The Drew League has often served as a venue for NBA players to hone their skills against strong competition in the offseason, but for the past decade, the game's biggest star has avoided it. LeBron James last played in the Drew League during the 2011 NBA lockout, but on Saturday, 11 years later, he made his grand return to the stage. And boy, was it worth the wait.
James shined with 42 points and 16 rebounds in a dramatic win alongside another top professional, DeMar DeRozan. The game almost went sideways in the final moments, as James went only 1 for 2 at the foul line to give his team just a two-point lead in the final seconds, but they were ultimately able to secure the comeback win after trailing by six entering the fourth quarter. There were a number of highlights from James' performance as he put on a show for the capacity crowd in attendance.
James wasn't the only NBA superstar scheduled to appear at the Drew League on Saturday. Kyrie Irving was also expected to play in the opening game of the day. However, that game came and went without the Brooklyn Nets' star in attendance. While he could still play in a later game, he has not yet arrived as of this writing.
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James has reportedly been pushing his Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Irving in a blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook. Playing together at the Drew League would have only added fuel to that fire, but even under the original plan, James and Irving weren't slated to appear in the same game. Irving's Nets are currently dealing with Kevin Durant's trade request, and his situation is therefore on hold until that is resolved.
Seeing stars like James and Irving play at the Drew League is a rare offseason treat. For the most part, offseason basketball is contained to Summer League, which is played by rookies and other young players trying to make a mark. James and Irving are several levels above that. We won't get to see them play in real games for several more months, so for now, getting them in live game action even against non-NBA players helps satisfy our offseason basketball cravings.