Editor’s Note: I doubt David has any trouble with the ladies now that he’s in the NBA, even as a member of the Knicks).

My friend Tarik suffered some indignity at Lee’s hands. Tarik was holding hands with his girlfriend, walking down the street. Lee drove by in his Navigator (Billy Donavan recruits clean!) and yelled “TARIK, GET YOU SOME,” shocking Tarik’s woman. Dong and I got Tarik back though. At UF, there is a place at the center of campus called Turlington Square, this is where all the football players hang out. One time, after class, Dong, Lee and I were walking in that direction and we walked by the football players. Lee didn’t wave, didn’t nod, didn’t say “‘sup.” Dong and I turned to Lee, almost as one, and asked him “are you not friends with the football players?” We gave him so much shit about not being one of the incrowd, about how football players are the “cool kids” and basketball players are outcasts. (Editor’s Note: Interestingly enough, this is exactly what would happen if Lee walked by a group of NY Giants today).

Overall, Lee was a nice enough guy, a total jokester, and much smarter than most of the student athletes I’ve encountered have been.

Thanks Robert.

(Check out Robert Greene’s blog: The Church of Albert).