For nearly four decades, the Drew League has been home to some of the country's best summer basketball. From street legends to NBA players, the city's greatest talent has always found its way into the gym. David Greenwood, Raymond Lewis, John Williams, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, Dennis Johnson, Lester Conner, Baron Davis, and Paul Pierce are some of the local legends spending summers on the Drew League court. Among the locally grown NBA players who have suited up for games this year at Washington Park in South L.A. are James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Nick Young, Craig Smith, Derrick Williams, and Dorell Wright. Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, and Steve Blake have dropped in, as well.
Still, while Drew League may be an institution in the neighborhood and among basketball junkies, it still can be considered a reasonably well-kept secret citywide. I'd only heard about it a couple summers ago, and didn't see a game until this year. This despite working in local sports media for almost a decade. Does it reflect a healthy dose of ignorance on my part? No question, but I suspect I'm not alone.
ESPNLA.com's Pedro Moura has done a great job covering this season's games, featuring the players above, but also ludicrously high end talent like Kevin Durant and, Saturday, LeBron James. The popularity of the still intimate and lo-fi league has grown, thanks in part to social media and, this year at least, the lockout, which has focused more attention towards it with a hoops hungry populace.
To gain more insight into the Drew, we spoke to longtime commissioner Dino Smiley, who reflected on league's past, present, and future, and the important role it plays in the community. At the same time, Smiley provides a great history of L.A. basketball and its rich talent, including his choice for the greatest player the city has ever produced.
Drew League games run through August, and are well worth checking out. It's a chance to see some high quality ball in a great atmosphere.