A sellout crowd that included current Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and his soon-to-be teammate Anthony Davis came out Friday to see rookie Zion Williamson’s Vegas Summer League debut.
But a knee injury kept Williamson out of the second half, and an earthquake shook the Thomas & Mack Center in the fourth quarter and ended the most anticipated game in the 15-year history of this event in Las Vegas.
Officials ended play with 7:53 left with the New Orleans Pelicans leading the New York Knicks 80-74. That score was later declared the final result.
“We’ve tried to prepare for everything that we can, any natural occurrence that we can control,” Summer League executive director Warren LeGarie said. “But some things are literally out of (our) control. There’s always a clause in every contract — act of God. We experienced it tonight.”
The Denver Nuggets were scheduled to face the Phoenix Suns in the late game at the Thomas & Mack, and that matchup was canceled and will not be made up.
In Cox Pavilion, the game between the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs was called after three quarters and will not be completed. Orlando was leading 75-59, and officials decided to err on the side of caution rather than finish the game.
LeGarie said the concern at the Thomas & Mack was the large scoreboard that hangs over the court. It began to sway when the earthquake hit. He said crews would work all night if necessary to make sure the scoreboard and the arena were safe for Saturday’s play and beyond.
“You want to make sure the swaying did not create any additional issues upstairs,” LeGarie said. “We’re making sure that all the necessary precautions are taken so that we can continue the tournament.”
The earthquake overshadowed the matchup of top overall draft pick Williamson against the New York Knicks and No. 3 selection RJ Barrett, who played with Zion at Duke.
Williamson reportedly banged his knee with another player late in the first half and didn’t play in the second half. The injury was not thought to be serious.
Williamson (11 points in nine minutes) left the arena without speaking with reporters.
While he was in the game, Williamson delivered his first dunk less than four minutes into the game, and 20 seconds later shook the rim with another one. With about four minutes left in the first quarter, Williamson snatched the ball from New York’s Kevin Knox and threw down another dunk.
It was the kind of play the crowd wanted to see out of one of the most hyped rookies in many years.
At the end, the talk was about what shook the earth and the arena.
“This is the first time this has ever happened to me, the first time I’ve ever experienced that, even in a basketball game,” said Christian Wood of the Pelicans, a former UNLV standout. “It’s funny, guys didn’t know what was going on, some guys were still playing on the court.
“I’ve been a part of earthquakes, but nothing while playing basketball. It was cool, but I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. They told us to go back, give it two minutes. I think the scoreboard was shaking up there. They said when that stops shaking we’re going to play. Then they came back two minutes later and said the game’s canceled and we’ve got to go.”