by Warren Darden

The King Cotton was founded by Mr. Travis Creed of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1983 and continued for 17 years, ending in 1999. Mr. Creed provided the following information: Sponsorships were initially local businesses and 50 for the Future, a civic group. Later, Mt. Valley Water, Inc., Coca-Cola, and Entergy participated. The first year they had 10 " of ice and snow, but still had a good crowd. A lot of emphasis was placed on the interaction between teams and the community. In 1983, there were two other similar tourneys in the U.S.: Big Las Vegas Tournament in Nevada and Big Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina.

The King Cotton was the first to pay the teams' expenses, thereby competing with the other two. They paid for 20 people: transportation, 4 to a motel room, meals, and other benefits. Average yearly expenses were estimated to be $50K. It had 8 teams to start and later expanded to 12 teams each year. For a couple of the early years, they had a girls' division with teams just from Arkansas.

The King Cotton hosted an estimated 176 teams over the years in the annual four day event. Mr. Creed has a library of video tapes of all the games from each year.

The largest attendance was in 1996 at 7,600. This was the game featuring the Russellville, Arkansas, team that included Corliss Williamson and the California team that included Jayson Kid. "The fire marshal would not let anyone else in," Creed stated. In the final play, Corliss swatted the ball out-of-bounds from Kid's last second shot attempt and Russellville won by one point.

On December 28, 1987, the then fledgling TV network ESPN produced the first live high school basketball event ever, the King Cotton Tournament. They also aired the event for the next four years, but on tape. In 1989, the New York Times ran an article entitled "#1 High School Holiday Tournament in the Country." At last count, Mr. Creed estimated over the 17 years, 35 to 37 future NBA players were in the tournament.

The tournament was discontinued due to dwindling attendance, a concern for guest safety, and crowd (student) control issues.

This footnote has been provided due to the lack of public information available on the internet or elsewhere. Special thanks to Mr. Creed. Maybe some alert university library will pursue obtaining the game tapes, programs, and other items Mr. Creed has kept.

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