It’s not too many ballers who could drop 30 points after entering a game late and fresh off the street, but Kevin Durant is one of the privileged few. The Oklahoma City small forward arrived about five minutes into the evening’s twilight game between his Awash squad and Team H.O.B.O. decked in a Raiders cap and a white tee, but it didn’t take long for him to get suited and thrown into the action.
Durant began his second appearance at Washington, D.C.’s Goodman Summer League on Wednesday much like his debut on Sunday; launching a three pointer on his first attempt just to check the heat on his jumper.
After a flailing airball and a few one-on-one dribble duels with Team H.O.B.O. and local standout Omar Weaver, the man nicknamed KD was finally warmed up and riding with the flow of the game. After Weaver swished a three in Durant’s face, the competitive 21-year-old flashed a confident smirk as he jogged back down the court ready to attack on the next play. Facing up against Weaver on the left side of the basket, KD darted right before swinging the ball back left and finishing over Weaver with a one-handed dunk that left a sparse crowd shaking their heads in disbelief.
If you’ve never seen a 6-foot-10 NBA forward cross someone over and flush, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see, especially live in person. Durant made it his duty to show off his athleticism on the night; angling his body for tip dunks and gliding through traffic for no look passes and fadeaway jumpers.
“He loves it here inside the gates and the gates loves him right back,” announcer Miles Rawls gushed when praising the NBA’s scoring champion. But it was Weaver who finished as the night’s high-point man, posting 37 points and showcasing a game that even a future NBA MVP had to appreciate. Weaver’s performance helped his H.O.B.O. team narrow a 15-point second half deficit to one before KD got serious again.
Durant drew a pair of and ones on a couple of effortless layups and dished off to open cutters once the defense started to double and triple down on him. Despite the late arrival, Durant still finished with 30 points and revived his team just in time for them to finish with the win against a hard-charging H.O.B.O team.
It’s something about a NBA All-Star hooping it up with local regulars that always launches a buzz into the air at the Goodman but it’s becoming a regular scene for attendees these days. Rawls warned the crowd to enjoy Durant’s early summer presence while they can since the budding superstar will be leaving in August to partake in Team USA’s training camp for the 2010 World Championships.
“Enjoy him while you can because he’s gone come August,” Rawls cautioned. “Got some things to take care of overseas.”
Until August, Durant’s taking care of things at the Goodman League and showcasing an Olympic-style game that continues to impress. Even without a proper warmup.
Kevin Durant showed up for his Washington, D.C. Goodman League summer debut on Sunday with lots of people to please but little to prove. After all, the NBA’s reigning scoring champion did give spectators at Barry Farms something to remember last summer with a 62-point outburst.
Topping that feat would’ve been difficult for even the modest NBA 2K champion, let alone the NBA’s leading scorer. But fans didn’t withstand the sweltering heat and bypass the first half of Sunday night’s NBA Finals to see the extreme; they just came to show support for one of the best home-grown ballers in the league do his thing. And Durant answered their wishes.
His performance wasn’t 62-point-esque but Durant’s 35 points raised enough ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed crowd to grade his Goodman League debut as a success. Playing alongside the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche, Durant and Blatche dazzled at times “inside the gates” for their 3rd Eye ball club. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward launched the first shot of the game; a three-pointer that grazed off the rim before executing a spin move on his next possession and finishing with a one-handed dunk. That would turn into an ongoing theme for much of the night for the 21-year-old nicknamed “KD.” While his normally reliable jumpshot wasn’t falling, KD was busy attacking the rim and finishing strong with two-handed and one-handed rim rattlers. Clapping his hands after explosive finishes and face-flexing to the crowd.
“KD is officially here at the big show,” announcer Miles Rawls bellowed whenever Durant would throw down one. Watching the 6-foot-10 scoring machine glide up and down the court with his smooth handle and crossovers galore made a few onlookers shake their heads in disbelief but if you’ve been watching Durant emerge as one of the NBA’s best players over the last three seasons then the display came as no surprise.
Durant wasn’t the only NBA specimen impressing. Much like his Wizards’ responsibilities, Blatche did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Rebounding, passing and scoring, Blatche recording a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on his own courtesy of some slick crossovers and a few athletic finishes. But while NBAers Blatche and Durant were starring, it was Team Cricket’s pair of And 1 superstars Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones and Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell that stole the show. Following along the lines of his And 1 exploits, “Baby Shaq” made play after play during the evening’s twilight game, scoring at will and swishing the final shot in overtime that sent Durant and his 3rd Eye team home losers on the night.
Despite the defeat, Durant’s presence alone made winners out of the neighborhood kids who arrived by the masses to come see him. With their fingers pointed in amazement and juice stains decorating their shirts, star-struck youngsters applauded Durant’s every move and grinned in excitement with his every dunk. Durant didn’t have to top 60 on the evening; he just had to show up. And for local D.C. residents on Sunday night, that’s all anybody could ask for.
The crowd wasn’t nearly as thick, the players not nearly as explosive but it was still the playground to be at if you were a Washington, D.C. local on Monday. June 7 marked the first day of the new season of D.C.’s summer streetball classic, the Goodman League, a 29-year running blacktop basketball tradition. Buried in the heart of the District’s Barry Farms neighborhood, the court has seen some of the finest play “inside the gates” as Miles Rawls would say.
Rawls is the play-by-play announcer/instigator/unofficial comedian who heckles players when they choke on point blank lay ups and praises them when their finishes draw ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the crowd. Rawls has seen the likes of NBAers Gilbert Arenas, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Aundray Blatche, Sam Cassell and Micheal Beasley grace the rims and embarrass local defenders “inside the gates.” Durant went off for 62 points last summer, cementing his status as a certified baller, which was already at a high praise for the Suitland, Md native amongst Metro area followers.
Beasley, a Maryland native and league regular, was at it again on Monday, hanging on rims, dropping in jumpshots and one-handing rebounds (I stopped count at 20). Despite his NBA pedigree, Beasley’s Sweat Mob dropped a heartbreaker at the buzzer to the league’s two-time defending champion Shooters club on a last second putback. Headlined by local legend Andrew “Spongebob” Washington, team Shooters put on a show for first day attendees, who didn’t start to pack the grounds until the 8 p.m. tipoff.
Spongebob vs. Beasley drew the crowds out their seats for standing room only after a lackluster 6 p.m. game. When onlookers weren’t marveling at Beasley’s every dribble, they were widening their eyes to Spongebob’s hops. A near poster just missed the print as Spongebob’s attempted one-handed dunk over Beasley was saved by a foul call. It was streetball at its finest; a famed professional city leaguer against a local acclaimed city legend. All for free.
Since the late ’70s, high profile matchups like Beasley vs. Spongebob has been on full display for city basketball buffs. Erected by Ervin Brady, Carlton Reed and Morty Hammonds, the league began as the Barry Farms Community Basketball League before switching names to the George Goodman League in honor of the legendary Barry Farms community activist. Today, you can mention any number of aliases around the city and each one would be acceptable. “The Farms,” “The Goodman,” or “The Gates,” speak any name on a passing train or a Metro bus and you might open a story from a life-long league regular.
Monday was just the start of a summer-long showcase. The stands will increase in capacity, the names will grow in popularity and the weather will blaze a little hotter (the weather was a brisk 78 at game time on opening day) as the summer carries on. If Monday was a preview of what to expect, it should be another great season of summer streetball “inside the gates” at Barry Farms.