LeBron James drops in on Drew League, invigorating L.A. basketball scene

At 3 a.m. Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y., Dion Wright got a call that changed his entire day.

Mike Nwabuzor had blown up his phone, letting him know that Black Pearl Elite, their Drew League Team, would be going against LeBron James.

It took several sources to sway Wright: He had already seen messages in his group chat he had dismissed. His tune changed when he saw DeMar DeRozan – a Compton native and frequent Drew League competitor – hint that James would be playing on his team MMV Cheaters.

“Right away,” Wright said, “I’m booking a flight early in the morning.”

A 6 a.m. flight from Buffalo got him in for the 2 p.m. game that saw James make a return to the South Central pro-am league for the first time since the 2011 lockout. James can count a 2020 Lakers title among the four NBA championships on his resume, but the Drew League is an entirely different system of credibility, where NBA players can find themselves on their heels against overseas pros like Wright trying to make a name for themselves.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, James was the best and most assertive player on the court, finishing with 42 points (on 18-for-36 shooting), 16 rebounds, four steals and three assists – two of which were passes looped behind his back. James helped ensure a 104-102 win for the MMV Cheaters, who also got 30 points from DeRozan, against BPE, which had…

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