Is it just me, or do Drew League games look more fun than the NBA’s Summer League?
Sunday Los Angeles Lakes superstar LeBron James balled out at the Drew League, a Pro-Am league that bills itself as the No. 1 Pro-Am Basketball League in the World on its Twitter feed (who’s number two?).
James pumped in 42 points, dunked with reckless abandon, argued with the refs, wore pink shoes and covered up the Adidas logo on his jersey playing for a team called the MMV Cheaters.
And then almost lost on a late three-pointer from Ethan Alvano from Black Pearl Elite.
Alvano is a California product who went to Eastern Michigan and then Cal State-San Marcos, a D2 school.
There was no Kyrie Irving. He was supposed to show and play in an earlier game at the Drew and didn’t, at least according to Drew League organizers.
Instagram showed Irving at a nearby girls basketball camp run by Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy.
A Day At the Drew
The Drew League started in 1973 and got its name because it was originally set up at Charles Drew Junior High in Southern California.
It’s just what it says on the marquee, Basketball, sort of like an indoor Rucker Park far, far west version. It is one giant organized pick-up tournament.
The Drew League had its big moment in the sun in 2011 with the NBA lockout that year and many NBA superstars at the time showed up to play. Yes, Kobe played. So did Baron Davis, and LeBron did too, then wearing No. 2.
Sunday, wearing a basic No. 6 black and white jersey, James joined with NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan on the Cheaters. His team won 104-102. LeBron went 18-36 from the floor with 16 rebounds and four steals. DeRozan had 30.
The crowd started showing up at 6:30 a.m. for a game at 1:45 p.m. at King-Drew Magnet High School. Under the backboards, they were standing four deep, phones held up to see The King play.
The crowd included Quavo (who just played in the MLB Celebrity All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium), LaVar Ball, who got a big hug from James, Golden State pest/champion/podcaster Draymond Green and Lakers Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn.
Seeing LeBron posterize some poor dude and weave and deal his way past his frightened Black Pearl Elite opponents and it’s like…why did he need to do this?
But it’s obvious, after all the rings and success, LeBron just loves to play ball.
Sure, playing in the Drew League helps his street cred – and merch sales – but he showed up to remind the world that he’s still here. Golden State may have the NBA title and Steph Curry can still go swish from 40 feet, but LeBron can play basketball with power and skill we’ve never seen before. We’re going to miss him when he’s gone.
Was he hoping to maybe bump into Irving somewhere, and the two could chat about a reunion in LA? Perhaps. I still don’t buy that Irving was ever going to show.
And maybe that’s the biggest difference between the two superstars. LeBron could have twisted an ankle or heaven forbid, hurt a knee, but he had to get his basketball fix in. Irving doesn’t seem to be wired the same way.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas
The Lakers Summer League team finished 3-2 in Las Vegas. It went 2-1 in the California Classic first. The team made some early news before the Summer League began signing Shareef O’Neal (son of Shaq) and Scottie Pippen Jr. (son of obvious).
While those signings added some interest, neither really added much to the performance. O’Neal has good size, but is…what’s rawer than raw? Pippen Jr. who played at Vanderbilt showed some potential and signed a two-way deal meaning he’s got a spot at the Lakers G-League team in South Bay.
The Lakers lone draft pick in 2022, Max Christie, also looked a year away from being a year away, but that’s what prospects are.
The NBA summer league is like pre-season NFL football. The Drew League is like the backyard football games you played as a kid.
It’s fun to watch and it does have some merit. Teams that win (Portland won) can build on that success and it gives forgotten players a shot at breaking through, but once the real games – and real jerseys – go on it’s a total afterthought.