By Melissa Rohlin
NBA Sports Writer FOX
When LeBron James walked into the gym at King Drew Magnet High in South Central, Los Angeles, a sea of fans crumbling around him, screaming and holding their phones in the air.
Fans rushed onto the pitch in joy, as the organizers told everyone to back off. At one point, James even stepped in, politely asking some stragglers to get off the field.
After news broke Friday night that James would be playing in his first Drew League game since 2011 on Saturday, fans began queuing up between 7am and 8am for a chance to see the NBA’s face playing at 1:45pm.
It was a very rare opportunity for locals to watch James play for free in a very intimate setting rather than paying high ticket prices to sit in a nosebleed at the Crypto.com Arena.
An hour before the game, the gym had reached capacity. About 1,450 people attended the match.
James didn’t disappoint the first time we saw him play basketball since April 1. There’s a traffic jam. There are 3s fadeaway. There is his trademark dribble-drive where he passes defenders with unrivaled power and agility.
At one point during the first half, James sailed through the lane for a one-handed dunk with such force that the hoop appeared to sway back and forth for several seconds. James stood under the basket with his head tilted upwards, watching the scene with amusement.
James finished the game with 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals as his team won, 104-102. This highlights once again that even though he is 37 years old, he is still one of the top players on the planet.
Apparently, James’ plans to play in the Drew League on Saturday had hatched about five days ago when Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan – who hails from nearby Compton and has played in the Drew League since he was 17 years old – invited him to play with his team, MMV. cheaters.
James didn’t hesitate, which means the world to the local community.
“This, for them, is a memory of a lifetime,” League CFO Drew Michael McCaa told FOX Sports.
In South Los Angeles, 29 percent of people live below the poverty line, according to CensusReporter.org. This is an opportunity for people who may not be able to afford a Lakers game to see a four-time champion and four-time MVP.
The Drew League could charge an exorbitant entry fee for James’ first game in three months, as it could have been years ago when Kobe Bryant arrived, but that’s not what this league is about.
“It started at the grassroots and will remain grassroots and community-centred,” McCaa said. “…It’s not about money.”
The baseline disardines with people only a few feet from James. The referee kept having to tell the people to get off the pitch, as the crowd kept pushing forward. James had fun with it all. He even smiled and high-fived the two little ones who ran onto the pitch at halftime.
The last time we saw James, he wasn’t very happy.
The Lakers were on the verge of missing out on the playoffs, an epic collapse for a team that entered the season with championship hopes. And James missed the last five games of the season with an ankle injury.
It was a deep disappointment for James, who is playing MVP caliber basketball at the age of 37, averaging 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
Things are still volatile at LakerLand. When Yahoo Sports broke the news of James’ impending participation in the Drew League on Friday, ESPN also reported that evening that Russell Westbrook and his longtime agent, Thad Foucher, had split over “irreconcilable differences,” stemming from Foucher believing that Westbrook’s best option is to stay with the Lakers – and Westbrook seems to believe otherwise.
It’s clear that James’ window of winning another title is closing in as he approaches 40, and it’s now or never for the marriage between one of the greatest players of all time and the Lakers.
But, for at least one day, none of that mattered.
On Saturday, James dominated the pro-am summer league with his friend DeRozan. He laughed and chatted with Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, who was sitting courtside. And above all, he puts on a show for South Los Angeles.
James smiled throughout the game. He danced as the music boomed during recess. And he put in a dazzling display at both ends of the pitch, dominating the attack while playing a lockout defense so intense at one point in the fourth quarter that the fans were screaming, “Ohhhhhhhh.”
A little boy summed up the afternoon perfectly.
“This is the best day ever,” he said as he walked out of the gym holding hands with his mother.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow him on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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In the midst of the Lakers turmoil, LeBron needs time to impress in the Drew League
Source link In the midst of the Lakers turmoil, LeBron needs time to impress in the Drew League