LOS ANGELES — LeBron J scored 42 in a successful return of the Drew League. He also teamed up with DeMar DeRozan to win 104-102 in L.A.’s renowned proam basketball league.
Dino Smiley, a long-serving commissioner of Drew League, told ESPN that he expected Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irwin to play at the game before James and DeRozan. However, that didn’t happen.
Smiley stated late Saturday afternoon that “we still have a few games left today and then six tomorrow,”
Smiley stated that Irving’s Saturday appearance “sounded like it would be a sure thing, but I don’t know what happened.”
The Saturday Drew League slate was being played in Compton, California. Irving, a participant at the Los Angeles Lakers assistant coaching camp for girls’ basketball, posted a video of Irving with the campers to her Instagram.
Handy coached Irving five seasons while they were both part of the Cleveland Cavaliers team.
Saturday’s Drew League game marked the 37-year old James’ first appearance in basketball for more than three months. A left ankle injury caused him to miss seven games of the Lakers’ last eight regular-season games. He also missed 26 games during 2021-22, making it one of the most disappointing seasons of franchise history.
During the first half, James stated to ESPN that he was 100% healthy.
He ended with 42 points, 18-for-36 shooting (2-13-for-13 from 3, 16 rebounds and 4 steals), as well as 3 assists. DeRozan was a Drew League legend who invited James to join his team along with fellow Southern Californian Casper Ware. He scored 30 points on 9 for 23 shooting and 14 rebounds.
James and DeRozan’s MMV Cheaters team, also known as the MMV Cheaters were trailing team Black Pearl Elite by seven points in the fourth quarter, before storming back.
MMV was up six with DeRozan’s feed for James to score a two-handed, rimbending dunk. With only 1:22 left, it seemed that MMV was in control. BPE then followed up with a 3-pointer, and a layup made by stealing an outbounds pass. James was now in danger of losing his first game at the Drew League for more than a decade.
After a timeout MMV inbound the ball to James. James was fouled with 4.5 second left. James went to the free throw line along with his team up 103-102.
He was the one who made it. Then things became interesting.
“I walked up LeBron to the end and told him that I needed one [miss Mike Nwabuzor, of BPE], who plays professionally overseas. He actually made the free throw. That was the most memorable moment. The whole game was great. It was a great competition. It’s great to share the court together.”
James missed the second free throw. However, Ethan Alvano from BPE made a potentially game-winning 3 at buzzer. James raised his fist to celebrate.
Alvano recently signed a two year contract to play in South Korea. “We made some mistakes along the way. That’s a lifetime dream to play against, or with, LeBron James. A person I grew to admire, and someone I grew as a child watching. It was an honor to share the courtroom with him.
James made his first appearance at Drew League, which was established in 1973. Since the 2011 NBA lockout, a large number of NBA players have visited the Charles Drew Junior School gymium every summer for decades.
Smiley stated that when the first event occurred, it was unexpected because Baron Davis brought him in to play. He was initially just coming to watch but then got excited to see the crowd and the game, and then he wanted to get a jersey.” Smiley said, “So that’s how it happened.”
Davis was among the dozen or so former NBA players who were present to watch Saturday’s game. This group also included Montrezl Harrell from the Charlotte Hornets, Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors, and Kendrick Nunn as well as Talen Horton Tuckerer of the Lakers.
Irving’s absence has wiped out much of the intrigue surrounding James and his former teammate.
Irving recently signed his $36.5 million player option with the Brooklyn Nets for the 2022-23 Season. James is currently in the last year of his contract with Los Angeles Lakers. However, James will be eligible for an extension with L.A. beginning next month.
Los Angeles has engaged Brooklyn
Sources told ESPN that Brooklyn has been engaging Los Angeles in trade negotiations in recent weeks in an attempt to acquire Irving. The deal would see Russell Westbrook sent to the Nets. These talks have not led to an agreement.
Instead, James, four years into his Lakers tenure, was focusing on the court and trying to establish himself as a part of the L.A. basketball community.
Alvano stated, “It’s amazing for him to be here, and come to middle of the hood where regular people look up to him every day, it’s a star so for him come here to grace these people with the presence of his, I think it is super dope.” It’s great for the community and I’m glad that he did it.
Smiley added: “It was an epic, epic afternoon basketball.”