From courts to cards: the other talent of David Lee

From courts to cards: the other talent of David Lee



When most people hear the name Phil Hellmuth, they immediately conjure up images of the ‘Poker Brat.’ With a record 13 World Series of Poker bracelets and a well-deserved place in the Poker Hall of Fame, Hellmuth has risen to prominence as one of the most renowned poker stars of all time.

How, then, did Hellmuth find himself being outwitted by a humble NBA player? Back in February 2015, he admitted in an interview with TMZ magazine that Lee had “cleaned him out” to the tune of $32,000. Evidently, it seems, David really can beat Goliath.

But just how did Lee rise through the ranks from a college basketball star to someone who could beat the world’s best poker player? Could it have been luck, or did Lee put the hours in behind the sidelines, when he was taking time out from playing for the Golden State Warriors?

Currently, Lee is plagued with an ongoing back injury which has kept him from playing in the first two games against the Pelicans. At present, no return date has been confirmed for Lee. With time on his hands then, it’s possible that Lee could be brushing up on his poker skills from home.

Today, many esteemed poker players now perfect their craft in the virtual world, leading to a number of sites like Uptown Aces to crop up and offer people a number of different options. It’s these kinds of sites which led Phil Ivey to the status he has today (he started out his career under the online pseudonym of ‘No Home Jerome’) and doubtless Lee would have nurtured his skills in the same way.

Of course, though the game dates back to biblical times, it has become more and more popular with athletes across the world in recent years. Back in February this year, NBA stars Alonzo Mourning and Dwayne Wade were seen taking part in a $10,000 charity poker tournament to help a Jewish community centre in Miami.

It extends beyond charity too, and for many athletes, and indeed, celebrities, can prove a great way of letting off steam when the pressures of being in the limelight get too much. For example, the NFL’s Richard Seymour, Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué and NASCAR driver Jason White were all recently seen playing at World Series of Poker event in July last year.

Being a poker legend doesn’t happen overnight however, and it’s highly likely that Lee applied the same dedication he has used in his basketball career to his poker hobby. The 31-year-old started out playing for college team the Florida Gators from 2001 to 2005. During this time, left-handed Lee suffered considerably when he broke his left arm, forcing him to learn to become ambidextrous.

It was doubtless this commitment to the sport that caused him to win the 2001 Slam Dunk Competition, and in 2005, he was signed to the New York Knicks, with whom he enjoyed an illustrious career for the next five years. Lee may be on the bench for now, but he has certainly proven himself to be an enviable talent both on and off the courts.