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Drew League: Summer basketball mecca with LeBron, Durant and Harden / News

Imagine being inside a jam-packed high school basketball gym (King/Drew Magnet High School) where you see playing the jaw-dropping mix of NBA athletes, retired legends, celebrities, local leagues’ hopefuls, overseas players, and college prospects. That’s what you get to experience in the Drew League.

james harden

james harden

MIN: 37.64
PTS: 21.49 (57.24%)
REB: 7.36
Ace: 10
ST: 1.18
BL: 0.58
TO: 4.34
GM: 77

The league was founded in 1973 by Alvin Wills. It has grown from six up to record-breaking 28 teams in the near past. The games are played on Saturday and Sunday during the summer period in Los Angeles, California.

Long-time Commissioner Dino Smiley, who has been running the league for over three decades, is a true off-court general most responsible for turning the Drew League into a Los Angeles phenomenon.

“It’s something that’s embedded in my family and embedded in the community. Drew is just a part of me,” he says.

By drawing the attention of top-notch NBA players, the Drew League has risen as one of the best US summer basketball events involving both professionals and amateurs.

The Basketball Tournament (TBT) steadily increased the competition between summer campaigns in 2014 since TBT is broadcast by ESPN and has a $1 million winner-take-all prize.

Nevertheless, the Drew League games enchant the audience. Players are tough and vibrant, especially when they feel the electrifying atmosphere in the stands. At times, there is pushing, trash-talking or even clashes between the opponents.

As stated by Dino Smiley, the pros know they need to deliver and play their A-game because the worst thing you want is somebody who didn’t make it serve you.

“You have to be ready to play. It’s an honor to play here. But you won’t get a break just because you’re in the NBA. Guys will come at you,” Pascal Siakam assured.

Reasons behind playing in Drew League

New York used to be the capital of summer basketball. Harlem’s Rucker Park, Manhattan’s the Cage, and the Dyckman Park were the venues for ruthless street games, loaded with pros.

Players like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant appeared on the famous courts at some point in their stellar careers.

Therefore, one of the reasons players compete in the Drew League is to shift the momentum to the side of LA. They want to show the west coast’s basketball potential and prove that the east is lurking behind them.

Los Angeles-born Jrue Holiday, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, and other familiar names have already demonstrated their superiority in the NBA.

Another thing is to build a strong community around the Drew League and help the neighborhood. The Drew alongside Venice Beach has become a community center that gathers people and does not divide them as Los Angeles sports teams usually do.

“I come out for the community. A lot of people don’t get to financially get to come to the games like they want to, so it gives back to the community,” Montrezl Harrell told Spectrum News.

A two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis remains close to the locals too. The financial league’s supporter is thankful to people for the backup in his playing days of him. According to Davis, the Drew League gives him a feeling of being at home and doesn’t let him feel on top of the world.

Moreover, the Drew is an excellent platform for young guys to show off. There is no doubt that scouts are watching their performances. Sometimes it’s hard to display the full potential during the season, so Drew League becomes an ideal space to be in the spotlight.

Last but not least, it’s a place to acquire a game rhythm. 5-on-5 basketball contributes to the development of skill sets and reading the situations.

“It’s a conditioning thing for me, but it’s also just using the drills to get better at my game and in-game situations,” Harrell stressed.

Drew League’s apex

The 2011 NBA lockout provided fame to the Drew League. It became the center of basketball in the country, as players arrived here to stay in shape.

Dino Smiley admitted to Yahoo Sports that 2011 was a critical moment to the existence of the competition.

“The lockout was a changing point because we were really looking to let it go at that time. But when those guys start coming through the door, it was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, something is changing here.'”

Elite players from the NBA and social media significantly increased the league. When James Harden, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James walked through the door, you knew something special was waiting for the tournament.

Basketball lovers were coming from all over the US, hoping to see NBA superstars. The prestige of the league rose.

The hype led to the late Kobe Bryant battling out on the Drew hardwood. And his debut was legendary. A five-time NBA champion hit a game-winning dagger over James Harden.

The crowd went wild, and Bryant disappeared into the mass. That was one of those “unforgettable” moments of the league.

Without the mentioned names, Paul George, Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, Glen Davis, LaMelo Ball, Brandon Jennings, Julius Randle, Nate Robinson, Nick Young, PJ Tucker, Terrence Ross, Trae Young, Jordan Poole, Mike James, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, and Metta World Peace have all graced the Drew League floor at some point.

powerful comeback

Following the canceled 2020 season, Drew stayed true to its motto: “No Excuse. Just Produce.”

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Drew League made a step forward and hosted its first-ever All-Star game in 2021, with Mike James and Montrezl Harrell orchestrating the show.

The Drew League continues to deliver highlights this year as well. A couple of days ago, LeBron James electrified the crowd in his first Drew League appearance since 2011.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar treated the sell-out crowd to a performance that featured a handful of one-handed dunks, fadeaways, and pull-up threes.

Energized by the crowd, James navigated the MMV Cheaters with 42 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 steals in a 104-102 victory over Black Pearl Elite. His star teammate DeMar DeRozan added 30 points and 14 rebounds.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, Lakers players Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, and retired Baron Davis attended the game to see the King’s dominance.

Forty years ago, no one would have predicted that the gym at Charles Drew Junior High School would host Southern California’s toughest competition, attracting basketball legends and NBA greats.

No doubt, the Drew League has been a giant summer basketball Mecca for 40 years, and with LeBron’s exposure, it’s clearly gaining the best momentum back. Keep it real!

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