The Drew League has been a summer institution in Southern California for nearly four decades. Founded in 1973 by Dino Smiley, the Drew is a pro-am summer league that has brought local players, streetball legends, overseas players, former pros and NBA superstars together for the love of the game.
NBA players looking for a run during the offseason will make their way to King Drew Magnet High School, where fans stuff their way into the building — packing the bleachers, filling in the standing-room-only courtside sections and those along the baseline — for a chance to see players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and DeMar DeRozan up close. It’s akin to seeing Drake or Beyonce perform not in a stadium or massive arena, but at a local club … and them tearing the house down in doing so.
That’s what can happen any weekend in the Drew. There is a buzz about which players will show up and show out. And being in the building — or streaming on NBA.com if you’re not in Los Angeles — means you may witness something special at any given moment.
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Here is a look back at 12 of the most memorable Drew League performances from NBA stars, beginning with a few that just took place this month.
The game: July 16, 2022 | MMV Cheaters vs. Black Pearl Elite
The stats: 42 points, 16 rebounds, four steals
In his first game back at the Drew League since 2011 during the NBA lockout, LeBron James put on a show for the estimated 2,500 fans in attendance as he joined forces with Chicago Bulls swingman and Compton native DeMar DeRozan for the MMV Cheaters. Behind LeBron’s 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals and DeRozan’s 30 points and 14 rebounds, the Cheaters beat Black Pearl Elite, 104-102. The final score is what fans will remember from this day, but rather the atmosphere in the building and the highlight reel plays like this off-the-backboard alley-oop that brought the house down.
The game: July 19, 2015 | M.H.P. vs. Hank’s New Image
The stats: 38 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists
While a LeBron appearance is a once-in-a-decade occurrence at the Drew, DeRozan is a mainstay at his hometown’s summer showcase. There were plenty of outstanding games from DeRozan to choose from, but this one from back in 2015 stood out as DeRozan posted a triple-double with 38 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to lead M.H.P. to a 87-58 victory against Hank’s New Image.
DeRozan has just one triple-double in his NBA career, but he stuffed the stat sheet at the Drew as the points he scored (38) or created by his assists (20+) were enough to win the game.
The games: 2011 Drew League debut doubleheader
Durant is no stranger to summer ball, playing for his hometown Goodman League pro-am to work on his game each offseason. But during the 2011 lockout, Durant made a few notable appearances elsewhere as he headed to Rucker Park in Harlem (dropping 66 points) and to the Drew League, too.
In his Drew League debut, Durant suited up for the Game’s Money Gang squad and unleashed an off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself — launching the pass from just inside the 3-point line, then elevating for the one-handed throwdown. But one game wasn’t enough for Durant, who also joined James Harden’s Kings of LA squad for another run on the same day. Durant’s performance in his Drew League debut even tops L.A. legend and Drew League documentary filmmaker Baron Davis’ list of top five Drew League moments.
Two summers later, KD was back at the Drew as he posted 35 points and 17 boards for LAUNFD in a 92-90 loss to Money Gang as Durant missed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The game: July 17, 2011 | All-Star Game
The stats: 45 points & a game-winning jumper
Kobe Bryant’s Drew League debut came after that league had wrapped up its 2011 season. After initially reaching out about playing in the championship game — and being turned down by Smiley in order to maintain the integrity of the competition by not allowing a ringer to come in during the playoffs — it was decided that Bryant would play with fellow Drew League all-stars before a team representing the Drew was set to head to Washington, D.C. to face Durant’s Goodman League team in a battle of the two pro-ams.
Kobe stole the show as he dropped 45 points — including the game-winning mid-range pull-up jumper over a young Harden before being mobbed by fans rushing the court to celebrate. There are conflicting reports on Harden’s performance — he either scored 44 or 47 points in the loss — but this day was all about the “Black Mamba.”
The games: July 7 & 14, 2014
The stats: 57 points, six rebounds, five assists (July 7) | 56 points, four rebounds, two assists (July 14)
On Nov. 14, 2009, then-Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings famously scored 55 points in just his seventh NBA game. Over the course of his nine NBA seasons, that remained his career high. However, in July of 2014, Jennings posted two consecutive 50-point games in the Drew League as he was virtually unstoppable while representing The Clozers.
t started on July 7, when Jennings posted 57 points, six rebounds and five assists in The Clozers’ 107-84 win against SoleClinics. One week later, Jennings dropped 56 points to go with four rebounds and two assists in a 93-92 win over Kings of LA. Two weekends later (he was off the weekend of July 21), Jennings’ 50-point run ended as he finished with just 33 points in a 99-88 win over C.A.B.C.
The game: July 6, 2014 | MHP vs. Tradition
The moment: A must-see 360-degree windmill jam
A native of Palmdale, Calif., George was one of the fixtures at the Drew League similar to other local players like DeRozan and Davis. George even paid homage to the Drew League on a colorway of his signature Nike PG5s.
On July 6, 2014, George got a steal late in the first half which led to a one-man fast break. That gave him the perfect opportunity to show out and he gave the crowd a bit of dunk déjà vu as he broke a 360-degree windmill dunk. That’s the same dunk the then-Indiana Pacers star threw down against the LA Clippers in January 2014 … and back in the Drew League in 2012. The execution of the dunk was smooth, flawless and crowd-pleasing to say the least.
The game: July 5, 2015 | BB4L vs. LAUNFD
The stats: 44 points, seven rebounds, three assists
We’ve mentioned Davis’ name a few times here, but we have to highlight his 44-point performance back in July 2015. This came three years after his NBA career ended, but by the looks of these highlights — specifically, this incredible behind-the-back dribble and dish — he still had plenty of game in his tank as he led his squad to the win.
The game: July 20, 2019 | Public Enemy vs. BB4L
The stats: 46 points
Harrell and his Public Enemy squad spoiled the Drew League debut of Trae Young, who was suiting up for BB4L, as Harrell finished with a game-high 46 points to lead Public Enemy to a 102-95 win. Young finished with 31 points in the loss as he showed off his handle and unlimited shooting range, but it was Harrell who stole the show.
The game: July 23, 2022 | Black Pearl Elite vs. CitiTeam Blazers
The stats: 22 points, seven assists, seven steals
Young returned to the Drew this past weekend — and brought his Atlanta Hawks teammate, John Collins, along for his Drew debut — as they suited up for Black Pearl Elite. Young finished with 22 points, seven dimes and seven steals in the 103-100 loss, while Collins added 16 points and 12 boards.
The game: July 16, 2017 | LAUNFD vs. Hank’s Panthers
The stats: 50 points, 10 3-pointers
Many NBA players have had impressive debuts in the Drew League, but none scored more than Williams as he dropped 50 points and 10 3-pointers in his first appearance as LAUNFD beat Hank’s Panthers, 115-69. Williams’ ties to Los Angeles date back to 2015 when he signed as a free agent with the Lakers. After being traded to Houston midway through the 2016-17 season, Williams was traded back to L.A. that offseason — except this time he joined the Clippers.
Before he made his Clippers debut — and would go on to win back-to-back Kia Sixth Man of the Year honors — Williams laced them up for the first time in the Drew and could not be stopped. As a sixth man, Williams built a reputation as a player that could put up points quickly. He showcased that skill at the Drew as he scored inside and outside on his way to a 50-piece.
The game: July 14, 2018 | Hank’s Panthers vs. Birdie’s Revenge
The stats: 38 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists
When Pascal Siakam made his Drew League debut in July 2018, he was coming off his second NBA season in which he averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 20.7 minutes per game. He was showing flashes of his immense talent, but had not had his breakout season just yet. In his first action in the Drew League, Siakam shined as he finished with a monster triple-double — 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists — to lead Hanks’ Panthers to a win over Birdie’s Revenge.
Siakam was in attack mode all game, driving to the hoop and breaking out his signature spin move to create space. It’s no surprise that the following season was Siakam’s breakout season as he earned Kia Most Improved Player honors and helped the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title.
The game: July 24, 2021 | BB4L vs. Redemption
The stats: 37 points
Last summer, Isaiah Thomas hit the pro-am circuit to work on his game and work his back to full-time status in the NBA. After consecutive All-Star seasons in 2016 and 2017, a hip injury derailed Thomas’ career as he played in a total of 87 games over the next four seasons. The work he put in showed last summer as he scored 37 points for BB4L in his Drew League debut.
He then followed that up with a record 65-point game in the AEBL (Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League) pro-am a week later. And a week after that, he pulled a Kobe and dropped a record 81 points in the Crawsover pro-am, an annual summer league helmed by fellow Seattle-area legend and former NBA star Jamal Crawford. Thomas did make it back to the NBA during the 2021-22 season, playing 22 games for the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Hornets.
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Before signing off, we’re giving a huge shout out to the DrewLeague.com staff as their blog was a huge asset — along with YouTube highlights — in researching all these performances.
By Brian Martin, for NBA.com
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