SEATTLE — A historic day at CrawsOver Pro-Am with more NBA talent than on a Seattle track since the league’s last visit ended prematurely due to track conditions, but not before what organizer Jamal Crawford called an “incredible , one of one” experience.
While some of the league’s biggest stars have played in the CrawsOver since the games moved to their current home (Royal Brougham Pavilion on the Seattle Pacific University campus), including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, the hype for the pro-am never reached the heights it did on Saturday.
The excitement started Friday, when Crawford and LeBron James tweeted that the four-time MVP would return to Seattle for the first time? since his last road game against the Sonics in January 2007, more than 15 years ago.
James was joined by fellow All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Dejounte Murray, as well as this year’s top two draft picks (Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, although Holmgren left in the opening moments of the game with an obvious ankle injury), two other first round picks (locals MarJon Beauchamp and Tari Eason) and three other NBA veterans: locals CJ Elleby and Isaiah Thomas and visitor Aaron Gordon.
With a free entry of less than 3,000, fans started camping overnight on Friday to ensure their place in the queue. Thousands stayed outside after the gym was full.
Those in the crowd included Hall of Fame player and coach Lenny Wilkens, LA Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer, several former Seattle Seahawks (Cliff Avril, Marcus Trufant and KJ Wright), and members of both the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics — — located elsewhere in the building earlier Saturday prior to Game 2 of their WNBA playoff series on Sunday.
The crowd erupted when James entered the gym slightly ahead of the scheduled 6 p.m. for the final game of the day with the NBA stars. Tipoff had to be briefly postponed after a crowd of spectators surrounded James on the field, with Crawford taking the microphone to beg fans to restore order and warning Seattle police that the entire event could be shut down.
Not long after the game started, condensation became an issue. On an unusually humid day for Seattle in the summer, the combination of a packed crowd and the heat left repeated wet spots on the field.
“Every time they dried it, it didn’t get any better,” said Beauchamp, whose slip as he went up to finish midway through the second quarter sealed the decision to cancel the promotion with 5:47 remaining in the second quarter.
“You don’t often get a day like this, but my job is to protect everyone’s safety,” explains Crawford. “On the pitch I couldn’t risk that those guys were at risk of getting hurt. It’s not worth it. It should give inspiration and hope and they did. The job is done.”
Although fans didn’t get a full game, the stars put a lot of highlights in a minute and a half of basketball. Tatum was the highlight of the day, hitting a string of long three-pointers early in the gameinterrupts some of them with his signature blown kiss to the crowd.
Tatum and James played together and teamed up for the highest highlight of the day, a high arc lob in the transition that James completed with his left hand. James also interrupted the end of the first quarter with a strong dunk.
When Crawford took the microphone again to announce the end of the match, he thanked the visiting stars for their participation.
“Obviously not everyone got in and probably never could,” he said afterwards. “We’ve tried to do our best. We’ve tried to provide an experience that we’ve never had before. I thought it was great overall because I think it’s moments and memories that the kids will never forget. “
That was certainly the case for Beauchamp, who has played in the CrawsOver since his days as a high school player in Seattle, but never with competition like this.
“The experience was [once in] a lifetime,” Beauchamp said. “You’ll probably never see that again. It was cool to be there in Seattle, all those great players. Dreamed of this.”