Every summer, the best youth basketball players in the world gather in Las Vegas to showcase their skills in the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic. The biggest stars in attendance aren’t playing, however. They’re coaching or supporting their own teams.
This summer, Chris Paul took home bragging rights after his team, Team CP3, won the main under-17 bracket at the tournament. Paul can boast about his team’s championship to his professional peers, like Carmelo Anthony, whose Team Melo finished fourth in the main bracket.
Those weren’t the only big names involved. Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow were all either in attendance or behind the scenes trying to help their respective programs win.
“Athletes are competitive,” said Hal Pastner, the founder of Bigfoot Hoops. “They want to win. It’s just their nature. But they really keep a good balance, and they understand that these are youth athletes. When the pros are out here teaching, coaching, telling their players things, man, do they have the players’ attention. The players love it because they know they are learning from experts.”
Some of the younger players, like Okafor and Winslow, were starring on the summer basketball circuit just a few years ago, before becoming college stars and pros. Now, they’ve returned to Bigfoot Hoops events to help the next generation of future stars.
“I remember Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker playing at our events,” Pastner said. “Now they’re helping the teams they used to play for – helping the coaches, the kids, and helping organize – and that’s really cool to see.”
It’s not just younger guys who return to help their respective teams, though. Plenty of former NBA stars can be found on the sidelines at Bigfoot Hoops tournaments.
“Mike Bibby used to play in our event and now he’s here coaching his son,” Pastner said. “It’s amazing. Jason Terry was here coaching on the girls’ side. Kenny Smith comes, and he coaches his son. So many of the pros come back.”
Russell Westbrook showed up. DeMarcus Cousins made an appearance. Pastner said that plenty of pros who aren’t involved with a specific team come out to watch their buddies coach. Back when his sons were playing, Michael Jordan was a regular at Bigfoot Hoops events. Even the occasional non-basketball celebrity, like actor Denzel Washington can be seen. Washington came out and watched for years because he had a family member playing in the tournaments.
Youth basketball has exploded. Current basketball stars, and plenty of basketball fans, flock to Bigfoot Hoops tournaments to watch the stars of tomorrow. Why? Well, that’s simple: People just love the sport. Passion for the game of basketball is unrivaled.
“It’s basketball crazy,” Pastner said. “You’ve got to love it.”