The Drew League bows before LeBron James

WATTS/WILLOWBROOK (News4usonline) This was a special week for the Drew League. Maybe the biggest star in the NBA for the last 20 years blessed the league with his presence. He definitely didn’t disappoint. On Friday night, news leaked that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was teaming up with Compton’s very own DeMar DeRozan to play at the Drew League, a pro-am summer basketball league.  

The news of this happening almost broke social media channels. The atmosphere at the King/Drew Magnet High School of Science and Medicine’s gymnasium was almost surreal. It was standing room only if you arrived on time to see James. The crowd was electric.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James heads off the court after scoring 42 points and producing 16 rebounds to lead the MMV Cheaters to a 104-102 win against the Black Pearl Elite on Saturday, July 16, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

But it was split in opinion. Half of Los Angeles wanted to see the James and DeRozan hookup come to fruition in the Watts/Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles. If you didn’t wake up early to get a spot in line, there was no way you were getting in to watch the game. That meant getting in line about three to four hours early just for James’ appearance for the 1:45 p.m. contest.

The line went through the whole neighborhood. Due to James’ global stature on and off the court, this was expected. The entire gym, from the bleachers to people standing on the sidelines of the basketball court, was packed with enthusiastic energy.

James came out of the tunnel and it was like nothing I’d ever seen in my entire life. He was like Jesus walking on water. People were in disbelief that he was really there to play a game of basketball at the Drew. You’d think if you put two All-Stars on a team against another squad with a bunch of regular players that it would be a blowout.

You guessed wrong. That’s why they call it the Drew League. You earn your street stripes. It is not given to you. This game went down to the last seconds. James closed it out with free throws, leading the MMV Cheaters to a hard-fought 104-102 win against the Black Pearl Elite, a team that didn’t flinch an inch to the future Hall of Famer and his band of heralded hoopsters.

Former Compton High School standout DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls teamed up with LeBron James to carry the MMV Cheaters to a 104-102 win against the Black Pearl Elite at the Drew League on Saturday, July 16, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

As soon as he stepped onto the court, James heard the cheers and claps. This is customary for the NBA megastar at Arena. This time, though, James stepped foot in another local venue well known for its affection for basketball. The crowd at the Drew League do not care about status. They care about their brand of basketball and you had better bring your hard hat and go to else they’ll boo you right out of the gym. 

This marked James’ first Drew League appearance since participating in 2011 during the NBA lockout. DeRozan, who starred at Compton High School before going to USC, and eventually making the leap to the NBA, came out and showed out as well. DeRozan dropped an easy 30 points and it seemed like he got fouled every play because no one could guard him.

DeRozan went for tough points in the paint all afternoon on July 16. It doesn’t take a lot to get “Debo” fired up. With that said, during the last of couple games, DeRozan found himself engaged in miniature heated moments with the opposition.

James instantly made a huge impact as soon as the game started. He was aggressive without looking like he was even trying. You can tell that James after the Lakers missed the postseason, has been in the lab and has been working on his mid-range and his three-point shot. Combining for a whopping 72 points and 30 rebounds, James and DeRozan looked like they were clearly enjoying themselves out on the court.

James scored 42 points after going 18-for-36 from the field. DeRozan went 9-of-23 in shot attempts from the field. James also had 16 rebounds.

Another player that came back for another appearance at the Drew League was former Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell. Harrell showed up and showed out. He always plays with a lot of energy and intensity that is unmatched.

I believe Saturday was just an overall historic day for the entire Drew league. You can’t have King James appear and not have a celebrity or two show up. Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors stopped by to check out James and DeRozan doing their thing.    

On the entertainment side, Quavo, one-third of the group Migos, was also in the building. We know Quavo is a huge basketball fan. So, the fact that he blessed the Drew League with an appearance was great to see.