NBA players take their game to the streets

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

TORONTO - While the only NBA action continues to occur behind closed doors in board room discussions over dollars, revenue sharing and enough legal jargon to drive the average fan to grab a copy of a law dictionary, some of the players have gone old school - taking their game to the streets.

Off-season pickup games and summer leagues across the U.S. are not a new phenomenon, as the storied parks of New York City have housed some of the game's greatest, while the Drew League in Los Angeles and the Goodman League in the greater Washington D.C. area have been frequented by NBA stars over the years.

Yet, as we enter the dog days of summer, it seems players are taking to these renowned runs across the country more than the last time the league was in a work stoppage back in 1999 - exemplifying a passion for the game many feel is lacking in today's athletes.

Of course with the advancements of social media, fans are given insight into the lives of players unlike a decade ago where the worlds of athletes seemed so out of reach for the average spectator.

But while most NBA stars may make a brief appearance in a random game - much like LeBron James or Dwight Howard - many are more concerned with offers coming in from overseas clubs than trying to improve their "street cred" or simply put a show on for the fans.

Regardless, most of the participants in the many summer runs aren't a who's who of the NBA world, rather, a younger breed of NBA players still looking to make a name for themselves, coupled with a few journeymen who are no strangers to the summer season, predominantly compromise the NBA content in the Pro-Am circuit.

There remains one NBA All-Star who has stuck out from the rest of the crowd, however, making this summer not about the season that was or the season that might not be, dedicating it towards his own legacy - Kevin Durant.

Giving us a taste of nostalgia is a player so young even he would be hard pressed to have a recollection of Julius Erving or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tearing up the blacktop on a hot summer night. Then again, in his four-year career, the 22-year-old has already broken the norm, becoming the youngest player to lead the league in scoring - a feat he has accomplished twice - and improved each season to the extent he is already considered the next Hall-of-Famer in waiting.

Gone are the days where a huge game at the historic Rucker Park in Harlem would have as much credit as a big playoff performance in the pros. Or at least that's how it's felt in recent years. When Durant poured in 66 points at the famed venue it seemed a trip back in time had occurred, where a legend was not anointed until he had conquered possibly the harshest critics - the streets.

As if his career had not already been validated, "KD" took on all challengers and hushed all the detractors in the extremely volatile environment that New York City provides at times. It's a notion that he addressed himself in response to a fan on Twitter, where he claimed the time spent in NYC gave him an element many have questioned since he entered the league - toughness.

It seems summer is Durant's designated period for improvement, as just a year ago he was the leader behind Team USA's first gold medal at the FIBA World Championships in 16 years. Instead of squaring off with some of the best the world has to offer, this year he elected to face the best products on the pavement, expanding his game in ways few others would even dare.

What usually would go unnoticed has become a regular fixture on talk shows and the news of the day in most NBA circles, though his exploits don't count towards his perceived Hall-of-Fame career.

As the NBA owners seem beset to change the current state of the league and appear weary of "being tired of making these guys rich," as a source told David Aldridge of NBA.com, Durant is showing how his desire to play far outweighs his goal to cash in on his talent.

If the owners believe they are entitled to a percentage of endorsement earnings due to the fact they feel the players benefit from the exposure gained by playing in the league, they need to look at this summer to see how a player doesn't need the NBA infrastructure to promote his worth - the streets will do it for him.


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