Kobe Bryant scored 43 points and hit the game-winning shot over James Harden on Tuesday in his first-ever game at the Drew League, one of the premier pro-am leagues in the country. And his surprising appearance quickly led to rumblings that Bryant may join the Drew League for its anticipated showdown with the Goodman League on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Trinity University.
After all, Tuesday’s game was originally meant to serve as a final scrimmage for the 12 participants in the exhibition before they left for Washington this weekend. Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley said that as Bryant was escorted out of the gym, some fans were chanting, “Kobe! Kobe!” while others chanted, “D.C.! D.C.!”
Smiley asked Bryant if he was going to join the Drew League team — which also features NBA players Harden, Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan, Craig Smith and Wizards center JaVale McGee — but said Bryant wouldn’t commit one way or another.
“Kobe was smiling and saying, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I’m going to be out there,’ ” Smiley said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to see what’s going to happen. [Bryant is] not [coming] right now, but after what happened [Tuesday], I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know if he’ll come, but he left us on a good note.”
As the long-time Drew League commissioner, Smiley had seen Bryant finish off many games with that patented step-back jumper. But those other times, Bryant was saving his heroics for the Lakers, mostly in front of sold out crowds at Staples Center — not wearing a non-descript purple No. 20 jersey, with no name on the back, in front of several hundred fans at Washington Park gymnasium.
“The gym erupted. And he looked like Rocky, with about five hundred people all around and his hands up in the air,” Smiley said, describing the scene after Bryant led his team to a 139-137 victory. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t believe what I’ve just seen here.’ It was sick. It was really sick. It was unreal.”
Bryant helped cap off a summer in which the Drew League had also hosted LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Smiley speculated that having two outsiders come into Bryant’s adopted hometown perhaps prompted him to finally participate. He added that Bryant’s representatives contacted Smiley about possibly having him play in the Drew League championship game last Saturday, but Smiley said he couldn’t make that allowance, even for “the number one player in the world.”
They eventually settled on having Bryant participate in the scrimmage and met Bryant’s demands to have the game played in the afternoon, rather than in the evening. The final result was an entertaining game in which Harden scored a game-high 47 points.
The Drew League also left with another commitment for the game against the Goodman League, as No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves — who played on Bryant’s team and shares his agent, Rob Pelinka — decided to join the team. Williams was already headed to this area to meet with his shoe company, Under Armour, in Baltimore and Smiley said Williams would stick around for the weekend. The game, which is being promoted as “Capital Punishment,” will be streamed on the Internet for the pre-order price of $4.99 on www.thebasketballchannel.net.
“Tell the people in D.C. Kobe ain’t going to come with us — he’s saying that right now. But we’re bringing the No. 2 pick with us, too,” Smiley said. “He’s locked in.”
Smiley, though, was not optimistic about having Wizards guard Nick Young for the game. Smiley said that he hasn’t been able to get in contact with Young, who was upset that he lost out on the Drew League MVP trophy to Long Beach State guard Casper Ware Jr. Young averaged 40.5 points in eight games at the Drew League but his team finished with a mediocre record and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Smiley was hoping to get a final word from Young at Tuesday’s scrimmage, but Young did not show up, which greatly disappointed him. Williams is set to replace Young. “We’re going to waive him. He was kind of so-so on it,” Smiley said of Young, before joking, “He may end up playing with Goodman. We may put him over there. He’s got a little attitude.”
When told that word was spreading that he might not come back to Washington for the game, Young replied in a text message, “Yea I [don’t know].”