Thomas ‘Snacks’ Lee embraces social media fame, basketball moment
The Jackson State team manager was named Southwestern Athletic Conference player of the week
When Thomas “Snacks” Lee isn’t on the basketball court, he can be found assisting the Jackson State coaching staff or helping players.
As the men’s basketball team manager since 2015, his duties include gathering basketballs for practice, washing uniforms and organizing team meals on the road. In his four years as team manager, Lee had never played a second of collegiate basketball.
Then Monday night, he became a viral star. Lee’s nickname “Snacks” was trending Tuesday on Twitter hours after he checked into his first collegiate game and drained a 3-pointer in a 76-56 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
For senior night, Jackson State's student manager, Thomas "Snacks" Lee, suited up for the Tigers and entered the game with two minutes to play.
Then this happened 😮
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) March 3, 2020
Lee, a Jackson, Mississippi, native, had never played a second of collegiate basketball but with the Tigers winning big over the Lions and the crowd chanting, “WE WANT SNACKS,” the hometown hero got his chance. And Tuesday, he was even named Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) player of the week by the conference office.
“Hearing my name chanted was a wow moment, I really got the support from the fans and everybody in the gym,” said Lee, who was laughing as he recalled the experience. “I had to give the crowd what they wanted.”
Lee’s nickname, “Snacks,” was trending Tuesday on Twitter but originated during his childhood. Lee used to spend time in the Jackson State locker room with players and while he says that no one really knew his name, everyone noticed that he always had snacks. Eventually players and coaches alike gave him the nickname “Snacks.” He said an aunt used to take him to JSU games and he visited the locker room multiple times.
“I used to have all the candy. I always had Skittles and would give them to players before the game,” said Lee. “At first people thought it was offensive, but once they saw everyone calling me that they understood. I enjoy the nickname, it’s funny.”
The nickname stuck all throughout middle school, high school and now college.
The excitement for Lee’s moment didn’t come out of nowhere. He developed a reliable reputation and his biggest fans may be his fellow teammates and coaches.
“You have to develop relationships in order to be a good team manager,” said Lee. “People think it’s easy, but it’s not. You have to have a lot of patience while also having a passion for working with people.”
He’s even given rides or paid for food for teammates who needed to eat or go to the grocery store.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the Jackson State basketball team without him,” said senior guard Hunter Shelton. “I don’t have a car, but he takes me everywhere and I know he has my back for anything. We can always count on Snacks to help us out.”
Associate athletic director Dennis Driscoll agrees.
“Snacks is just a good guy and a really fun guy to be around,” Driscoll said emphatically. “He puts the athletic department’s needs first, and we know he really cares and wants to do well.”
On Monday, Jackson State returned the favor and gave Lee his moment. He checked into the game wearing No. 35, a dedication to his favorite player, Kevin Durant, who would later give him a shout-out on Twitter.
After Lee missed his first three shots, instead of becoming nervous, he said, his confidence remained unshakable. This was a dream come true, which is why he never doubted himself. In previous years, when Lee asked coaches for the opportunity to play in the final game of the season, his request fell on deaf ears. But on Monday, head coach Wayne Brent told the team if the Tigers had a big enough lead, he’d check Lee into the game.
I see u snipe….🖤 https://t.co/OEYAo3sjAm
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 3, 2020
Brent’s team wasted no time in making sure that Lee was able to play by jumping out to a 19-point lead at halftime. And once they maintained the lead throughout the second half, Shelton told Lee to get ready.
“There was a little under four minutes left and once the crowd started chanting his name, I knew he was going to get in,” said Shelton, who is also Lee’s best friend. “I wasn’t worried after he missed the first couple, I knew he was going to be all right.”
Lee, who was overcome with emotion after hitting the shot, celebrated with his teammates and the crowd.
“The team played hard for me and laid it all out on the line to give me the opportunity to check in a Division I game and I appreciate them for that,” said Lee.
“I don’t take this moment for granted and I just appreciate the team, the coaching and athletics staff for pushing things through and making sure I was able to compete,” he said.
Jackson State (12-17 overall, 9-7 in league) has two more regular-season games this week before playing in the SWAC tournament in Birmingham, Alabama.