With the NBA million-monitoring (What? You can’t call it penny-pinching) and locked out, summer basketball, especially in Washington, D.C., has a chance to draw fans like never before. The District’s longstanding George Goodman League was already a popular beast drawing professional ballers and Georgetown University’s Kenner League has annually been graced with all things NBA from the “was” to the “is” to the “now.” But with the 2011 NBA summer on standby until the owners and players can settle a labor dispute, what’s a top-flight NBA athlete to do? Simple; pick up his basketball shoes and head to a pick-up game.

So far this summer, lucky locals around the District have had a chance to see several of the NBA’s next generation shoot the Spalding around the area. From Kevin Durant to Ty Lawson to DeMarcus Cousins and D.C.’s adopted son, John Wall, the pick-up games this offseason may actually grow into a legendary summer affair.

The Kenner League kicked off this past weekend, welcoming the likes of former Hoya and current Boston Celtics player Jeff Green back to the building.

For those who bypassed Georgetown in favor of George Goodman, they came away with the jackpot of Fourth of July weekend. Wall made his first debut at the memorial blacktop league as a member of its indoor offspring, the Goodman Coalition, hosted at Spingarn High School.

Wall, Gary Neal of the San Antonio Spurs and Wall’s former Kentucky University teammate Cousins added their NBA glow to a star struck gymnasium. It’s not often that free entrance to watch two of the top five picks in the 2010 NBA Draft is granted, but with the league lockout currently in place, locals stand a good chance of benefitting this summer. After their game at Spingarn, area kids, teenagers and even some adults, took turns posing for pictures with the two 20-year-olds. Wall, the Washington Wizards top-selection in last year’s draft has been working hard this summer on improving his game, mostly his jump shot, and it showed on July 2.

“I’ve been working on it, so I’m getting more comfortable ,” Wall told AFRO Sports Editor Perry Green. “I just have to keep working and working.”

Durant, who helped open the Goodman on June 6 is a regular on the blacktop during his summers back home but his schedule is typically tied up with NBA obligations. However, with a free summer—sort of—Wall’s appearance around D.C. could be heightened even more this season. “I love playing back at home,” Durant told the AFRO on June 6. “The energy and the love for the game is always there and I love playing here.”

A coast-to-coast rivalry has been brewing over the past few weeks between the Goodman and the Drew League, Los Angeles’ own legendary blacktop circuit. Commissioners from the two leagues met over the air on the “Fantasy Sports and Politics Crew Show,” an Internet radio show, last week to discuss a possible Aug. 20 matchup in D.C. of the two leagues. Players such as the Wizards’ own Nick Young, James Harden (Durant’s Oklahoma teammate), Demar Derozen and even Durant himself have showcased this summer for the Drew League, so a clash of the titans in late summer may have the star potential to lockdown the city. And during an NBA lockout, who could ask for anything more?


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO