Star power, unique rules may make new 3-on-3 league a hit

Star power, unique rules may make new 3-on-3 league a hit

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Star power, unique rules may make new 3-on-3 league a hit

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Around Christmas, news of the BIG3 – a three-on-three league featuring well-known former NBA players – surfaced and basketball fans were intrigued.

It received some attention since it’s a fun idea and the league had some instant credibility due to Ice Cube’s backing, the notable players committing and the fact Roger Mason Jr. was leaving the National Basketball Players Association to serve as the league’s commissioner.

Now, as more details emerge, it’s seeming like the BIG3 could become a huge hit.

The formula is pretty genius: Assemble eight teams of former stars, play four games each Saturday across the nation, add unique rules to make the contests even more entertaining and start the season in late June when fans are starting to go through hoops withdrawal.

Players who will suit up include Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis, Jason “White Chocolate” WilliamsMike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Al Harrington, Ricky Davis and Charles Oakley. Iverson and Oakley will serve as player/coaches for their respective teams.

Organizers also announced that Kenny Anderson, Jamario Moon, Smush Parker, Ruben Patterson, Etan Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, J.R. Rider, Earl Boykins, Brian Cook, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Marcus Banks, Keith Bogans, Derrick Byars, Shane Heal, Mike James, Voshon Lenard, Rashad McCants, Lee Nailon, Eddie Robinson, Xavier Silas,  Ndudi Ebi, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Lawrence Moten, Andre Owens and James White have entered the league as draft-eligible players.

George “The Iceman” GervinGary Payton, Clyde Drexler, Rick Barry and Rick Mahorn will serve as coaches.

Sources say that the league is currently pursuing other big-name additions who would make headlines (like the Iverson signing did). For example, Iverson recently made a public pitch for Kobe Bryant to join the league

“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.”

It’s unclear which players are in negotiations with organizers, but the BIG3 wants splashy signings since this endeavor needs notable names and a quality on-court product to reach its full potential. Every recently retired star is seemingly a target for the league.

The players aren’t the only attraction, though; the BIG3 will be unlike any other summer tournament.

For starters, the games won’t be full-court. Each game will be played on half a court and will begin with a do-or-die half-court shootout. While the contests will be three-on-three, each roster will have five players so that there are reserves. All defensive strategies will be allowed (and there’s no defensive three-second rule). Teams must clear the ball out to the three-point line after missed shots, but steals don’t have to be cleared. Perhaps most interesting is that there will be a “four-point circle.” If a player makes a shot while touching any part of this circle, it’s worth four points. Halftime starts when one team reaches 30 points. The first team to 60 points wins (but they must win by at least four).

The season will begin on June 24, 2017. The campaign will span 10 weeks, with four games being played each Saturday in a new city. The final two weeks will be the postseason, with the championship game on Aug. 12.

And, yes, players could cash in.

“The players will earn 52 percent revenue share,” the league announced. “The revenue split will be determined by the final league standings, including postseason results in order to maximize competitiveness between the teams.”

The team-assembly process will be interesting as well.

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Each five-man team will have a captain, who can add one co-captain to his team. Then, to fill out the remaining three spots on the roster, there will be a league-wide draft. Lead captains will also be responsible for personnel moves like trades.

In other words, a former NBA player can’t just call up four buddies and make a squad. This isn’t The Basketball Tournament. They must follow the rules and build their team through the draft.

For example, Billups is the lead captain of his team. He selected Stephen Jackson to be his co-captain, but he won’t know his other three teammates until draft night.

Another example: Lewis will be a lead captain and he chose Jason Williams as his co-captain.

“I played with Jason Williams in Orlando,” Lewis explained. “Everybody knows Jason is an exciting guy to watch, especially for something like this. Three-on-three basketball is perfect for his style; he’s a streetball type of player.”

“I’ll just say this: I’m going to do everything I can to give the fans exactly what they want to see in the BIG3,” Williams added.

Prior to the draft, there will be a combine of sorts for team captains to evaluate the available talent.

“We’re doing the mini-combine before the draft too because we have to make sure we aren’t picking a guy who has just been sitting around and eating donuts,” Lewis said with a laugh.

Many of the players who have committed to participate in the league have remained in relatively good shape from their playing days. With that said, most guys are now ramping up training to their previous intensity level.

“It will be competitive,” Billups said. “You’re talking about guys who played for a living, so of course everybody wants to win.”

Lewis is a perfect example of this and he’s taking his responsibilities seriously. Not only is he working out diligently, he’s already thinking about how to build his team so it can contend for the title.

“We’re natural competitors,” Lewis said. “We’re obviously going to have fun doing this for the kids and for our fans, but we’re going to compete for sure. We’re going to prepare the right way and get ourselves in shape. When Roger [Mason Jr.] called me and told me I’d be a captain and we’re going to have a draft, I started brainstorming like, ‘Who do I think is in pretty good shape?’ I asked around, ‘Who’s been working out?’ I wondered, ‘Who do I think can still play, and who are the right guys that would fit together?’ You may pick a big name, but that guy may have been sitting around for two or three years doing nothing and you don’t know. So I’m doing my homework and trying to pick somebody that will be ready to roll. I’m trying to win this thing.”

That’s one reason he selected Williams. They obviously have chemistry from their time as teammates, but Lewis was also drawn to ‘White Chocolate’ because he knows his co-captain is in good shape.

“I know he can still go,” Lewis said of Williams. “That’s the main key; I want guys who can still play. I’m trying to compete.”

Lewis believes there’s so much excitement that the BIG3 may have to turn prospective players away.

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting the players,” Lewis said. “There are 40 spots. Some of these guys [entering] won’t get drafted. I’m pretty sure the floodgates will open because I think there are a lot of people, like myself, who feel like they can still play basketball. And I think the keys to this are that it’s three-on-three, you’re playing once a week so your body has time to recover, and it’s half-court so you won’t have the wear and tear of a full-court game. I think those factors are what will really open up a lot of guys’ eyes. They’ll realize that they can do this, that they can compete at a high level without killing themselves out there. But we may not have space for every single guy.”

Interestingly, Lewis believes the league may even be able to attract some non-retired players, such as active NBA free agents, overseas players or D-League studs. He could see some relatively younger players trying to use the BIG3 as a stepping stone to a bigger opportunity.

“Some guys are satisfied with their career and satisfied with not playing anymore, but this is for all guys who have NBA experience,” Lewis said. “You may have a guy who played in the league for six or seven years, but he’s not in the NBA right now and they could play in the BIG3. It could be a springboard for some of those guys to hopefully get back in the league or get in the D-League or try to get a look somewhere else. It’s for guys who have NBA experience. There are a lot of guys out there who have NBA experience that are well known, but some are not as known and those guys can still sign up and try to get in.”

Everyone involved in the BIG3 believes it will become an annual summer tournament.

“This is not going to be the only time we do it,” Iverson said during his press conference. “This is going to go on and on and on. It’s going to be a part of our culture, and I love that I get to be a part of it. I’m going to put all of my effort into it, to make sure that this can be as big as ever.”

“I think the idea and the timing of it are brilliant,” Billups said. “For fans, including me, that gap between basketball season and football season is brutal. Now, at least fans are going to have a chance to see some of the players that they love and grew up watching.”

“I think it could be big,” Lewis said. “I think Ice Cube, Roger Mason Jr. and those guys will pull in all the right names to get this league to be huge. When you’re growing up playing basketball with your friends in the neighborhood or in the backyard, you’re usually playing two-on-two or three-on-three. You probably aren’t playing five-on-five unless you’re in a gym. So as a concept, it makes sense. It’s exciting for us players, while also being fun for the fans who miss some players who used to be in the NBA.”

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Lewis added that the league’s organizers are “working on a TV deal now,” which is good news.

“I’m pretty sure they’ll find a way to get it on TV, especially getting someone like Allen Iverson to play,” Lewis said. “And if, as I expect, we pull in some of these other big-name players? I think it’s a no-brainer it’ll be televised.”

Universally, the players seem excited to be part of a team again.

“One of the things that you miss as an NBA player when you retire is just that camaraderie and fellowship with other guys,” Billups said. “Now you get that back, while also getting to compete and have fun.”

“I was just hanging out with Allen Iverson the night before the press conference, and we were just reminiscing about the old days and talking about the NBA today” Lewis added. “We were talking about what Russell Westbrook and James Harden and those guys have been doing this season. You kind of miss that stuff – hanging out with the guys – when you retire.”

When Ice Cube announced the BIG3, he summed up why fans may fall in love with this league.

“It sucks to see your favorite player retire,” he said. “It sucks. [There’s] nothing good about it, especially when you know they still got game. As a diehard basketball fan, I can’t wait to see my favorite players back in action.”

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