Written by Anuoluwapo Bamiro, columnist.
On Saturday, July 29th I attended the games for the Drew Leagues’ 50th year anniversary. The atmosphere was astonishing as the league has garnered so much press and many fans as NBA players, celebrities, and the best of the city come and compete on different teams to become the champions for that summer.
The League began in 1973 it was founded by Alvin Willis, who turned the then popular “Homeroom Basketball” program at Charles Drew Middle School into the Drew League. The games ran at the school up until 2005, during the beginning stages he added the original voice for the games Bill Crawford. Dino Smiley became the commissioner. Alvin always made sure to be wherever he was needed to keep the games going. He would sometimes be the voice of the game as well as, he would referee and scorekeeper. The slogan for the league is “No Excuse, Just Produce” which can be seen on everything and everywhere in the gyms, merchandise, and uniforms has been the motto since Dino Smiley came up with it. In 2017 Chaniel Smiley took over as commissioner and has been proudly keeping up the momentum and keeping it in the family.
The League has been a part of so many historical moments and has witnessed the good, bad, and ugly of the city. In South Central, there are really no malls, no hangouts (bowling alleys), or things that could keep people occupied and out of trouble. They knew the importance and how much the community loves and cherishes basketball, so they made that the event of the year. They have always remained a positive staple for the community and provided a safe space for people to watch and participate in the sport. During the 1992 riots, they remained open and provided a safe space for the community, and in 2012 when the league made its move to King Drew High School, they also expanded now having 28 teams. The league has brought out big names like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, and many more. It is really a high-energy community event that makes you realize the fun and momentum in our backyards.
This year was very special not only was the league celebrating its 50th year anniversary but Robert Kennedy Jr. was also there in attendance. Now call me ignorant but when you hear of people in the Kennedy family you always hear about how many of them have passed away. So, I was shocked and confused about who he was, what his campaign was about, and honestly why he was at the game.
They introduced him and I was immediately stunned by the few boos he received from the teens there. It prompted me to do some quick research into what he and his campaign was about. It shocked me to see how much work Robert put in against the fight for environmental safety, and its connections to disadvantaged communities. He was a lawyer for the NAACP when the city was trying to build a trash transfer in the poor neighborhood of Ossining New York. It made me think how many people that booed him took the time to see what his campaign and wording were about. This seems like a candidate that would advocate for our community and not just use it as the token area he chooses to parade us on his campaign. I know politics can be a game of just compromise but it seems that he would be someone who cared for us.
All in all, the games were amazing, and may the Drew League continue way past the time we will be here. May our kids’ kids’ kids still be going to the games and leaving just excited as we do.