The biggest sporting event in Vegas this weekend will take place on half of a basketball court. Led by Al Harrington, Kenyon Martin and Rashad McCants, the undefeated Trilogy will take on league MVP Rashard Lewis’s 3-Headed Monsters in the inaugural BIG3 championship game. The three-on-three league, founded by Ice Cube, has been running all across the country the last 10 weeks, culminating Saturday night in Vegas.
To get you ready for the big game, The Crossover caught up with Martin to discuss the BIG3’s first season, his thoughts on an NBA comeback and more.
Rohan Nadkarni: How’s the experience been so far in the BIG3?
Kenyon Martin: It’s been great. So far, so good, just the opportunity to get back on the court in front of friends and family. Fans get to see us play again. It’s a great opportunity.
RN: What’s surprised you the most?
KM: How much the fans are involved. The fans have really appreciated it and come out and support us. The buzz that the league has generated is the biggest surprise. A lot of people are surprised how competitive the games are. I knew once guys got on the court and around each other the games were going to be super competitive, that’s just how we are.
We’ve played against each other for numerous years so that competitive nature is there, it’s going to come out when basketball is involved. But the way fans have been supporting us has been awesome.
RN: You guys have also been really physical on the court. Why are you always beating each other up?
KM: That’s just basketball. That’s the way it should be played. Basketball is a contact sport. You’re not out there mauling people but it’s a physical game. That’s something the NBA has taken out of the game. They took out hand checking, the NBA implemented freedom of movement and you can’t touch guys or get in there way. And we have that in the BIG3, that’s the way basketball should be played. Going back to its original form. We’re out there battling every week.
RN: What’s the best trash talk you’ve heard in the BIG3?
KM: I don’t want to toot my own horn man, but I think it’s me letting people know what we were going to do from the beginning. And it’s held true. I told people we were here, we were going to kick ass and take names. And so far, we’ve kicked ass and took names.
I like the way we put our team together and I thought we had a chance from the beginning. So I’ve been letting everybody know that can’t nobody guard Al, can’t nobody guard Rashad, that we were going to do this and do that and that’s what it’s been.
RN: Was there anyone you really wanted to play against? Did you have any scores to settle?
KM: Nah, nah, throughout my career we had enough battles where no scores needed to be settled. But I just wanted to see Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf play again. And he’s shown me why I wanted to see him play. He hasn’t disappointed myself or the fans. He’s been awesome.
A lot of of people, a lot of kids, a lot of this generation don’t understand what he was for basketball. He was Steph Curry before Steph Curry. He could get his shot off on anybody. Shoot the blood out of the ball. He was an awesome basketball player. To see him move around, he still can do it. It’s impressive.
RN: Could you see yourself playing in this league for many years?
KM: Probably not many years for myself, but I’m definitely looking forward to next season. And I’ll make a decision after that whether I want to coach or move into the front office or something like that. But I’m definitely looking to stay a part of the BIG3 in some capacity moving forward. Maybe play another season or two and then going on to something different.
RN: You made some comments about Joakim Noah this summer that caught some attention. Are you still thinking about an NBA comeback?
KM: I’m always going to have that competitive nature, no matter what I’m doing, I’m competitive and I’m a sore loser. But that ship has sailed for the NBA. I’ve moved on from it. The NBA let me know they didn’t want my kind around a couple years ago so I took the hint and moved on with my life.
RN: How did the NBA let you know?
KM: I’m prideful, man. My last stop in Milwaukee, I got waived. It wasn’t because of my talent, I don’t believe. It was a numbers game, and I’m just not willing to put myself in those situations ever again. For my pride to be messed with, I’m not willing to do that again. I did a lot for the NBA for the 15 years I was in there, just didn’t think I deserved to be waived but it was out of my control.
So they let you know. Phone calls don’t come, opportunities don’t come, you don‘t get a training camp invite. They’ll let you know. Whether it’s age, injuries, whatever you want to call it, they have a funny way of letting you know. So I took the hint and I moved on. I enjoy spending time with my family. I enjoy not having an obligation every day, I think I’ve earned that right. The NBA ship has sailed, and I’m cool.
RN: What would a BIG3 championship mean to you?
KM: Winning is winning for me. Winning is what I play for. I don’t know how to play for fun. Any chance you can win a championship. I had a missed opportunity to win a championship in college, I got hurt my senior year. I made it to the FInals twice in the NBA and came up short. I’ve been on the doorstep but couldn’t get over the top. Winning is everything no matter where you’re doing it in. This is the first year of the league, so for me to say that I have a BIG3 championship is going to be very important to me.