Ice Cube’s BIG3—the three-on-three basketball league—kicked off in Brooklyn on Sunday. I would call the proceedings a marathon, but that would be incorrect, because the entire day took closer to two marathons. The nearly seven hours I spent at Barclays ended up being well worth it, however, even if only to see Allen Iverson hit one shot in his return to the hardwood. Here’s a running diary of the day’s events…
Right off the bat I knew the BIG3 was a serious league because the media lunch spread was incredible. Don’t let anyone ever tell you sportswriting is hard, and don’t let anyone who covered the BIG3’s first game complain about the length, because I would go back just for the grilled chicken sandwiches. After loading up on cold cuts, I realized I was eating lunch one table away from Ice Cube and Dr. J (not Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, unfortunately), but by then it was too late for me to look any less shameless so I sat down and stuffed my face with sandwiches. After a hearty lunch, I raced to my seat for the tipoff of Game 1.
Game 1: Ghost Ballers vs. 3-Headed Monsters
The first game of the BIG3 was pretty entertaining, though it was somewhat marred by a non-contact knee injury to Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. Immediately, you noticed these three-on-three games were going to get physical. Bodies were banging in the paint, and players were diving all over the floor for loose balls.
The Monsters won this game on the backs of Rashard Lewis and Kwame Brown. Lewis won the game at the free-throw line after hitting an and-1 in Ricky Davis’s grill. (This came after Davis danced on the court before bricking a potential game-winning three.) Lewis got right in Davis’s face after his final bucket, and seeing the trash talk was fun as hell. Brown was wrecking guys in the post, much to the enjoyment of his coach, Gary Payton, who was way more active than necessary on the sidelines.
Davis scored 23 for the Ballers, on a hilariously inefficient 7-of-19 shooting. As you could imagine, this game featured a mid-2000s-esque number of long, midrange twos. Mike Bibby hit two four-point shots, and it was kind of upsetting that he didn’t launch more than three of them. (Yes, this league has a four-point shot.)
Game 2: Power vs. Tri-State
Game 2 was the best game of the day, because both teams traded shots down the stretch in a tight contest. The most exciting part about this league is that the teams play to 60, which can create some pretty entertaining finishes once the game gets into the 50s.
Again, an injury to Corey Maggette put a little hush over the proceedings, but the hilarity of watching a gray-bearded Moochie Norris (wearing No. 96!) trying to take guys off the dribble more than made up for it. Moochie was a frequent target on defense, however, as guys like Mike James, Bonzi Wells and Lee Nailon routinely went right after him. The play was chippy all game long, and Wells even picked up a technical foul.
DeShawn Stevenson was the Game 2 MVP, and with Power leading 59–58, he pulled up for a deep three to clinch the win. Stevenson is an early league MVP favorite, even if they don’t give out an MVP award. Stevenson looked like he was playing for a 10-day contract, though it helped that he was several steps faster than most players on the court.
I missed most of the Fabolous halftime concert because I wanted to buy a t-shirt, but the options weren’t as cool as I thought they would be. There’s an Allen Iverson shirt that was kind of dope, but everyone was buying that shirt which made it lose some of its appeal. It was surprising to see how many people were rocking BIG3 jerseys, from Kenyon Martin’s to Brian Scalabrine’s, even if most of those people were middle-aged dads. I got back to my seat in time to see Fab perform “Breathe,” which 100% still bangs in 2017.
Game 3: 3’s Company vs. Ball Hogs
The game everyone was most excited for ended up being the most boring. Allen Iverson only played nine minutes, hitting one of his six shots for two points. Neither of these teams could shoot. Rasual Butler—one more time, for emphasis, RASUAL BUTLER—hoisted 26 shots in this game, hitting only seven. No one could score, though there was some enjoyment in watching a rotund Mike Sweetney lean on defenders in the post. Someone named Andre Owens was in this game? Iverson’s team ended up winning, but this contest was mostly a drag on the rest of the day.
Game 4: Killer 3’s vs. Trilogy
Stephen Jackson vs. Al Harrington! Kenyon Martin! Larry Hughes! This game should have been the best one of the day, but Harrington and Martin’s Trilogy won in a 60–45 blowout. Rashad McCants (also suiting up for Trilogy), the league’s No. 1 overall pick, lived up to the billing, looking by far like the most athletic player on the court.
This game was notable for its incredibly physical play, with Reggie Evans literally pushing people around on the court. Jackson picked up a technical early in the game for shoving McCants. (Evans and Jackson were likely inspired by their player-coach, the brutish Charles Oakley.) Captain Jack never really found his form amidst the chippiness, shooting a ghastly 1-of-11 from three. I expected more from Hughes, who only took three shots. The Killer 3’s were missing their captain, Chauncey Billups, who is apparently hiding in a bunker somewhere trying to figure out whether or not he should accept the Cavs’ president of basketball ops job. Not sure how Billups can run an organization when he’s been such a distraction to his current team.
Maggette’s injury looked less serious than Williams’s, but we didn’t get an update after the game. White Chocolate tweaked his knee but should be ready to go in a couple weeks, according to Payton.
Among those in attendance: LL Cool J, Jalen Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Sam Cassell, Naturi Naughton, James Harden, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Paul Pierce, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
If you’re really into late-90s, early-00s hoops, the BIG3 is mostly fun. The event ran way too long on Sunday, but I fully expect the league to tinker with the rules to cut down on the runtime. (Don’t be surprised if the games are played to a lower score in the coming weeks.)
The games themselves are pretty physical, and centers play a much bigger role than they do in the NBA. But when teams are actually shooting well from the outside is when the games are most fun, if only to see the pace pick up a bit after all the banging in the post. We didn’t see many four-pointers on Sunday, and hopefully that changes in the coming weeks as well.
For now, the BIG3 officially exists, and its first day went off mostly without a hitch. No technical difficulties. No confusion over the rules. Everyone showed up. It was a solid start for a league that hopes to have serious staying power.