One of my best friends lives in Washington DC and he told me that he was going to go over to Barry Farms to watch Kevin Durant play in the Goodman League. I asked him if he’d be willing to give a little recap of the night and he sent me this.
WASHINGTON DC — I grew up in Oklahoma, and now I live and work in Washington, DC. I also happen to have been roommates with Royce during our formative years in Norman. So naturally, when I heard that Kevin Durant occasionally plays summer league ball in DC, I took it as my moral duty to find out the details and attend.
After learning from twitter (@Inside_da_Gates) that KD would be playing in DC this week, I was able to clock out of work a bit early yesterday and attend last night’s session (Tuesday, June 7) of the George Goodman Basketball League. If you do not know, the Goodman League is a summer basketball league in the southeast Washington D.C. neighborhood of Anacostia/Barry Farms (to learn more about the league and its history – it is sponsored by Nike and is regularly billed as one of the nation’s top spots for summer ball – check out their website).
I arrived to the Barry Farms neighborhood around 6:50 p.m. (it’s a 4 minute walk, at most, from the Anacostia metro station), just in time to catch the tipoff of the first game – but there was no sign of KD. The scene was what you would imagine for a high intensity summer league – good basketball players, a standing room only crowd inside the caged basketball court, Gatorade and bottled water available for $2 a bottle, and a DJ spinning great music (opening song was the full length version of Rick James’ “Mary Jane”). In addition, the best part of the Goodman League is Commissioner Miles Rawls, who commentates on the games over a PA in real time.
He’s well known in DC, is famous for trash talking with President Obama at a Wizards game last year, and adds a lot of excitement to the event. I would mention that Barry Farms is known as a rougher neighborhood, but my personal experience was that Rawls puts on a first rate event that I was very comfortable attending. His commentary last night included tagging a stocky player with the nickname of “Big Baby” after a strong layup, tagging a high-flyer with bleached dredlocks as the “Grimm-Leaper,” and demanding that the referee delay restarting play after a timeout so that the DJ could finish playing the chorus on the Temptations “Beauty is Only Skin Deep.” It was old-school music night, of course.
In any event, 30 minutes into the first game, the theatrics were fun and the crowd and neighborhood was full of energy, but I was ready to call it a night – amateur basketball can only hold my interest so long. But then it happened – Rawls grabbed the mike and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, KD is back in the house tonight!” I looked across the court (I had arrived early enough to be literally three feet from the out of bounds line, center court), and sure enough, there was KD, sitting in the seat next to Rawls. The crowd cheered KD’s arrival, and it was clear we would all be staying for the second game.
KD sat and watched the remainder of the first game, cheering from time to time, but mostly relaxing and taking it in. Then before going to suit up to play with one of the local teams for the night’s second game – he walked around the court in his flip flops (carrying his giant yellow shoes, one in either hand) to take pictures and shake hands with many of his local fans. As his OKC fans know well, he is a very personable and gentle natured guy (when it’s not game time and your name is not Brendan Haywood). He looked like every other 22 year old there: flat-billed hat on backwards, laughing with friends, and high fiving the old timers.
As for the game, I’m not a sports writer, so I’ll just mention a few things. The main guy guarding KD was aggressive, and he made KD work for it. A few of the other players were NCAA DI guys (at least one from Tennessee, and one from San Diego State, and a guy who had played pro ball in France), but most of the guys were regular locals. The fans were obviously interested in KD, getting excited on his big dunks and hollering at him to “pound the pick and roll” when it was clear his jump shots were not falling. But in these summer leagues, many of the “regulars” are also local legends – and those guys are the primary draw when the NBA players are not in town.
So it was fun to watch the crowd get fired-up when a guy named D-Nice threw down some mind-bending crossover dribbling before nailing a lay-up, or when a guy Miles Rawls called “Salad” took a hard charge and forced a turnover. As mentioned, KD had a slow shooting night, hitting at least one early three, but then missing several jumpers and most of his threes after that. However, he more than made up for it with a few monster dunks, several durantula impossible-windmill layups, one almost-monster ally-oop off the backboard to himself (which he just missed), and lots of pretty free-throws. Also, KD played the full game – two twenty minute halves – without sitting. Obviously, when KD shows up to your summer league game, you let him play as much as he wants.
All in all, a great experience.