8 NBA Players Who Played At The Drew & Helped Inspire Young Athletes
In the heart of South Central Los Angeles, a basketball league has changed the lives of young people for over 40 years. Showtime's documentary The Drew will put a spotlight on The Drew League, which started out small according to their official website. When it was founded, the program was meant to teach life lessons to young people through the sport of basketball. The League started out with just six teams and today it's comprised of 28 "invitation-only" teams. It's no surprise that a number of famous basketball players have played at the Drew — and you'll recognize many of these names, whether you're a sports fanatic or someone who can't remember the last time you tuned into a basketball game.
The Drew's top priority is to provide a safe space for young people to learn and excel at the sport and be part of a supportive community. Needless to say, the young players are thrilled when NBA greats like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant drop by to participate in games and chat with them. It may be located in the gym of a junior high school, but days at the Drew League often turn into star-studded affairs.
These eight famous basketball players have all participated in games at the Drew League — and some of them even got their start there as kids.
1. Casper Ware Jr.
Like his father, Ware played at the Drew League as a teenager. He graduated from Long Beach State and StadiumNews.com recently reported that Ware had signed a $350,000 deal in China with Tianjin Steel.
2. Nick Young
According to ESPN, Young signed a four-year deal with the Lakers in 2014. He got his start at the Drew and still frequents the League on a regular basis, telling the outlet that, "[i]t's home. It's like a family up here."
3. Baron Davis
Davis, the retired NBA All-Star who produced the documentary, began playing in the Drew League at age 13, he recently told CBSSports.com. He credits the league with preventing him from getting caught up in an unhealthy lifestyle and told the outlet that: “Basketball unites people... That's the best thing about the game. It brings people from all walks and all ages and it brings them together." With The Drew, he aims to send the message that there is hope for children in impoverished neighborhoods.
4. Kevin Durant
In 2014, Hall of Famer and 2014 League MVP, Kevin Durant stopped by the gym to share some advice with the Jr. Drew Leaguers — then he guest refereed a drill for the young players. They also had the opportunity to take part in KD’s Baddest Moves obstacle course, a contest Durant started where children can submit their "baddest moves" to Nike.com. He finished off the day by engaging in a Q&A session with the Junior League's two standouts, “Stank Stank” and “Little Al."
5. Dorell Wright
Not only is Dorell Wright a forward for Miami Heat, but he frequently competes in games at The Drew League.
6. Kobe Bryant
During the NBA lockout, Lakers star Kobe Bryant stopped by the Drew League for a game in 2011 — and he scored a whopping 43 points.
7. LeBron James
In 2011, James made a surprise appearance at the Drew League — in fact, even Smiley was taken aback when he learned that James was there to participate in a game rather than watch from the bleachers. He finished the game with an impressive 33 points, but according to the League's blog, Smiley's lasting impression of the star is his encouragement of another team member: "[W]hat most impressed Dino about LeBron, was how he encouraged eventual Drew League MVP, Casper Ware, throughout the game." Smiley kept James' jersey and stat sheet and they are framed in his garage.
8. JaVale McGee
According to Bleacher Report, Dallas Mavericks player McGee "can't get enough of The Drew" and his enthusiasm is evident in this clip. In the summer of 2013, he and Nick Young were members of the same Drew League team — the Most Hated Players (MHP).
The Drew League is one busy place — they're mentoring the stars of tomorrow, but plenty of current NBA all-stars frequent the gym as often as possible.