Los Angeles Lakers: Venice Beach
August, 27, 2011
By Chris Palmer
It’s not easy to stand out on Venice Beach.
With sidewalk performers, buff bodies and curious oddities of all sorts there’s a lot to compete with. Equal parts bazaar, freak show and art exhibit, Venice Beach is one of the most colorful stretches in all of Southern California.
Enter one of the NBA’s brightest stars.
Kevin Durant strode down Ocean Front Walk, the vibrant band of asphalt that divides Venice from its beach, as casually as he would make his way to an ice machine at the end of a hotel hallway.
Dressed in basketball shorts, black socks and flip-flops, Durant stood head and shoulders above earthy longboarders, jaded locals and eager tourists from places like Japan and Holland.
“He’s so tall,” gushed a woman at a bike rental stand straddling a blue beach cruiser. Throngs of people trailed behind him. Durant’s destination was the basketball courts that are no more than a chest pass from where 17th Avenue meets Ocean Front Walk.
But after dominating on his much publicized whirlwind summer league tour, highlighted by his 44-point effort to lead the D.C.-based Goodman League in a thrilling 135-134 victory over L.A.’s Drew League, on this day the NBA’s leading scorer would take a backseat to the next generation.
Durant and a half-dozen of his locked-out brethren showed up for the sixth annual Boost Mobile Elite 24 All-Star game, which features two dozen of the best high school basketball players in the country.
For one afternoon Venice was the center of the basketball universe as NBA royalty and A-list actors rubbed elbows with AAU coaches and streetball legends as long-limbed, teen-aged stars dunked until their hearts were content.
Swingman Justin Anderson of Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) was named co-MVP with forward Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony’s (Jersey City, N.J.) of the fast-paced affair short on D and long on breakaway throwdowns. But Baltimore’s Aquille Carr (21 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds) was the real winner for generating so much buzz about his video game-like playing style and winning over the pros in attendance.
The “Marques Johnson” team beat the “Raymond Lewis” team 142-132 but the real show was not always on the court but around it. Along with Durant, fellow locked-out stars in attendance included John Wall, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan and Matt Barnes.