NBA Stars Puts Spotlight on the Drew League

Houston Rockets star forward James Harden attempts to drive by Nick Young of the Los Angeles Lakers during the Drew League championship game on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

LOS ANGELES-The Drew League gets larger than life every year. Every year the summer pro-am summer basketball league seem to always to outdo itself when it comes to marketing and promoting its product. That product would be the highest tier of NBA players forging some of their summer vacation to get their game on at the renowned Drew League.

Stories of buzzer-beaters, highlight-reel plays are just part of the storied lore of the Drew League. An official partnership with Nike has upped the level of play and entertainment value for basketball junkies who don’t have to pay a dime to see their favorite NBA player.

Nick Young and his Most Hated Players (M.H.P.) squad fell short in the title game to LAUNFD. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Nick Young and his Most Hated Players (M.H.P.) squad fell short in the title game to LAUNFD. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Even before the Drew League joined hand-and-hand with Nike, NBA players were scouting the turf of South Los Angeles and bringing their game to the Watts/Willowbrooks area regularly every summer. For years, Inglewood native and Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, who showed up to catch a front row seat to the season finale, worked on his game at the Drew League.

Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant have all felt the vibe of the Drew League up close and personal.

Big-time basketball deserves big-time stars. The Drew League is full of them every June, July and August. It wasn’t any different this summer as Nick Young (Los Angeles Lakers), James Harden (Houston Rockets) and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors) were just a few of the big names to drop by the Drew League.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant made a surprise appearance at the Drew League final on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant made a surprise appearance at the Drew League final on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Even if they show up as spectators as Pierce, Durant and Jordan Clarkson (Los Angeles Lakers) did for the Drew League championship game between Nick Young’s Most Hated Players (M.H.P) and James Harden’s LAUNFD squad, their presence certainly earn a lot of street cred for the pro ballers. This is what makes the Drew League special. It has become must-see TV in a live and engaging atmosphere.

The title game lived up to the hype as a capacity-filled gymnasium at King-Drew Magnet School Sunday, Aug 9, got what they came to see: great entertainment. Forget Disneyland. Cancel those tickets to Universal Studios. Postpone that trip to Sea World. The Drew League is the place to be in the summer.

What’s not to like about seeing top-tier sports entertainment for free with the best banana pudding this side of the Mississippi River as one of the food choices to enjoy. Now back to the championship game.    The climatic point of excitement of the Drew League’s 2015 season came down to the Young-Harden battle. It was the battle of the streaky shooters. But when they get hot, both players can drop 50 points on you in a heartbeat.

Compton native DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors) tries to get to the basket for  the Most Hated Players in the championship game at the Drew League. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Compton native DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors) tries to get to the basket for the Most Hated Players in the championship game at the Drew League. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Harden almost reached that mark, scoring 37 points in the title game. Through the first quarter of play, there was a lot of rim-rattling action taking the place of the sweet, swoosh sound of the ball dropping through the net as both team played tight.

In the second period, Young and his Most Hated Players team seemed to get it going, taking an extended lead. But The Beard (Harden) and LAUNFD regained control of the contest by raining three-point shots from all over the court.

By midway of the third period, Harden and LAUNFD looked like they had sewn up the team’s fourth title in the last six years. But then things flipped. Young started to make plays on the defensive end, and DeRozan took advantage of  some forced turnovers to throw down a couple of crowd-standing dunks to energize the Most Hated Players back into the game.

In the end, however, The Beard (Harden) would have the final say in the outcome of the game to lift LAUNFD to the championship win.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1137 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.