In New York, Rucker Park has come to be known as the birthplace of street ball. Tales of future NBA stars like Earl Monroe and would-be legends like Earl “The Goat” Manigault have been permeating urban folklore for decades.
Out west, Los Angeles boasts its own Mecca for top talent, the Drew League. Despite forming in 1973, it wasn’t until the NBA lockout in 2011 when the league would find itself in the national spotlight.
In his new documentary, The Drew, released last week, former NBA all-star Baron Davis showed the world what South Central L.A. already knew: When the NBA is in its off-season, the best games on the West Coast are in the Drew.
Boom Dizzle himself recalled one off-season where the Drew helped him take his game to a higher plateau.
“My favorite Drew League memory, it was I think 2000 or 2001. I knew that I had put in all the work and I had come off my rookie year [in the NBA] and I didn’t have the year I wanted to have,” Baron told BET.com in an exclusive conversation.
“From that point I just came back to the Drew and took all my frustrations out on the court. I just focused on working hard and becoming a better player. That was the year we won the championship,” he added.
Baron’s story is just one of many touched upon by the documentary, which debuted on Showtime April 29. From Kobe’s now famous showdown with James Harden to appearances by superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the league has earned a reputation as a proving ground with legendary games now commonplace.
“There’s been a lot of epic battles,” exclaimed Baron, “One in particular that stands out was Casper Ware Jr. in the playoffs upsetting The Game’s team by scoring 43 points. Game had a bunch of pros on his squad Steve Blake, Ron Artest, DeMar DeRozan. The Drew League is everything. It gives the neighborhoods an opportunity to be close to their favorite stars and have a place they can go to that they feel is their own.”
Having already established as the preeminent place for summertime ball in the southland, Baron hopes to take on other cities as the league continues to grow.
“Something that I want to start working on now is setting up a tournament for inner-city pro-am leagues to do a tournament in the summer,” noted Baron. “It’s in the works right now. Hopefully BET can air it!”
Baron has not played in the NBA since 2012, and though he’s already enjoyed plenty of success producing documentaries (this is his fourth), he recently got the itch to get back on the court and at 37 and, finally healthy, the high flying point guard is ready to give the NBA one last shot.
Hopefully in a year I’ll be in training camp and somewhere playing. The goal is just keep working,” said Baron, who is currently playing for the Delaware 87er’s in the NBA’s D-League. “It feels good to be back on a team and at this point it’s just about fine-tuning this summer. I’m getting ready for the Drew as we speak.”
As Baron tries to work his way back onto an NBA roster, his former team the Golden State Warriors continue to make history in the playoffs after a record-breaking 73-win regular season, and Baron says the key to their success is their selflessness.
“[The Warriors] have a great deal of respect and love for each other and they show that love on the court. You can’t help but root for a team that unselfish and entertaining to watch,” said Baron, also acknowledging the uncanny play of the team’s sharpshooting leader. “The same thing I said about the team as a whole goes for Steph Curry. He’s my favorite to watch, hands down. What they’re doing is great for the city, those fans and the guys on that team.”
BET Sports News — Get the latest news and information about African-Americans in sports, including weekly recaps, celebrity news and photos of your favorite Black athletes.
(Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular)