Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league is taking form, and I’ve got to admit, I’m irrationally excited.
Six of the eight-team 3-on-3 league’s coaching spots are filled, 12 of the 16 co-captaincies are completed — with 27 All-Star appearances between them — and 10 more ex-NBA players have committed to an April combine before the draft to fill out the 40 player openings (five to a team).
Basketball Hall of Famers Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, George “The Iceman” Gervin, Allen Iverson and Gary Payton join 1989 NBA champion Rick Mahorn as coaches, leaving two open spots remaining.
Iverson will serve as a player-coach and captain one of the eight teams. Each five-man roster will feature a pair of co-captains who will fill the three remaining roster spots in the April draft. Iverson is joined as one of the league’s co-captains by fellow All-Stars Chauncey Billups, Jermaine O’Neal, Kenyon Martin and Rashard Lewis, as well as ex-NBA standouts Mike Bibby, Ricky Davis, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, Bonzi Wells and Jason Williams. Four co-captain vacancies remain.
More announcements of player and coach commitments are scheduled for Mondays moving forward. The league is pursuing splashy names, a la Iverson, to fill those spots, per HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy:
“There’s some really big names that they’re working on that they don’t want to say or talk about because they’re still working on it,” Lewis told HoopsHype. “Allen Iverson is a huge name, a Hall of Famer, and they’re pursuing others [on that level]. That’s one reason why we had the press conference, to kind of get some of these guys’ attention.”
“I think there are some guys that were kind of waiting to see if it would materialize, to see how legitimate it would be,” Billups added. “There are some [big-name] players that Cube’s guys are liking. I just think it’s a terrific idea.”
In late January, an irrational Parker told TMZ Sports he’d like to team up with former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom in Cube’s league, to which Odom — still recovering from an alleged 2015 drug overdose that nearly claimed his life — responded, “I’m with it.”
Three co-captain tandems have already been revealed, along with their team names. NBA champs Billups and Jackson will team up on the KILLER 3s, one-time Denver Nuggets teammates Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington are pairing up on Trilogy and former Orlando Magic mates Rashard Lewis and Jason Williams will headline the 3 Headed Monsters. Here’s hoping Iverson and Davis join forces next.
Former NBA players Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Kenny Anderson, Earl Boykins, Brian Cook, Jamari Moon, Smush Parker, Ruben Patterson, J.R. Rider, Latrell Sprewell and Etan Thomas have all committed to being draft-eligible after the combine. Anderson and Sprewell add five All-Star bids between them.
Roger Mason actually resigned from his post as deputy executive director of the National Basketball Players Association to become president and commissioner of the BIG3. This is really happening.
“It sucks to see your favorite players retire when you know they still got game,” Cube said at a press conference in January. He added in an official trailer for the BIG3, “We miss y’all. Y’all come into our living rooms as high school players and college players and pro players. We learn about y’all ups and downs, we see y’all win, we see y’all lose, we see y’all having your great moments, having y’all not-so-great moments, and then nothing. Gone. It hurts me to see guys who I loved to see play retire from the NBA.”
Beginning June 24, all eight teams will play four games on eight successive Saturdays during the regular season, with a two-week playoff to follow and the best-of-three championship series slated for Aug. 26. The league will travel to a different arena each week, hosting the four-game set in one city every weekend, accompanied by live entertainment, including halftime shows and after-parties.
So, yes, Cube could sing “messed around and got a triple-double” while Smush is in the midst of one, and the best news of all: The league is reportedly in the process of securing a television contract.
Individual games will be played in customary 3-on-3 style — a halfcourt set, clear defensive rebounds out to the 3-point line, no fouling out and no defensive three seconds — with a handful of wrinkles. Games are played to 60 points, with a halftime after one team reached 30, and there are three 4-point circles scattered beyond the 3-point line. (And a foul on a 4-point shot will result in four free throws.)
Now, I’m not about to pretend watching a 42-year-old Allen Iverson breaking the ankles of a 38-year-old Jermaine O’Neal, whose knees are already shot to hell, will be akin to seeing LeBron James and Stephen Curry square off for Round 3 in the NBA Finals. But this is basketball in the summer, and I can’t stop watching every time a Jason Williams mixtape comes out, so consider me fired up for it.
And who knows? Maybe one day, If Cube’s vision is realized, we might see a 46-year-old LeBron and a 43-year-old Steph square off in the finals one last time, and that’d be pretty damn cool. As Iverson said at the press conference, “This is gonna go on and on and on. It’s going to be part of our culture.”
And if anybody knows about cultural staying power, it’s Ice Cube and Allen Iverson. Game on.
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