This whole summer, guys have been showing up to the biggest pro-am leagues in America, just so they can get a competitive run in while the lockout prevents them from actually getting their NBA on. It’s been pretty awesome. There’ve been some great moments, some hilarious follies and, most importantly, a bunch of fans who would never get to see an NBA player in person have got that experience for free on a random weeknight. Everyone would rather there be no lockout, I’m sure, but this is a chill alternative.
But how do these NBA dudes keep showing up in random rec league games? It’s not like these guys are Googling “los angeles mens league basketball” to see if there are any leagues forming before signing up a team and getting custom jerseys. They’re kind of just showing up when they’re available and playing on whichever team will take them. When you think about that part of it, it’s very strange.
Andy Kamenetzky: How did this come about and was this an impromptu game? Your season ended last weekend.
Dino Smiley: We had our championship this past Saturday and prior to that, a couple days before, his representatives called and said he wanted to play Saturday. I wouldn’t go for it. I’m like, “This is the championship and these guys have worked hard. We don’t want to just put the #1 ringer into the game. We would love to have him there, but it would set back the league, the integrity.”
But we talked about it, and I said, “You know what? We haven’t set up an All-Star game. Why don’t we do an All-Star game on a Sunday night?” He was gonna be leaving out early Monday morning and coming back. Couldn’t do it. So finally, Sunday evening, I get a call. “Kobe wants to play the game, but wants to play at two o’clock on a Tuesday.” I’m like, “Two o’clock on a Tuesday? We don’t play Drew League games during the week.”
It was ironic, because the team [playing against Goodman] was going to have practice that day at 6 pm. So I tell him, “The guys are coming down. Let me see if I can get them to come down early. I don’t want to put it on Twitter and I don’t want to put it out to the media or anything like that, and the guy doesn’t show up. You guys gotta give me a 110 percent that he’s coming.”
And they were like, “No, he’s definitely coming. He definitely wants to play. And he only wants to play in the Drew league in that gym. He doesn’t want to play anywhere else.” And I know it’s because of LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant. They played and got a buzz. (Laughs) We were like, “Okay, let’s try to make it happen.”
The game was scheduled for 2 pm, and then there was a call [Monday] morning that there was an NBA Players Union meeting at 1:30, so that threw everything off. So I said, “Okay. Well, this plan isn’t gonna happen. I’m glad I didn’t put it on Twitter and Facebook and the web.” They said, “No, no, no! He wants to play, but he wants to play after that at 4 o’clock. The meeting should be over at 2:30, three o’clock. It shouldn’t be that long. We still wanna play. Check with your players.” They said they were fine, because some of them were going to the meeting also. So we set it back to four o’clock. We had people coming from everywhere at one o’clock looking for the two o’clock game and we had to push that back.
That’s how all that took place and it ended up started around 4:45, 4:30.
Is that not perfectly Kobe Bryant? The guy requested to play in the Drew League because other guys have got some shine for playing there, only to find out that the season was over. Then, a made-up game was created specifically for him and he chose the date and time that would fit his schedule. Then, when his schedule changed suddenly, he had the game pushed back because this was his game anyway. Then he went out and hit the game-winner in his custom-made, custom-scheduled made-up pro-am basketball game.
The only way this could be more Kobe Bryant is if he stayed afterward shooting jumpers in the tiny Drew League gym to show his dedication to his craft/provide photo opportunities for the press. Something tells me things aren’t quite as complicated when Kevin Durant decides to play some summer ball.