Bruce Lee is one of the most iconic figures in history. While he may have never competed in professional sports, he stands right alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali as true legends, which is perhaps why his life is the subject of the latest ESPN documentary, Be Water, which premieres this Sunday. Lee tragically passed away at the age of 32 but he certainly left his mark on this world and made a pretty penny doing it.
Bruce Lee makes a name for himself in America
Born in San Francisco in 1940, Bruce Lee moved to Hong Kong when he was just three months old but returned to the U.S. at the age of 18 as his parents feared for his life. Lee was a troubled young man that engaged in numerous street fights as a teenager, one of which involved him pummeling the son of a highly-feared triad leader.
Lee lived with his sister in Seattle upon his return to the States, where he later opened his first martial arts school, the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, which translates to the Bruce Lee Kung Fu Institute. He moved to Oakland in 1964 and opened a school there, the same year he was invited to appear at Ed Parker’s International Karate Championships. It was there that he introduced the world to the two-finger pushup and the famous “one-inch punch,” which later caught the attention of Hollywood producers, who saw huge potential in Lee.
He didn’t find major success until he returned to Hong Kong
In 1966, Bruce Lee was cast as sidekick Kato on “The Green Hornet,” although the show lasted just one season. However, it got his name out there and in 1967, he opened a new dojo in Los Angeles teaching his new Jeet Kune Do style, which brought in a number of new students, including many involved in the film industry. He began appearing and consulting on a number of different projects in film and television but he wanted more. Unhappy with supporting roles in the U.S., he returned to Hong Kong, where he discovered that “The Green Hornet” was actually known as “The Kato Show” there and that he had a huge following.
His first leading role came in The Big Boss in 1971, which made him an even bigger star, and his second film for Golden Harvest, Fist of Fury, brought even more success. He was given complete control of his third film, Way of the Dragon, which also starred Chuck Norris, whom Lee had met years earlier, and this was yet another successful and profitable venture. While working on his fourth film, Game of Death, which starred one of his most famous students, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bruce Lee accepted a role in Enter the Dragon, an American feature that would make him one of the biggest stars in the world. Tragically, six days before its release, Lee died of cerebral edema. Enter the Dragon went on to become one of the highest-grossing movies of 1973 and is still wildly popular to this day.
What was Bruce Lee’s net worth at the time of his death?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Bruce Lee was worth approximately $10 million at the time of his death in 1973 and his estate still brings in millions of dollars annually.
Be Water premieres on ESPN on Sunday, June 7 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.