Each summer the Goodman League in Washington, D.C. hosts NBA stars and streetball legends as one of the most well-known summer leagues in the country. Across the United States in Los Angeles, the Drew League does virtually the same. From Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins in D.C. to DeMar DeRozan and James Harden in L.A., the leagues have been the talk of the summer. So when Durant put on another show, but this time in the Drew League and not the Goodman League last month, he raised a question: Which league is better?
“Our fans want to see it because we want to beat them and have bragging rights,” says Mac Williams, webmaster of the Goodman League. “We want to be able to say we beat L.A., we beat California. And California wants to be able to say we came to D.C. and we kicked y’alls heads. It’s for the grassroots, down-earth, everyday rabid basketball, streetball, high school ball, college ball fan. This is a game that we’ve never had before. It’s a mega-game.”
What started as back-and-forth trash talking on Facebook and Twitter between the leagues turned into a reality after Durant went over and played in the Drew.
“He came and played and he wanted to play again,” says Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley. “He had a 12 o’clock game and came back and played at 5 o’clock. And when he went back to D.C., he told those guys, we need to bring the Drew League out here to town for a game because that’s one tough league and I think it would be a great contest to go at it against them.”
On August 20, the basketball world is set to find out which league is better. It’ll be the Goodman League vs. the Drew League. East Coast vs. West Coast. D.C. vs. L.A. And the name of possibly the most anticipated matchup of the summer? Capital Punishment. The game will be played at 6:30 p.m. at D.C.’s Coolidge High School and will feature a mixture of NBA and non-NBA players.
Players on the Goodman side will include Durant, Cousins, John Wall, Ty Lawson, Gary Neal, Tyreke Evans, Michael Beasley, Josh Selby, Sam Young, Donte Greene, Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones, Emanuel “Duce” Jones, and Warren “D-Nice” Jefferson. For the Drew: Harden, DeRozan, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Brandon Jennings, JaVale McGee, Craig Smith, Pooh Jeter, Bobby Brown, Marcus Williams, and three players yet to be named.
“The game in August,” says Williams, “is probably one of the biggest, because it’s gone national and national news has caught onto it and talked about it.”
Williams, one of the organizers of the game, believes that the game has a chance to make history. Because even though summer leagues have been around for decades, there hasn’t quite been a game like this one.
“Hopefully we can look back in the history of summer leagues, in the history of basketball and people will say, ‘You know what, this was the game that started summer leagues actually going across the country and playing each other.'”
ESPN is interested in televising the game, and Baron Davis is likely to coach and potentially play for the Drew League, says Smiley. It will be streamed on TheBasketballChannel.net, but you can pay $25 to watch it live.
The game signifies the growth of summer leagues. They have always been popular, but this year, they are really taking off. The lockout isn’t the only reason for their growth, but there has been more attention on these games because of a lack of official NBA summer league games. But people involved with both the Goodman and Drew leagues say that the lockout isn’t the main reason for the seemingly increased interest.
“It would be crazy to say the influx of NBA talent has not been a result of the lockout, but many of these guys and others have balled in the Drew,” says JaQay Carlyle, who’s been the Drew League’s web director since 2005. “It has been amazing how popular the Drew is becoming nationwide, but this league is certainly no secret to folks ‘in the know’ in Southern California.”
The same can be said for the Goodman League.
“This year it’s a part of it because it just happened to happen because of the lockout,” says Williams. “But I can honestly say that this wasn’t started because of the lockout. It was started because our fans.”
Game will be in attendance, says Smiley, and they’re also trying to get Snoop Dogg to come. But even with all the stars expected to be at the game, Smiley says they’re trying to stay away from making the game an NBA showcase. That’s why they want the game to feature a mixture of league regulars and NBA players.
Williams says he hopes the game will have a lasting influence. He wants it to be an annual event.
“I think it’s gonna be the start of something very good and something that hopefully we can do every year,” says Williams. “It will be a big game that everyone will look forward to across the country. More summer leagues will play each other across the country and go down and visit and this will be a blueprint for something that could possibly be great years down the line.”
For this year though, the game is a first, an event in itself. And at the end of the day, everyone will know at least one thing.
“We’re going to find out,” says Williams, “who the best summer league is.”
Tickets go on sale July 29 at DTLR stores. Locations will be released soon. General admission is $25; Limited floor seats are $60.
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