How does a summer pro-am league follow up a weekend that saw NBA superstars Chris Paul and James Harden show up to compete at a Compton high school?
With a sold-out showcase featuring some of the best summer league players along the Pacific coast.
The Drew League hosted Battle of the Pro-Ams: Los Angeles v. Seattle on Wednesday night at Los Angeles Southwest College, pitting the best of the Drew against the top talent from the Crawsover League, Jamal Crawford's annual Seattle-based pro-am.
Over 1,500 fans, including actor Jamie Foxx, packed the local college's gymnasium to watch the hometown team come away with a 101-94 victory in the second iteration of the summer showdown between the two leagues.
Unlike an NBA matchup, in which the players can seem almost walled off from the fans, this game was wide open.
Fans mingled with players and their families courtside prior to the game, snapping selfies and looking for autographs. The gym's loudspeakers blared music from West Coast rappers including Snoop Dogg, YG and Kendrick Lamar, and superfan Clipper Darrell even made an appearance, starting "Let's go Drew League" chants from almost every corner of the bleachers.
Jason Kim, an NBA fan from Washington. said he prefers the more trendy vibe of summer showcases like the Drew. As a lifelong fan of hip-hop and basketball, he said events such as the "Battle of the Pro Ams" better represent the culture and lifestyle of basketball fans and players across the country.
"It's just more hip," he said. "The music is bumping, they got the DJ booth on the court, they got the Nike merch popping off, you can just see people. It's like an urban soiree revolved around basketball. … It's what I enjoy. It's part of my identity in terms of my personality and my tastes. It's what I've known since I was a little kid.
Jason Beresford, who has been the Drew League's resident DJ for six years, said that the link between hip-hop and basketball is undeniable, noting that the cultural connection is what continuously draws fans to pro am tournaments each summer.
"Hip-hop and basketball go hand in hand, man," he said between round of roaring applause from the crowd. "Being a DJ, I know these players want to come in here as they warm up and they wanna hear certain songs to get them hyped up and ready to score 40 or 50. Certain songs in hip-hop music do that to certain athletes. It's very similar to a wrestler coming down to an entry song in the WWE."