Bulls DeMar DeRozan on playing in Drew League: 'This was for the city'

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Bulls DeMar DeRozan on Drew League: 'This was for the city' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Drew League is one of the rawest forms of basketball that attracts the biggest stars on the planet to play there. Since its inception in 1973, the league plays summer pro-am games at King Drew Magnet High School in Los Angeles.

In late July, LeBron James showed up to play for the first time since 2011. With him, Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan teamed up to compete in a packed high school gym with an estimated 2,500 people in attendance.

It was a text message from James that sparked interest in DeRozan to play in his hometown. That's all it took. Once DeRozan put out a tweet the night before the game with the crown emoji paired with "Dbo" and the caption "Drew League tomorrow," followed by the eye emoji, everyone knew what was happening.

The tweet got 32,000 likes on Twitter and escalated the game into a media frenzy.

"I get home that day after playing in the Drew League and I'm like, this is on ESPN, NBA TV, popping up on my app on ESPN on the phone. It was even on the NBA app," DeRozan said.

DeRozan and James sparked a flurry of NBA fans to wake up from the dry spell of no basketball and the quieting of free agency to watch one of the most electric games of the summer. James went for 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals while DeRozan tacked on 30 points and 14 rebounds.

The game was intense. DeRozan got into a screaming match with one of the opposing players on the floor -- something you don't often see out of the Compton native. James grabbed an electric alley-oop off the backboard for a rim-shaking dunk.

James and DeRozan's team, the MMV CHeaters, won by just two points.

DeRozan got in a solid workout in a truly meaningless game. (Despite not having the competitive freedom lose to guys that aren't in the NBA.) He worked on some moves and showed off his midrange game.

But, this game was bigger than basketball for those in attendance.

“That was my conversation I had with [Le]Bron, you know, this was for the city," DeRozan said. "Last couple of years, the passing of Kobe, we lost Nipsey Hussle. The city has kind of been extremely heavy with losing a lot of legends that the community look up to and guys just outside of sports that move this whole community and give you imagination and give you that inspiration to want to keep pushing forward. That moment there was an opportunity for us to capitalize on. Like you said, you’ve seen it in these kids' faces that that's going to do something for them that is way beyond just basketball.”

DeRozan mentioned he was "honored" to play with James in such an intimate, close-knit setting. Kids could reach out and touch DeRozan anytime he got near the sidelines. Everyone in the gym had a closer view of the pair than a spectator would at the United Center or Crypto.com arena.

Green and DeRozan talked about how NBA players were like untouchables growing up. Derrick Martin was one player that DeRozan idolized and kept him motivated to keep working towards his NBA dreams.

For the next generation, it's James and DeRozan at the forefront.

"You telling me the LeBron James just came out here to play?" DeRozan said. "And right across the street is the projects. Right down the street is the neighborhood I grew up in. So, to see this man come up there and play, it's bigger than basketball. It's being an inspiration and a motivation to that community to have light and to keep pushing forward. And that was a positive day that's going to be remembered forever."

Green and DeRozan hashed about every city having a pro-am put together like the Drew League. Green mentioned his awkward approach to those types of games, saying he can't ever find the correct mentality for either playing too seriously or not enough for him to enjoy it.

He shouted out Adam Silver (NBA Commissioner) to create the opportunities around the country to fulfill the dead, NBA-less summer months.

But, DeRozan doesn't think that's necessary. In fact, he believes it's on the players to recreate the days he and James did in mid-July.

"I think even before you even include the NBA, I think it's on us," DeRozan said. "Just like last week, it was just a text message I got from [Le]Bron about playing in the Drew League. And look what we did in a matter of a couple of days."

The two created history.

A game never to be forgotten, especially by the kids growing up in Compton.

And while some spectators were biting their nails in fear that their hometown legend would lose to players they've never heard before, Green affirms it would never happen.

"A pro is a pro and a Joe is a Joe," Green said.

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