Between Boom Dizzle and The Drew: Baron Davis' winding journey

In the midst of telling a basketball story, Baron Davis became a basketball story.

A knee injury brought Davis' 13-year NBA career to a halt during a Knicks playoff game in 2012. He had already started shooting footage of the summertime Drew League, a project that intensified as Davis entered retirement. The finished documentary, "The Drew", will premiere on Showtime on Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones.

For a while Davis' basketball exploits were limited to some weekend pickup runs. He'd dabble in a few games of H-O-R-S-E. He found the competitive juices were most likely to flow when he played games of Connect Four -- or sometimes when he picked up the controller and played Mario Kart.

But all of that time spent around the Drew League stirred something.

"Being in that environment and not playing?" Davis said.

That didn't sit right.

Something else didn't sit right: the way his career ended. He'd come down from the highs of the "We Believe" Golden State Warriors playoff run in 2007, to shifting among three teams (the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks) in the final four years of his career. He was heckled by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling when he played in L.A. His beloved grandmother died in 2011 while he was playing for the Cavaliers. The finish wasn't clean. It felt as if there were more to be done.

Davis hired a personal trainer and worked his way back into shape. He showed up regularly to the Sunday runs. He put out the word that he wanted back in.

Brandon Williams, the general manager of the Delaware 87ers in the NBA Development League, was willing to give him the opportunity. Davis wound up playing six games, averaging 12.8 points and 3.5 assists. It was enough to put the idea of an NBA return in his head, a pursuit that will resume this summer.

But first comes the culmination of the primary endeavor of his non-basketball career. "The Drew" tells the story of a Los Angeles league whose roots go back to the early 1970s and whose stature rose to warrant guest appearances by the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

"For us it's just an opportunity to capture that spirit," Davis said. "And tell something that's positive coming out of the city. Let's shine a light on people that are making a difference and doing something cool. And then on top of that, it's hoop."

And hoop still matters to Davis. It matters enough to do it himself.

Basketball has been his lifelong passion. Moviemaking is a newer pursuit, and he learned all about the unglamorous side of it in his executive producer role for "The Drew."

"It's a lot of hours. It's a lot of monotonous sitting and watching the same thing over and over," Davis said. "It's very tedious stuff. That's why I'm very grateful for my directing partner, Chad Gordon. I might get a lot of credit in the interviews. He did a lot of TV stuff ... making this thing come to life."

Dino Smiley, the commissioner of the Drew League since the mid-1980s, emerges as the central figure in the movie. The city of Los Angeles is a character as well, providing the context for how the Drew League started amid the optimism of the Tom Bradley mayoral election. The league, named because it began in the Charles Drew middle school gym, proved to be a safe haven amid the rise of the Crips and Bloods gang battles in the 1980s and survived the Rodney King riots in 1992.

There's a surprising amount of footage from VHS days, long before the ubiquitous cellphone cameras. Davis first brought his documentary cameras during the 2011 NBA lockout, and he was able to capture drop-ins from LeBron and Durant and what turned into an unforgettable duel between Kobe and James Harden.

"You think you're shooting one thing and you think you have nothing," Davis said. "And then that's the moment that you grab and you wrap the story around and you realize you have a lot."

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