LAS VEGAS — In a chaotic scene, officials and police officers at the Cashman Center — where the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships started Wednesday — blocked doors and ordered a police barricade outside due to fire code concerns an hour before LaVar Ball’s Big Baller squad, led by his son and elite 2019 recruit LaMelo Ball, was scheduled to face top recruit Zion Williamson and SC Supreme.
Despite the fear of it being canceled, the game was played. Fans stood six and seven rows deep hours before Williamson and Ball were scheduled to play.
Chris Rivers, the organizer of this week’s championships in Las Vegas, said local police, weighing concerns about the size of the crowd before the highly anticipated matchup between Ball’s and Williamson’s AAU teams, only gave the green light “one minute” prior to tipoff.
Dozens of people were waiting to get into the building when event officials and officers stopped everyone at the door and banned anyone else from entering the building an hour prior to tipoff.
“Unreal. Never seen anything like it,” Kansas coach Bill Self, who was on hand for the game, told ESPN.
Best environment I’ve ever seen for an AAU game. LaMelo Ball going against Zion Williamson tipping shortly.
LeBron James had planned to watch the Ball-Williamson showdown courtside, but he did not get out of his vehicle after he arrived, instead deciding to avoid the frenzy after a conversation with people associated with the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships, a source told ESPN.com.
James arrived with several people before choosing to skip an event that already had been dealing with overcrowding and local police threatening to shut it down, per the source.
“There were security concerns,” the source said.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported this week that James has been in Las Vegas working out with new teammate Derrick Rose.
At Wednesday’s event, an officer also ordered the garage door between the hospitality room for coaches and the courts to be closed.
“Put it down!” the officer yelled as coaches tried to show their credentials and gain entry but were denied.
“They oversold this,” a law enforcement official told ESPN.com. “Way oversold.”
The drama surrounding the game wasn’t relegated to the buildup, as LaVar Ball was given a technical foul during play for arguing with referees. Last weekend, the elder Ball was T’d up in a game and then pulled his team off the court while leading by nine points.
Information from ESPN’s Jeff Borzello was used in this report.