John Lee’s Story

John was 17 years old when his heart failed him on a basketball court.

To know John was to know joy. He could light up any room with his smile. He was often described as the “glue” by his family, friends and teammates.  He was charismatic and kind and had the ability to make those around him feel important and loved.


John wasn’t afraid of hard work or big dreams. He saw himself playing college ball in an Ivy League or High Academic University.  His work ethic was his fuel to form an intense drive to achieve the dreams he had set for himself. He was determined to excel in the classroom and on the court. But there was so much more to John. He had an extreme passion for fishing and a keen eye for fashion. In his spare time, John also volunteered around the community.

John’s work ethic became the core of who he was. And people around him took notice — so much so that he was awarded the John Wooden Award by IMG Academy, which is based on the legendary coach’s Pyramid of Success.  John became highly sought after both academically and athletically drawing interest from schools like Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, University of Chicago, NYU, Carnegie-Mellon and Johns Hopkins to name a few. Working diligently towards his dreams, he was looking forward to majoring in International Business and working on Wall Street as an Investment Banker.


But on July 25, 2017 John Lee’s heart stopped. He collapsed while playing basketball due to sudden cardiac arrest caused by an undetected heart condition. Unknown to John or his family, he had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). This silent disease came with no symptoms but is the leading cause of death in student-athletes.  While HCM can be detected in heart screenings such as Electrocardiograms (EKG) or Echocardiograms (Echo), the tests aren’t 100% accurate, as John received a normal EKG screening in 2013. Additionally, these screenings are not required by most school districts as part of a student-athlete’s physical and can be costly for parents to fund out of pocket.

John’s parents weren’t willing to let his story end. They wanted to carry on his legacy. Together they founded the John Lee Foundation, a non-profit to raise awareness about HCM, fund research and provide heart screenings for student-athletes. In addition, they have created scholarships in John’s honor to help carry on his dreams in the lives of other students who excel both academically and athletically.  John’s character illustrated heart, desire, and hard work ethic in the classroom and on the court. Between his school mascot being a warrior and his jersey number 10, it inspired the creation of the tagline “Heart of a Warr10r,” which is the perfect declaration of his character.

John knew his heart, and gave it all both in the classroom and on the basketball court. He knew what it would take to achieve those Ivy League goals he had set for himself. He dreamed big and pursued those dreams fiercely. He was a determined young man who brought joy to those around him.  Help us remember and honor his life by joining us in the fight to raise awareness, save lives, and help other students live their dreams and “know their heart”. Through education, more accurate screens and research, we can accomplish this goal.

John Fishing

John Lee

John at Brown