If there was a silver lining to the lockout, it was the summer leagues and charity games that it spawned. Websites like Ballislife, Hoopmixtape, and The Mars Reel kept our anxieties at bay with more or less daily highlights from the “lockout leagues” that sprang up around the country, seemingly out of nowhere, leagues such as Goodman, the Dyckman, the Impact, the Drew, plus countless other celebrity pro-ams and charity games. To clarify, many of these leagues have been around for years and are well known in their respective communities, but the lockout threw a giant spotlight on them in the absence of an official NBA summer league as scores of players tried to keep themselves occupied during a summer of uncertainty.
Most of these exhibitions were not what you might call “competitive” affairs, with the defensive intensity ranging somewhere between lackadaisical and non-existent, but they did offer a few lucky fans a rare chance to see some of their favorite superstars up-close and personal in small-capacity venues.
Despite a general lack of urgency, there were a few standout performances that were nothing short of legendary by some of the younger stars (and even a few veterans) who electrified crowds and elevated these otherwise insignificant moments to mythical status.
So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 moments of the summer, followed by a few other noteworthy items.
5. Brandon Jennings vs. Too Hard 2 Guard
Most streetball players aren’t at all intimidated by NBA players; in fact, they often seize opportunities like this to make a name for themselves (like when “Bone Collector” embarrassed Jamal Tinsley during a Rucker Park game a few years ago). Such was the case when Adris “Too Hard 2 Guard” Deleon went up again Brandon Jennings at a Dyckman League game this summer. Unfortunately, the biggest highlight was when B.J. bounced the ball off Adris’ head, but if you watch the video below, you’ll see that “Too Hard 2 Guard” gave Jennings just about as much as he could handle and certainly lived up to his name.
4. John Wall drops off everybody
The thing that impresses me most about John Wall is just how hard he plays, regardless of who he’s playing against or if it’s a meaningless game. He was overshadowed by Blake Griffin during his rookie season and plagued by injuries, but expect him to come out in full force in 2011-2012 and establish himself as one of the premier point guards in the league.
3. Kevin Durant drops 59 pts. vs. LeBron
Nobody shined like Kevin Durant the lockout, and his performance against LBJ at the Melo v. Goodman exhibition was one of the highlights of the summer. LeBron had 36 points of his own, as you’ll see in the first half of the video.
2. Kevin Durant drops 66 at the Rucker.
Even NBA superstars have to earn their street cred at Rucker Park, where local playground legends are chomping at the bit to prove that they can hold their own with any player on the planet. As you’ll see in his performance below, K.D. can now safely scratch this one off the bucket list.
1. Kobe drops 45 on James Harden and hits game winner.
Say what you will about the Black Mamba, but there are few players on this planet as cold-blooded as Kobe. James Harden, who put together an impressive highlight reel of his own this summer, had the unenviable task of guarding Kobe during a Drew League game in Los Angeles, and as you’ll see below, it didn’t turn out too well for him.
New Kids on the Block with Crazy Bounce: