Since its humble beginnings in 1973, the Drew League has seen some changes. From six teams to 26, and from packed gyms at Charles Drew Middle School to being featured on SportsCenter, the South Central staple has exploded globally and has become a hot spot for basketball junkies to watch the world’s greatest athletes battle it out on the courts of King Drew High School. Yet with all of this growth, there are two things that will never waver when it comes to the Drew: the importance of the community and the expectation each player faces when they wear a Drew League jersey.
For 45 years, the Drew has been home to nail-biting suspense, buzzer-beater finishes, and awe-inspiring moments. In 2011, Kobe Bryant went off for 45 points while being guarded by James Harden and the crowd erupted as the Black Mamba sunk a beautiful fadeaway just inside the arc in the final seconds to win the game. In the same year, LeBron James teamed up with Casper Ware Jr. on the courts at Washington Park and fans went nuts.
Yet with as many videos there are of pro guys, there have been just as many thrilling performances by guys who are quintessential to the Drew. Players like Tyrone “5-0” Riley whose game speaks just as loud as the trash he talks on the court or back-to-back Drew League MVP Frank “Nitty” Session who posterizes any player who stands in the way of him and the rim. Beyond the X’s and O’s of the game and the hype behind seeing your favorite athlete play, the Drew is about the community; that’s what makes the league so special. It’s about the community of people who play their hearts out at King Drew before pros and college kids are eligible to play. It’s about the community of people who stood in lines wrapped around King Drew just to get a corner of a seat in the stands. It’s about the community of people who were there when Horney’s Hornets won the first ship in ‘73. The Drew League was built for the community, built by the community and will continue to build with the community.
While communal values hold their weight in the Drew League, accountability and responsibility are just as important. When you step onto the court at King Drew, you are expected to perform. You either show up or you don’t—the crowd, other players and George Preciado, the Voice of the Drew League, will let you know if you need to take a seat. In the Drew League, there are absolutely no excuses. If you’re hurt, ride the bench; if you’re not skilled enough to keep up with the league, the stands take zero talent to fill. At the Drew, it’s simple: Get buckets or get clowned.
For 45 years, the Drew has been a staple in both the basketball and Los Angeles community. Not only have players built their legacy at the Drew, but communities have found solace when Los Angeles faced turbulent times. As the Drew League embarks on Year 45, the same standards remain true. There will be great basketball, there will be rivalries and there will be Drew-Aid. Expect the Drew League to reach new heights and leave behind all predictions based off of last season. Year 45 is a new year. The year of higher expectations and even greater goals. There is no excuse, the Drew will produce.