Let’s take a trip to the left coast – Randy’s Donuts, Roscoes, Fatburger, Hip-Hop (remember K-Day?), these are all parts of my childhood growing up in the west. Los Angeles, in particular, is more than just busy freeways and traffic – it’s brought some legendary hoopers to the scene. Many take part in The Drew League, encompasses all of the local culture and pushes it out in the form of amazing games, but also an even better community, all happening to a hot soundtrack. “You can be a good kid, but it’s a mad city. It’s like this and like that and like this and uh…”
The Streets are where respect is earned. When you step onto the court you’d better be ready, no matter if you’re playing where decades of NBA talent have been groomed or are just looking to show that you have the skills to run the court. Leading up to the launch of NBA LIVE 19, we’re going to be taking deep dives into the different courts featured in the game and try to get at the culture as it changes in each location. See all our deep dives on the courts featured in The Streets.
The Drew League Background
To set the stage, let’s backtrack to Compton, California in 1973. Alvin Willis, the first commissioner of the Drew League, had just started up a league with six teams. This was a time where the city was overrun with corrupt cops, and gangs were originally formed as a brotherhood to stay protected from the dangers around. Willis’ aim at starting the league was to give kids a chance to get away from the dangers of the streets and the widespread drug abuse.
Charles Drew Middle School became the home of the Drew League – a local gym on Compton Ave. in between 83 St. and Firestone Blvd. The league wasn’t built out to be what it’s turned into. We think of it as this celebrity-filled hotbed of NBA talent where major news networks and outlets go for a few weeks each summer to watch what’s turned into the most high-profile pro-am league in the world. When Willis started it, he did it with the intention of bringing together a community that was largely suffering from generations of economic injustices and racial prejudices.
Today, the league is housed at King Drew High School on 120 St. in Compton. Over time, the players who started off in The Drew began leveling up their game and coming back each year – no matter whether they were local still or playing in the NBA. if you look at today where the league is thriving or take it back to 1992 when the city was in the middle of riots, the gym stayed open as a safe haven for people to get away from violence and just play ball. This league means so much to native Angelinos such as myself, and even more to the ballers who give us a performance every month.
Frank “Nitty” Sessions
One of the best parts about the Drew League is that you don’t need to be an NBA star to be known around the world for your talent. Nitty has turned into a living legend at The Drew winning the last three Drew League MVP awards. Three. Three! He’s cold blooded on the court – what a lot of people don’t know is that he played alongside Damian Lillard at Weber State and was heralded as the Conference Newcomer of the Year and made the Big Sky Conference All-Tournament team, too.
Born in the Jordan Downs projects in Watts, he’s been a staple in South Central for years. Since 2016, he’s brought home every MVP and put on shows, dropping over 30 on some of the NBA’s biggest stars such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook. I was able to catch up with Frank Nitty to talk about some of his accomplishments and what the Drew League means to him.
“The Drew means everything to our city considering it’s all for the youth and growth for the community. They look forward to it, honestly,” he started. “The pride I get from playing in The Drew is something everyone can feel and sense. They know when I’m on the court, it’s full throttle!”
If you really want to talk about full throttle – nobody gives it to you nightly like Nitty. Unfortunately, his squad, Birdies’ Revenge, couldn’t bring home their second straight championship but Nitty put up 29 points, seven rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. He also decided to give professional basketball a try this past year and won the NBL Canada’s Newcomer of the Year, averaging 20 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. He’s used to facing players with names though; he does it every week in The Drew and it hasn’t phased him one bit.
“To be honest, I don’t think about big name players. Once we are all on the court, everybody is just an obstacle. So, when I’m on the court, I just give the game 110%,” he said. Nitty is obviously a player who does it for his city and because he has so much love for the game and the sport – it means more to him than just awards and viral highlights. The sentiment echoes a lot of what James Harden mentioned in his interview with us a few weeks ago.
“It humbles me. A lot of guys get caught up because they have an NBA jersey on, they play in front of big crowds, but just being able to go back home and have the people of my city come and watch me play, it means everything,” he said on the joy he gets from playing in The Drew. “I owe it to the city, and that’s why I continue to come every single year and compete like I’m that 16 or 17-year old kid again.”
Legacy of The Drew
But this is part of the lasting legacy of The Drew – nothing outside of your game really matters. You play for pride, for passion, for that feeling you had when you were playing the game as a teenager. It’s grown so much and in so many ways over the last decade or so, but it’s kept its core values intact.
“This season was unique, because it was the season of the underdog,” started Drew League senior reporter Lauren A. Jones. “In my seven seasons covering the Drew, the focus has been on the dynamic between NBA players who grew up in the league and players who have just grown up loving the game. The emergence of young talented players like Kevin Porter Jr. and Kyree Walker during the regular season made for a great new storyline. The platform three-time Drew League MVP Frank “Nitty” Sessions has built for himself through his multiple 40-point performances, or how people were on notice with the show former Boston Celtic point guard Jonathan Gibson put on full display even throughout the playoffs. The teams that made it to the end upset teams that have dominated this league since its inception like LAUNFD. It was truly riveting to see Coach Keion Kindred, Chuck Garcia, Jonathan Gibson, and company be left standing at the end with their first Drew League championship under their belt.”
The Drew just keeps on expanding – and every year there’s a new outcome. Not just about who wins on the court but the infusion of pop-culture, as well. Frank Nitty plays on a team with one of hip-hop’s biggest names, The Game, and isn’t sidetracked by any of the headlines that can come with that. In an interview with fellow Compton-rapper YG, he spoke about how he is interested in coming to play in The Drew next year. Nitty was all-ears saying about The Drew – “come on down! That’s the best part, anybody can play!”
In NBA LIVE 19, you’ll get the chance to hop on the court, too, and create your legacy the same with Nitty has through the years. It doesn’t matter whether you’re posted up with La Raza playing in the background or just trying to hoop, this court is for the cats who don’t do button-up shirts or drive Maybachs – this is The Drew, show up with your A-game. You’ll play against the best, but you’ll also work your butt off to be the best and show the city what you’re made of. You’re on the west coast now, better come correct! To live and die in L.A., it’s the place to be.
- Rahul Lal (Follow Rahul on Twitter @rlal95)
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