I remember getting a notification on my iPhone when the BIG3 was officially announced. My instant reaction was that Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 basketball league was a passion project that would never actually come to fruition. With the league’s inaugural regular season wrapping up this it’s safe to say that my fiery hot take didn’t age well.
Back in early January Ice Cube and his business partners announced that they were launching The BIG3, a 3-on-3 half court professional basketball league comprised primarily of former NBA players. The league officially began play in late June with eight teams comprised of five players, a coach and an assistant coach playing each Saturday. With the BIG3 playoffs quickly approaching it’s time for a heat check on the greatest show in half-court basketball.
First let’s start with the good. The league definitely materialized in part because the team and big names behind the scenes and on the court. Ice Cube’s immediate team also includes former Deputy Executive Director of the NBA Players Association (Wow what a title) Roger Mason. With Ice Cube’s social clout and Mason’s connections the summer league was able to get former NBA players including Chauncey Billups, Gary Payton, Kenyon Martin, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis, Jason Williams, Mike Bibby and, their biggest draw, Allen Iverson. The league has also used their opportunity to play around with traditional basketball rules by injecting an experimental four-point shot into the mix.
But not all changes are good, which brings us to the bad news.
These players are old. Every time they fall there’s a much higher chance they won’t get up or that they’ll get up much slower than any fans are comfortable with. It is an odd phenomenon when we are all used to watching athletes at the peak of their athleticism to sit down and watch the 40+ club play half-court hoops. The league of retirees have also had an injury problem from day one. Literally since day one. Jason Williams’s non-contact leg injury left him out 6-8 months, Corey Magette sustained a knee injury and Kenyon Martin tweaked his hammy all in the first week of play. The league has also started to run into problems with healthy players as well. Two weeks ago Allen Iverson no-showed on game day. That’s right he straight up pulled a Derrick Rose. Arguably the league’s biggest star, Iverson’s absence made a mark and left some lingering questions as to the league’s ability to enforce their stars to show up. To add insult to injury the league’s enforced punishment was a one game suspension which meant fans had yet another reason not to tune in the following week. When Iverson has shown up on game day he has barely had any on court presence with only 27 minutes played compared to the league leaders over 200. Getting stars is one thing, getting them to play is a whole other issue.
The BIG3 has the potential to carve out their spot as the sport to watch over the summer after the NBA Finals conclude, before baseball picks up steam or Football returns. This will not happen overnight nor will it happen over the course of their inaugural season but the league has certainly made several steps in the right direction by acquiring some of the big names necessary and even gotten a TV deal with FS1 (games aired on a 24 hour delay). The talent issue does need to be solved whether it is younger players or actually getting their big name stars to be in the building. Either way for their first year The BIG3 has made a splash onto the scene but has a lot of work ahead of them.
Heat Check: 3 out of 5 fire emojis