The bright lights illuminated the red carpet at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, CA as Schea Cotton, a Los Angeles basketball legend and retired professional player, took center stage for the private screening of his star-studded documentary, “Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story.”
Known as the “LeBron James before LeBron James,” Cotton was one of the greatest high school basketball players to come out of Los Angeles in the same class as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. Due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, the high school phenom, who was projected to have a promising professional career in the NBA, never made it.
“Schea went through it at a time where the visibility wasn’t as high as it is now,” said Los Angeles Sparks guard Cappie Pondexter, a two-time WNBA champion.
At his height, Cotton graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was named the 1995 CIF State Player of the Year after winning a championship at Mater Dei High School. He then transferred to St. John Bosco where he earned McDonald’s All-American honors. He played against players three to four years his senior at a competitive level, and dunked on Kevin Garnett in packed gyms at premiere AAU tournaments.
“He was a few years older, but they were like a traveling rock star group and he was the lead singer,” commented Casey Jacobsen, former Stanford basketball player and European professional star. Jacobsen played with the same traveling basketball AAU program as Cotton, SoCal Hoops, known at that time as PTI.
The documentary featured Jacobsen along with newly inducted NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss, NBA champion Paul Pierce, Los Angeles legend Baron Davis and the NBA’s notorious bad boy Stephen Jackson to name a few. Each talked extensively about the dominance of Cotton from an early age.
“When I first saw him I was like there’s no way that this dude is the same age as everybody else,” Davis stated in the documentary.
The film directed by Eric “Ptah” Herbert and executive produced by Dr. Howard Mango provides viewers with an inside look into the rise and fall of Cotton. The trouble began when Cotton elected to de-commit from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). After transferring to UCLA, the NCAA invalidated the same test scores that had been accepted to CSULB. From there, it was a downward spiral to find a collegiate home where Cotton was deemed eligible. The documentary revealed that he battled with suicidal thoughts after going undrafted in 2000.
Cotton’s search for a greater purpose led him to share his story nearly 20 years later in the form of this documentary, which debuted in 2016. Following the screening, Pondexter moderated a Q&A with panelists that included Grammy-nominated rapper Problem and Jacobsen in front of a packed theatre.
Cotton is currently the CEO of the Schea Cotton Basketball Academy (SCBA), an organization dedicated to empowering youth through education, basketball and mentoring. He also travels around the country sharing his story with rising basketball stars.