To many of the Italian fans this name will say little or nothing. But in fact the Drew League, where LeBron James is also about to compete, is an institution in the United States, far more than just a summer tournament. A real league that takes place in the summer, whose popularity in America is comparable only to that of The Basketball Tournament.
In the United States, where the culture of the playground was born and still holds very high value today, winning or performing well in these tournaments guarantees notoriety, glory in the eyes of the fans and a chance to show off in the eyes of the insiders. It is played in the summer but the atmosphere is far from that of a friendly game.
La Drew League, in particular, was born in 1973 in Los Angeles and is still played in California today. It was founded by Alvin Willis, who in 1983 left the position to current commissioner Oris Smiley. Under his stewardship, the league exploded in popularity, eventually welcoming a number of interesting high-school and college prospects, and then playing host to many NBA players, including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James himself. Many athletes who have made history in the game have “made their bones” here, including. DeMar DeRozan who made his debut there at age 14. The popularity of the Drew League finally exploded in 2011, coinciding with the NBA lockout that prompted several players to participate. From there, TV attention and revenue from rights and sponsors increased. In 2013 the tournament was branded Nike, currently brands such as Adidas Red Bull sponsor it and it has been included in several editions of the NBA Live video game. All this led to a change in location: since 2012 it has been played in the King/Drew Magnet High School gymnasium (capacity of about a thousand spectators) between Compton and Watts, two of LA’s most complicated neighborhoods. Admission has always been free, no tickets (except for the parterre on the sidelines) or reservations: first come, first served. The historical motto is. “No excuse. Just produce.”, making the point that on the court no one backs down. The beauty lies precisely in the possibility of seeing stars of the caliber of LeBron James tagged by semi-unknowns who have become cult players in the United States. An example of this is. Franklin Session, three-time consecutive MVP of the tournament, also present in some editions of the Big3 and in recent winters busy between Qatar and Thailand. In the United States, however, he is much better known than many NBA players.