On the precipice of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend, O’Shea Jackson, aka Ice Cube, revealed why and how one of his dreams is coming to fruition.
“This started off as a dream,” he said. “It sucks to see your favorite player retire. It’s nothing good about it. Especially, when you know they still got game.”
So, taking an adage said to him by another influential figure in his life, Jackson begin to ponder. “My father always told me, ‘If you don’t think big, you will always be small,’ so we came up with a big idea,” he said.
With that, the BIG3 Basketball League was birthed. Comprising players that once plied their trades in the NBA, Cube’s league, a partnership with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, has managed to confirm as participants thus far former NBA stars Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis, Jason Williams, Bonzi Wells and Mike Bibby. Coaches set to come on board are George Gervin, Gary Payton and, serving in the capacity of player/coach, Allen Iverson.
“Three-on-three basketball is the most played sport in the world,” said BIG3 co-founder Kwatinetz. “It is a universally beloved form of basketball that truly highlights a player’s technical skill set. The BIG3 will bring our favorite basketball stars to one of the most popular forms of the sport. The league promises to deliver fun, exciting and fast-paced basketball played by some of the game’s most talented players.” Overseeing the business of basketball in the new venture is Roger Mason, former deputy executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, who will serve as the league’s commissioner. “The BIG3 puts a special emphasis on the players, and they are an integral part of its function,” said Mason. “From the coaching, to the team selection and the games themselves, the league is player powered. We’re excited for the players to have such an active role in the BIG3 and look forward to a successful partnership.”
Some of the specifics about the league are as follows. The BIG3 will comprise eight teams of five players, one head coach and one assistant coach. Regular season games will take place each Saturday from June 24 through Aug. 12, with playoff games Aug. 19 and 26. The BIG3 will take place each week in a different arena and city across the country, with all four games happening on the same day in the same venue, creating the excitement of a Final Four or All-Star Game atmosphere. Designed as a player-centric league, BIG3 will feature 40 players, with the players earning a 52 percent revenue share. The revenue split will be determined by the final league standings, including postseason results to maximize competitiveness between the teams. Players will operate their teams, with a player captain designated to make personnel decisions. All coaches will be former NBA players. Games will be played up to 60 points, with the first team to reach the 60-point mark the winner. Halftime will take place when the first team reaches 30 points.
BIG3 will introduce into play a 4-point shot with three 4-point circles beyond the 3-point line. Players can shoot for four points by touching any part of the circle. Even though that innovative weapon is added to the offense, by no means do the players seem to make it a focus. Players will indeed play both sides of the ball. Martin, first overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft and 15-year grizzled veteran, stated, “Defense is defense. There’s no big strategy involved. Either you want to do it or you don’t. But that no matter who you are, if you put those shorts on and step on the court, [I’ll] get in that jersey with you and we gonna get it.”
Two-time All-Star and member of the 2012-2013 NBA champions Miami Heat, Lewis, added, “We’re not here as a circus act. Once we get out there on the floor, we’re going to compete. We’re not going to be out there messing around. Guys will be working hard and making proper preparation. We won’t be going from city to city and not be in shape, we want to compete at a high level and entertain our fans.”
The idea of prep before a game, of course, proved to be too much of a temptation with the media gathered, and soon to follow was a question directed to the biggest profiled participant in the league thus far, Allen “The Answer” Iverson, regarding his perceived lackadaisical approach to practice. After a chuckle about the inquiry, Iverson’s response was classic A.I.: “I never had no problem with practice. How can you be a four-time scoring champion, an 11-time All-Star and MVP in the league if you didn’t practice. It just don’t happen. You gotta work for it, and I worked for everything I have.”
Iverson continued, “I wear this ring everyday [Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Induction Ring] because I worked. I had help from my teammates, my coaching staffs, my family and fans. They’re the reason that I wear this ring, but I was the one who had the put in the work.”
Martin chimed in, “Some guys are great at practice. That’s what they live for. That’s what they do. They’re the greatest practice players in the world. But when the lights shine bright, they walking the beers up the aisle and you smell that popcorn, that’s when it matters, and that’s what A.I brings to the table.”
The BIG3’s weekly festivals will be among the most exciting sports atmospheres in the world, intertwining competitive games featuring basketball legends and superstar entertainment and halftime shows. Adding to the highly energetic games will be individualized music and introductions and fan interaction with players and exhibits before and after the games.
With performances as part of the package, will Ice Cube be grabbing the mic? “Maybe, depends if I feel it,” he said. “I don’t want this to be about me. I want to do everything I can to promote the league, help it get on its feet and get rollin,’ then fade to the back and let these guys do what they do best. It’s a great business opportunity, but as a fan, I want to see the guys that still have game get a chance to strap it up and play at a high level.”
Over and out. Holla next week. Make sure to tune in to BET for the “New Edition Story,” which premieres Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 9 p.m. Til then, enjoy the night life.