LeBron James' decision to return to the Drew League came less than a week before he suited up next to DeMar DeRozan for the MMV Cheaters.
DeRozan revealed James contacted him after the Cheaters' July 10 win over Big Baller Brand and said he wanted in.
“Bron wanted to play,” DeRozan told The Athletic's Law Murray.
James put up 42 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Cheaters to a win Saturday before a completely packed crowd at the Los Angeles-based pro-am. It was his first appearance at the famed summer league since the 2011 NBA lockout.
“One of my connects as well is a good friend of (James’) and told him about it,” Drew League commissioner Chaniel Smiley told The Athletic. “He’s like, ‘Hey, I know what you do in Ohio, that’s your home. But you’re in L.A.; you pay taxes here, and your fans love you here. So how you play for the Lakers, live out here, your family lives here, goes to school here, and you don’t step foot in the Drew?’ So, I felt like he thought it was more, ‘OK, this is my time for me to show my fans that I’m right here with them, I can be approached. I’m a cool guy.'”
James is coming off one of the most frustrating seasons of his NBA career. He was limited to 56 games due to injuries, the third time in four years he's missed significant time, and the Lakers failed to make the playoffs amid an ill-fitting roster.
The future Hall of Famer's appearance led to massive nationwide buzz for the Drew, which had the NBA onhand to stream the game for the first time. NBA players regularly appear in the league—DeRozan is a regular for the Cheaters—but James' presence led to the gym being packed to its absolute capacity Saturday.
“Whatever the case was, you definitely came and showed love to the fans today,” Smiley said of James. “So I was really happy about that.”