Image Credit: Getty Images
A superstar-studded crowd of 19,000 saw the first Summer League matchup between Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett get cut short by a 6.9 earthquake.
The highly-anticipated Summer League matchup between former Duke All-Americans RJ Barrett and living legend Zion Williamson started with a bang and ended prematurely thanks to earthquake tremors that forced the NBA to postpone the game.
Until that point, the game was a crowd pleaser, to say the least.
I thought that nothing could top the 2017 Summer League hype when Lonzo Ball, LaVar Ball, and Big Baller Brand was the talk of the basketball world and Lonzo’s Summer League schedule was like a rock tour with all eyes and cameras on the next great Laker’s star.
According to the NBA PR teams tweet, an Instagram post of Ball’s layup line debut at the Thomas & Mack Center had 2.6 million views and was the sixth most-viewed NBA IG video ever at the time.
Two years later, the first Summer League matchup between Barrett and Zion has again captivated the basketball world.
RJ vs Zion tonight!!! You ready? @slam_hs https://t.co/UVmpUDWVWA
The energy inside the arena might have even contributed to an earthquake in the third quarter of the game at about 8:20 pm Pacific Time, with the Pelicans leading 80-72. It was reported that a 6.9 earthquake hit about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It was the first time in 15 years that an NBA Summer League game had been affected by Mother Nature.
Video of the earthquake that just happened in Vegas at Summer League ? https://t.co/QpYMdoy5zp
The scoreboard and speakers hanging from the stadium ceiling were shaking so bad that they had to clear the players from the court, some fans hit the exit and play was suspended. After a brief meeting of the minds, the game was postponed.
Overall, the fan interest and media coverage rivaled LeBron James’ debut as an 18-year-old phenom in 2003.
Highlights and media coverage from LeBron James’ pro debut at the Orlando Summer League in 2003. ✅ SUBSCRIBE: https://goo.gl/Vv7ND7 ► Business Inquiries: https://goo.gl/uojRHD ► Follow on Instagram: https://goo.gl/sba7zb ► Follow on Twitter: https://goo.gl/7Sfsre
RJ Barrett, who continues to play second fiddle to Zion, says he laughed when he found out the two close friends, who speak often on the phone, were pitted against each other in the first game. The NBA is the master of marketing and the battle of the former Blue Devils is a hot ticket on a Friday night. According to Rachel Nichols, tickets for the game were being scalped at three times face value.
A fan paid $1,593 for a pair of Summer League tickets, in the front behind the bench, on StubHub, to see Zion & RJ tonight.
“I expect him to hold nothing back and I’m not going to hold anything back. We both want to win,” said Williamson who was interviewed by ESPN before the game.
Fans sprinted to their general admission seats and sat there for seven hours waiting for the matchup between the Knicks and Pelicans. Everyone anxiously waiting to see the next generation of NBA stars.
New Pelicans players Lonzo and Josh Hart showed up to immerse themselves in the occasion and support their rookie teammate. 2020 NBA Lottery hopeful Melo Ball was also in attendance, posted up next to his brother.
Nothing but love between LeBron and his former teammates. Lonzo and Josh Hart here to watch their new teammate, Zion (and presumably the rest of the Pelicans). #NBASummer https://t.co/fC0jUCxVny
There was a Trae Young sighting and Anthony Davis sighting among the many players and celebs in attendance. Davis copped a squat next to his new teammates LeBron James, who was sitting a couple of seats down from DeMar DeRozan.
But the man of the hour was Zion and upon entering the stadium, the sold-out crowd of 19,000 people gave him a roaring ovation.
Crowd for a summer league game with @Zionwilliamson & @RjBarrett6 on deck https://t.co/kYgB7N0Mi5
Zion blessed the crowd and 1,0000 credentialed media members, with a few of his patented pre-game dunks.
Williamson, who went from internet sensation to No. 1 overall draft pick, has also been projected as the next generational talent in the NBA. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry projected that Zion would play about 25 minutes tonight.
Zion was interviewed prior to the game and came off as personable, humble and hopeful as he was as a freshman at Duke.
“Just trying to fit in getting the win and have fun..want to show that I belong out here,” Zion said to ESPN.
His game wasn’t as modest, as he finished the first half with 11 points.
The most memorable dunk probably occurred with 4:34 left in the first quarter when Zion ripped the ball out of Knox’s hands off an inbounds pass, dunked it and threw up his patented muscle flex.
Zion just BULLIED Kevin Knox ? (via @PelicansNBA) https://t.co/y683G7HLxS
Barrett wouldn’t be ignored and the offensively-gifted guard answered Zion’s monster dunk with a deep three. He finished the half with a strong 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting and three rebounds.
RJ Barrett drills his first summer league three pointer: https://t.co/72jHcFLXvH
The NBA season is months away but the Summer League atmosphere on Saturday night was electric and had a playoff feel to it. No one wants to miss a moment when these two franchise cornerstones are pill-popping on the hardwood. The evolution of these polarizing players will be televised…and tweeted and shared and screenshot and recorded on DVR for those who might miss a dunk or a sick pass.
Or an earthquake.