LAS VEGAS -- Dozens of fans bottlenecked outside the entryway Wednesday night, the anxious crowd growing by the minute and threatening to spill onto a separate court.
They were here to see the biggest NBA star in the world -- and his 13-year-old son -- in a small auxiliary gym at Liberty High School.
The hopeful masses never got the chance. LeBron James Jr.'s game was canceled on account of security concerns before the ball could be tipped at 9:30 p.m. Thanks to an adult in a Michael Jordan jersey, who was jeering LeBron James -- and a scuffle that broke out between adults before the game could even start -- the biggest news to come out of Las Vegas' basketball scene on Wednesday night was the fact that a 13-and-under game was scrapped.
It was, almost certainly, the most anticipated 13U game in the history of Las Vegas summer basketball.
"This was our first cancellation ever," Joe Orukotan, who coaches Bronny James' North Coast Blue Chips team, told CBS Sports. "A couple of adults decided to get into it, and we decided it was best to stop the game."
An event spokesperson told CBS Sports that the decision to kill the event was the right one. For approximately 20 minutes after it was canceled, fans lingered in the small gym and demanded their money back. Made Hoops, which runs the event that includes Bronny James' North Coast team, attempted to give refunds.
It was a setting that those in attendance won't soon forget.
A year removed from the surreal Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball spectacle here in Vegas, which included LeBron getting turned away at the door due to security and crowd concerns, we have a trend developing. The stars are coming out for the youth basketball scene in the desert, but the operations in place at some of these venues are easily overwhelmed.
Crowd control is paramount. Even officials are asking LeBron for photographs as the games are going on. This is only going to get tougher as Bronny James moves into high school.
Which won't happen for another year. One of the most well-known 13-year-olds on the planet will start eighth grade in Los Angeles this fall.
We're quickly finding out that Bronny's traveling tour of basketball is going to require NBA-like security in order to hold these games without incident in the future, though. Las Vegas, as it it annually does at the end of every July, has become the center of the basketball world. Hundreds of college coaches are here to recruit, hundreds more of non-scholastic teams are here to compete in dozens of gyms, and USA Basketball camp is being held at UNLV's practice facilities.
As expected, LeBron and his family have become a premier attraction on the summer basketball scene. Bronny, whose formal name is LeBron James Jr., is already encroaching on first-name-only status.
"Which one's Bronny?" is a question that fills the gyms at the start of his games, asked by children and adults alike. It won't be long until casual basketball fans can identify him almost as easily as his father.
And then there's his dad's entrance to these games, which is expectedly accompanied by squeals, craned necks and clamor. To get a glimpse of LeBron in a humble high school gym is to see a superstar in an unnaturally cozy environment. There's always a buzz in Vegas every July, but this one's different because this one includes LeBron James, Basketball Dad, showing up and encouragingly shouting out advice to his son and his teammates from behind the team bench.
"Let's go, Bronny. Space it. Space it. Now go to work."
It's a pure, fun scene.
The 5-foot-10 James Jr. already commands big crowds and is quickly growing toward celebrity status, whether he wants it or not. If you're the son of LeBron James, and you want to play basketball, and you are really good at basketball compared to most other 13-year-olds, then it's inevitable.
James, who is moving about Las Vegas with a four-car convoy of Escalades and Navigators, enters gyms through backdoors and side entrances in order to quickly get him in and out without causing scenes that create danger to the public. He can't just stroll through the parking lot, walk in the main entrance and make his way to the bleachers. That would potentially wind up sending people to the emergency room. So instead, he dips in just before Bronny is scheduled to play, keeps his distance from the hoi polloi and, as was the case earlier on Wednesday night, sits with his good friend Chris Paul.
Doors to gyms are closed off long before Bronny's games actually start. It's become a situation wherein you need to arrive an hour before scheduled tip in order to have a chance to watch North Coast play.
On Wednesday evening, prior to the scene at Liberty High, Bronny's North Coast Blue Chips started their final summer basketball tournament (they've also played in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina) at Agassi Prep. North Coast got off to a 26-0 lead against the Oakland Rebels and won 66-18.
As the games go on, LeBron's voice can be heard booming in the gym.
"Double. Get down, Mike!"
"Don't play with 'em. Don't play with em. Just go."
"Trying to get that tip dunk, I see you, boyyyy."
While coaches are not allowed to recruit him yet, and scouting analysts are in general slow to take stock in the basketball abilities of most kids before they reach high school, Bronny James is undeniably an intriguing young talent. He plays well with both hands, is an eager and aggressive defender, and doesn't look to shoot so much as he looks to distribute.
"Layup first, then outside," James told his son as the game began.
In watching him play, it's clear that Bronny takes well after his father. No one knows how good he's going to wind up being, but it's inevitable that he'll become the most prominent player in his high school class (2022).
And LeBron is also extremely involved in the program, though Orukotan, who has coached Bronny since he was in grade school, told CBS Sports that James does not solely fund the team.
"He's hands-on with this," Orukotan said. "Outside of being a role model for a million kids, he's a great father. Sometimes we'll play on the road, get back at 1 a.m., and he's already been working on a game plan for our team."
At one point, with Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue watching in the stands alongside LeBron, North Coast ran a play for an easy bucket. Lue began laughing.
"Hey, Joe, the backdoor was open," LeBron said to the coach.
It seemed as though North Coast just ran the same type of set that James would use with the Cavaliers.
"They're running Fist Down!" Lue said to James with a tone of surprise.
"We just put it in yesterday," James said.
North Coast is prominent not just because of Bronny James, but because the team is damn good. They're 46-7 this year, with many of those games against older competition. One of its players, Jahzare Jackson, is already approximately 6-7 and can dunk.
While Kevin Durant got into another Twitter dustup on Wednesday, the greatest basketball player in the world rocked a cushioned back support, kept a close eye on his daughter, and was locked in on his oldest son's game. Given his insane level of fame, it would be understandable if LeBron opted out of consistently appearing at his son's games. But that doesn't seem to be the plan -- and he's still downplaying how good this group is.
"It's a good team, not a great one," I overheard James say on Wednesday. "A little overhyped."
The hype and interest is bound to grow as Bronny ages. This weekend is the final summer in which he will not be playing in front of college coaches.
It's already frantic now.
Imagine what it'll be like when he's 14.