Even though we have no NBA games in the summer, this is usually the time when we get some of the craziest highlights or games by NBA players playing in their local summer leagues. Whether they are regular runs during their workouts or regional leagues, the players show out and prove why they are the cream of the crop in their craft.
One of the most famous venues is the Drew League. With a good chunk of NBA players spending their offseason in Los Angeles, we often see stars get a few runs in at the Drew Leauge to keep in shape. Numerous big names like James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, and more grace the Drew Leauge court, but nobody left a bigger imprint than Kobe Bryant.
Kobe was already a legend in the city of Los Angeles, spending his whole career with the Lakers and winning five championships. But back in 2011, one of his most notable career performances came in the Drew Leauge. Out of nowhere, during the NBA lockout, Kobe would decide to play in a small school gym to satisfy his hunger for basketball. The game would go down in history, as we got a legendary duel between Kobe and young versions of James Harden and DeMar DeRozan.
Even though it happened 10 years ago, DeMar still remembers that day very well, as he talked about what led to the game even happening while speaking with former NFL player and FS1 analyst Shannon Sharpe on his podcast.
“I think it was a last-minute call of getting guys together because it was like a random day; Kobe wanted to hoop, so all the guys that were in LA got the call saying we gonna play today, Kobe gonna play… We at the little gym at the park..Kobe comes. Everybody going crazy. It was thousands of people waiting outside that couldn’t get in. I just remember us going out there and playing, and him walking on the floor saying something crazy, he always be talking s–t crazy, he was like:‘ Yall MF’s better come play!'”DeMar DeRozan, fubo Sports
The game would go down as one of the best in Drew Leauge history, as the NBA stars went at each other for the whole game like they were on an NBA court. Eventually, Kobe would hit the buzzer-beater for the win, capping off his miraculous 45-point performance, leading to the iconic scene of the crowd storming the court with Kobe at halfcourt raising his hands. Even DeMar, who was on the opposing team, couldn’t believe what he was witnessing:
“I don’t know if he stretched in the car on the way there because he just walked on the floor, didn’t do nothing like got straight to it. So we hooping. I remember it’s a close game. They was trying to make him leave early. We was up, and they was trying to get Kobe to leave, and he was like:‘Nah, I’m finishing the game.’ And he ended up hitting the game-winner. He just stood in the middle of the floor. It was like, you can’t make this up..it was like a real-life game. It felt like he was playing in the Staples Center…For him to hit the game-winner and stand there in the middle of the court while everybody running up to him, it was like one of the craziest moments in the Drew League.”DeMar DeRozan, fubo Sports
It was such an iconic moment, as basketball fans worldwide finally got some excitement and action due to the NBA being shut down because of the lockout. Kobe would prove once again he was the “King of the Clutch,” showing how it didn’t matter what stage he was playing on. “The Mamba” was always ready to play and give 100%. For the rising stars in DeRozan and Harden, who were on the other side of most of Kobe’s buckets, this was an incredible experience, as it inspired them to become stars of their own.