“Seeing him on that court in this community with those kids and the impact he made in that hour and a half of play, this was by far the best day we’ve had in the Drew League,” Drew League director Dino Smiley told Yahoo! Sports.
Smiley said he received a call Thursday from a representative for Cleveland Cavaliers guard Baron Davis(notes) saying a major NBA star was attending Saturday. Smiley initially thought it could be Kobe Bryant(notes), Derrick Rose(notes) or Blake Griffin(notes). Kevin Durant(notes), Ron Artest(notes) and Derrick Williams(notes) have already played this summer.
Smiley eventually received another call Saturday afternoon revealing that James was coming to the Leon H. Washington Park gym near the neighborhood of Watts. James arrived shortly after in a SUV. He was wearing a T-shirt and khaki shorts, and was joined by an entourage of about a half dozen people including Davis. To Smiley’s surprise, James wanted to play. James was given a No. 2 jersey for a team called "Cheaters II."
"I thought LeBron was coming just to hang out, but he asked for a uniform," Smiley said. "The crowd was just electrified when he walked in."
Smiley said many fans tweeted and sent text messages about James’ arrival. “Every edge” of the court in the tiny gym, Smiley said, was packed. Smiley said the gym doors were eventually closed shut during James’ game by law enforcement officers, who told fans if they left they couldn’t return.
With Davis coaching, James led Cheaters II to a close victory with 33 points. Once the game ended, the crowd rushed James to get autographs and pictures. After about five minutes, James' entourage whisked him away to the locker room. James is scheduled to hold his basketball camp on Thursday in San Diego.
“It was a great experience to just play with a guy like that," said Casper Ware, a senior guard at Long Beach State who played on James' team Saturday. "He was still passing even though he was LeBron. He just wanted me to play my game. He told me, ‘Don’t stand around and just throw me the ball. Play your game. I can get mine. Play your game and don't change for me.’
“He was very cool and down to earth. You could talk to him like any other player.”
James joined a long list of NBA players who have played in the Drew League, including Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Lester Connor, Dennis Johnson, Paul Pierce(notes), Andre Miller(notes) and Brandon Jennings(notes).
“I would say the biggest name without a doubt to play in the Drew is LeBron,” Smiley said. “But there is always a chance that [Kobe Bryant] could show up now because he might want to trump LeBron, especially in this city.”
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