The Game’s jump shot is ugly as all hell.
He knows it too; occasionally, before letting fly with his unorthodox release, he’ll cross himself in a joking pantomime of prayer and kiss the ball goodbye, playing to the crowd who loves every second of it.
Usually the comical efforts sail long, or short, or sometimes clang off the side of the backboard, but every once in a while, sometimes with absolutely absurd frequency, the ball goes through the net, and it’s always a swish when it does. The crowd goes crazy.
This is the rapper out of his natural element, hanging on the court with NBA superstars and overseas professional basketball players, yet somehow his team, Birdie’s Revenge (inspired by 1994 Tupac vehicle Above The Rim), currently sits just two games away from the most coveted title in Los Angeles sports, with an undefeated record to boot.
The Drew League is an LA institution. Founded 44 years ago in the South Central area, what was once a recreational men’s league has become one of the premier Pro-Am leagues not just in the United States, but worldwide. Plenty of current and former NBA-level talent grew up there; from former point god Baron Davis, to his heir apparent, two-time MVP runner-up James Harden, dozens of All-Stars, benchwarmers, and Hall of Famers have graced the Drew League hardwood. So how did a 6’4” rapper from Compton end up so close to accomplishing a goal all of them sought but intriguingly few have ever achieved?
The answer, like so many things in life, is shockingly simple: Trial and error. This isn’t the first year Game has participated. Born Jayceon Taylor — but known at The Drew as Chuck Taylor, for the iconic hoop shoe that has also become synonymous with LA gang culture he proudly flaunts in his music — has used his rap money to fund multiple Drew League teams. From the Roley Boys to Money Gang to La Familia, since 2011 he’s been going strong. 2011 was also a landmark year for the league, when the NBA lockout brought superstars Kobe Bryant and Lebron James to South Central to play for free out of love of the game. But The Game was involved long before then, and he also makes sizable donations to the Drew League Foundation, a scholarship fund started by the former commissioner Dino Smiley to send kids to college.
Those early experiments were all busts, largely due to Game’s tendency to value star power over consistency. While he used his considerable influence as a popular figure in hip-hop to entice players like DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, and even Kevin Durant to play for his teams, they’d often play as guns-for-hire, dropping in on a random weekend to drop 40 points, then disappear, leaving his rosters thin and his regular players fed up with being benched in favor of big names. That, combined with the oft-derided strategy of keeping himself in all 32 minutes of every game — a strategy that most Drew players have called playing “4-on-5” — have kept him from any level of playoff success.
This year, however, brings a new strategy: No NBA players (they’ve bent this rule a bit, bringing in NBA forward Iman Shumpert to play a game late in the season, but gave him a reduced role). Instead, Chuck has chosen to put all his hopes for this season in the capable hands of a lanky, local point guard from the Jordan Down housing projects in Watts named Franklin “Nitty” Session, and a coach who formerly helped design Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 1 clothing line.