LeBron James' son's basketball game canceled amid security concerns

HENDERSON, Nev. — At 8:53 p.m. on Wednesday night, LeBron James ducked into the auxiliary gym of Liberty High School through a purple door at the back entrance. Flanked by a security team and his family, James took a seat on the baseline and acknowledged the squeals of delight from the young players in the crowd.

The cramped back gym at Liberty typically hosts freshman basketball games and has just three rows of bleachers. The bleachers filled in more than a half-hour before tip-off in anticipation of an appearance by LeBron James and a 13-and-under grassroots basketball game featuring his son, LeBron James Jr., of the North Coast Blue Chips.

Around 9:12 p.m., LeBron James left the gym, both teams cleared the floor and the game never tipped off.

A heated exchange between a security guard and the parent of a player on the opposing team, Chicago-based Mean Streets, led to security herding the players outside and officials canceling the game. Nicole Bankston, the mother of a Mean Streets player, said tensions escalated when Mean Street family members weren’t able to get in the gym. When a parent already in tried to explain the situation, the security intervened.

Canceling the game did little to quell the tension, as it took event organizers more than a half-hour to figure out a way to refund the $15 admission fee for those who paid to watch the game. That half-hour featured numerous screaming matches, a woman threatening to walk on the floor of a different game in protest and a generally chaotic scene that amused the two dozen college basketball coaches sitting in the stands scouting a different game. Three school police officers were called to calm things down and restore order.

“The security got all up in people’s face, and I guess that’s how all the commotion started,” Bankston said. “I guess after that they took the teams out of the gym because of the commotion. That’s all it was. It wasn’t a fight.”

Once refunds were handed out and tensions calmed, the night was little more than bad optics. It will likely most be remembered as the night that LeBron James Jr. burst into the basketball mainstream, as tensions boiled over from a teeming gymnasium that was ultimately too small to contain the interest in him. Though he’s yet to walk into an eighth-grade classroom, Bronny showed he has the drawing power that even transcends his father at this age. And after the attention this night receives, the attention won’t slow down.

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Miami Heat forward LeBron James (C) stands with his sons, Bryce (L) and LeBron Jr. after he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player at a ceremony in Miami May 5, 2013. It was the fourth time in five years that the 28-year-old James had won the game's most prestigious individual award, elevating him among the sport's greatest players. The Heat meet the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semi-finals in Miami on May 6. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, son LeBron James Jr. and wife Savannah James, celebrate during the NBA championship parade in downtown Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James holds his son LeBron James Jr. after his team defeated the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals basketball series in Cleveland, Ohio, June 2, 2007. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz (UNITED STATES)
June 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) speaks to media with his children Lebron James Jr. and daughter Zhuri James following the 93-89 victory against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NBA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-06-20T041053Z_216105063_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NBA-FINALS-CLEVELAND-CAVALIERS-AT-GOLDEN-STATE-WARRIORS.JPG
February 18, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Team LeBron forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (23) poses for photos with his children LeBron Jr. Bryce Maxiums and daughter Zhuri following the victory against Team Stephen at the 2018 NBA All Star Game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 26: NBA player Lebron James and wife Savannah Brinson attends the super welterweight boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor on August 26, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Honoree LeBron James (R) and wife Savannah Brinson attend the 2016 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on December 12, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
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How good is Bronny? There’s an inherent discomfort with grading a player who is entering the eighth grade. Some recruiting analysts, by rule, refuse to do so. But there’s also an undeniable buzz, as his mix tapes have more than a half-million views, he led his team to a USBA National Championship in Charlotte last week and he also took an unofficial visit to Duke. Playing on a national grassroots circuit lends to inevitable attention.

“He’s the hottest thing in youth basketball right now,” said a grassroots official. “All the views and metrics back it up.”

So how good is he? Obviously, it’s unfair to compare him to his father, who is the best player in the world. The best way to view Bronny’s career arc is that he’s considered among the top-30 kids in his class right now, a status that transcends his famous surname. The combination of his skill, genetics and growth opportunity give him a chance to emerge as a high school star and potentially a McDonald’s All-America.

But, of course, much could change by then. Many a junior high prodigy has stopped growing, switched sports or developed other interests. LeBron James hasn’t pushed his son into basketball, preferring him to develop a love for it on his own.

“It would be reckless to speak on a 13-year-old’s potential of the highest level,” said Corey Evans, an analyst for rivals.com. “But whenever he’s the son of arguably the greatest player to ever grace the playing floor, people are going to be interested.”

In the small samples Bronny’s shown so far, there’s a lot of intrigue. (That said, there were no high-end college coaches in the gym to watch Bronny’s game, as he’s still a few years from their radar).

The potential, however, is there for him to eventually develop into a top college prospect.

“He has a bravado about him which is clearly taken from his father and the raw talent that should make him a much-valued prospect as he ages,” Evans said. “He is already a more than solid athlete and upon the proper physical maturations as he ages, it is clear that he is someone we will have to take notice of not just because of his last name.”

And on a hectic night on the outskirts of Vegas, Bronny’s legend took hold without him even playing a game.

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