LeBron James had Las Vegas on high alert last week.
The LeBron watch was one of those rare happenings when most of the Strip was obsessing over a single celebrity.
In my 15 years of prowling the celebrity scene here, only Michael Jackson commanded this kind of attention. Stores closed their doors when the pop star showed up because instant crowds poured in for a peek.
National and local sports talk stations and paparazzi called or emailed, wanting to know where King James had been sighted and where was he going.
A big crowd at Surrender nightclub at Encore got a surprise about 12:30 a.m. Thursday when James walked in with former UNLV star Marcus Banks, three supersized bodyguards and friends.
James, who was at the Cashman Center all week for his annual camp with elite teenage prospects, had just officially become a free agent at the stroke of midnight.
He and his entourage camped out near the disc jockey booth for a couple hours, but if it was a celebration, no one was drinking, a spy said.
James flew back to Miami later that morning and revealed his Cleveland decision to Sports Illustrated on Thursday night.
It’s a small world: I asked a valet attendant at Wynn if he saw James. “No,” he said, “but I played basketball against him.”
That pro sports void in our community is getting closer to being filled, thanks to recent developments.
It was confirmed to me on Saturday that a prospective ownership group from Las Vegas has been meeting with the National Hockey League.
An expansion team is the most likely possibility, I was told.
The linchpin to a city’s acquisition of a major league sports franchise is having an arena in place, and that hurdle would be cleared with the MGM-AEG plan to open its 20,000-seat venue near the Monte Carlo by mid-2016.
Putting an NHL team in that arena for 41 home games would be an exciting start, although its not a certainty the landlords would go that direction, the source said.
The NHL has been doing its part to help build interest by holding the league’s annual awards show here for the past seven years, along with the “Frozen Fury” series at the MGM Grand Garden since 1999.
The NBA has been cultivating a strong relationship with Las Vegas as well, holding the Summer League here for a decade and having the All-Star Game in 2007. USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team has trained here for the past two Olympics and is committed through 2016.
Barcelona star Gerard Pique, a member of Spain’s quickly ousted World Cup team and husband of music star Shakira, partying near James’ table early Thursday at Encore Beach Club. They were drinking Macallan 18-year Scotch and Dom Perignon. Pique was in town to compete in the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in Main Event. Also in the tournament: Australian cricket legend Shane Warne and UFC’s Martin Kampmann. ... Mexico’s World Cup goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, partying with friends Thursday in a bungalow at Encore Beach Club. ... Former NBA players Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, the new coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, dining with a group Friday that included 7-footer Andrew Bynum at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. ... Talent manager Larry Rudolph, whose main clients include Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, celebrated his 51st birthday with a group of friends at Fizz (Caesars Palace) on Friday. The group included George Maloof and Caesars headliner Matt Goss, who sang “Happy Birthday” and Frank Sinatra’s classic “Fly Me to the Moon.” Rudolph’s birthday is July 24. ... Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, taking in Saturday’s Summer League action at Cox Pavilion. ... Chinese actor Leo Ku, marrying Lorraine Chan, both of Hong Kong, on Saturday at the Little Church of the West. ... Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese and his wife, Shay, celebrating their 20th anniversary Friday at “Jersey Boys” (Palazzo). It was the 10th time they’ve seen the show. ... UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and Mike Henry of The History Channel’s “Counting Cars,” shopping for cars at Towbin Dodge on Friday. ... Retired Review-Journal artist Mike Miller, hosting an exhibit of his work Friday at the Fine Art Gallery at The Market LV in Tivoli Village. ... Miss Nevada Teen USA Alexa Taylor celebrating her Sweet 16 birthday at Sugar Factory at Town Square on Friday with friends and family. ... Lance Bass and “Divas” star Frank Marino at Liaison (Bally’s), at the same table celebrating different occasions on the Fourth of July. Bass had just released his new single, “Walking on Air” and Marino was marking his 21st anniversary since meeting his partner, Alex Schechter.
THE PUNCH LINE
“Justin Bieber will be charged with one count of misdemeanor vandalism for throwing eggs at his neighbor’s home in January. Or as he calls that, ‘street cred.’ ” — Jimmy Fallon
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.