With the first overall pick in the inaugural BIG3 draft, Trilogy captain Kenyon Martin and co-captain Al Harrington decided to select Rashad McCants. The 32-year-old guard starred at the University of North Carolina, winning a championship in 2005, and then played four seasons in the NBA.
During those four years, McCants averaged 10 points in 20.2 minutes per game while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range. The best season of his NBA career was in 2007-08, when he averaged 14.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and .9 steals in 26.9 minutes.
While McCants’ NBA career came to end quicker than expected, he went on to have some success overseas (including stints in China, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Lebanon).
Now, he’s back in the U.S. to play in the BIG3 because he wants to show fans he can still play at high level and ultimately end his basketball career on his terms. Through four weeks of BIG3 action, McCants and his team are the league’s only undefeated squad.
HoopsHype recently talked with McCants about the BIG3, his time in the NBA, his off-court endeavors, his support of Los Angels Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball and much more.
First of all, what drew you to the BIG3 and made you want to participate in this league?
Rashad McCants: I was drawn to this league because of the elite players – Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Stephen Jackson – and coaches – Gary Payton, Julius Erving, etc. – and Ice Cube being part of it. I’m a big fan of Ice Cube, from his film-industry success to his music-industry success. I reached out to Stephen Jackson, who is a good friend of mine, and he put me in touch with BIG3 Commissioner Roger Mason Jr., who is also a friend. Roger put me in the draft pool.
You ended up being the first overall pick in the BIG3. What did it mean to you to go No. 1 overall in the first-ever BIG3 draft?
RM: It’s a sense of appreciation from my peers. I have so much respect for them and what they’ve done in their careers. For them to see my talent and select me No. 1 overall because they thought I could help them win a championship in this league, I’m just grateful.
When you look at the BIG3, do you see this as an alternative for basketball fans who are upset about the lack of competition or parity in the NBA?
RM: It could be that. I think it could be a lot of different things. It’s just a different look at basketball; we haven’t seen competitive three-on-three basketball with former NBA players until now. It gives fans a look at what’s being left out of the NBA in terms of the mid-level players, the guys who could still contribute off of the bench for NBA teams and make things more competitive. This is definitely an exciting, new look at basketball.
I’ve talked to a number of BIG3 players who are hoping to use this a springboard back to the NBA or to other basketball opportunities. Is that how you view it?
RM: Not necessarily. I’ve been looking at this as its own opportunity. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to showcase my ability on a national scale, on national television. This is more of an opportunity to let the fans know we can still play, especially for me. If I do decide to make this the final chapter of my basketball book, I definitely want to go out in the light I’ve chosen – not by being cut or being benched or watching from the stands. I want to be able to showcase my talent and go out on my terms, on my time.
You averaged 10 points per game over the course of your four years in the NBA, but then you went overseas. Do you think you were underrated, and how do you feel when you look back on your time in the NBA?
RM: Underrated is probably the best word to use for it. The coaches and GMs decide whether they want to showcase a player’s talent and [develop their game]. They decide who sticks around. In Minnesota, I was put in a situation where I was asked to be an instant-offense-off-the-bench type of guy because that’s what the team needed. I just played my role. I’ve always been the type of player who does whatever the coach asks. That’s what I did, but it didn’t showcase what I could really do as a player. I was never able to showcase my total abilities. With three-on-three, I can show what I can do. It’s half-court, there’s a ton of space, I’m handling the ball more, we shoot more, we post-up a lot and I can defend all three positions.
Do you think politics played a role in you being out of the NBA after four years?
RM: Well, if you look at my stats, they don’t say “bum” or “bust” or “trash” or any of those things that some of the fans or people in the NBA want to say. But those people don’t look back at my body of work – even with limited minutes. Politics definitely played a part in [my NBA career ending]. I’ve never been in trouble. I never beat someone up or gotten a DUI or anything like that. It’s politics and rumors. At the end of the day, you try to figure out who starts these rumors, but the NBA is like a fraternity and nobody will tell you who’s saying different things. You’ll never find out who’s telling people not to touch you. I just kind of stay away from it. Now, I’m just gracious for the opportunity that Ice Cube and Roger Mason Jr. have given me in the BIG3. This is a chance to resurrect my career and show people I can still play.
Last time we talked, you were pursuing a number of different off-court ventures in music and movies. Have you given more thought to life after basketball?
RM: Absolutely. Things are definitely moving ahead in all aspects. I’m still interested in music and film, and I’m working on a book. But my major passion is philanthropy, giving back. We have a foundation called The Heroes Foundation, which financially aids independent artists, athletes and film producers that run into financial roadblocks as they’re trying to advance their career. It gives them an opportunity take control and share their work with the world.
You have been vocal in your support of Lonzo Ball and Big Baller Brand, and you have worn their shoes in the BIG3. Hearing about the work you do with independent athletes and creators, it makes sense that you’d be behind the Ball family.
RM: Absolutely. I love to support my own people as much as I can, and their entrepreneurship as a family shows a lot of bravery by challenging the status quo and going up against these Fortune 100 companies. I’m a big proponent of that. I have to support it! There are a lot of people who have said, “I hope you’re being compensated for it!” I don’t need compensation to help my people. I just want to make sure they grow and I’ll do whatever I can to help them get promotion.
Recently, you were on the BIG3 podcast and you made some comments about how Gerald Green could’ve been the same player as LeBron James if he was given the opportunity. People freaked out, but your point was that so much of NBA success is about opportunity and the situation a player is put in. Can you expand on that?
RM: Right. LeBron James has a big tattoo on his back that says The Chosen One. He was chosen from the moment he stepped foot on the floor – probably even before that. Gerald Green came into the NBA out of high school as well and he had just as much athletic ability, just as much raw talent, as LeBron. I played with Gerald so this isn’t me talking out of my ass or pulling things out of thin air. I saw his talent and what he’s capable of doing on the court. If he’d gotten 30 minutes per game and had the opportunities LeBron had when he came into the league, he would’ve shown the world he’s a perennial All-Star. To me, he could’ve been the next Vince Carter. I made that comment because I understand the reality of the situation. Opportunity is so important in the NBA. Fans may never understand because they watch from a distance, but the players who read my comment were all like, “Yeah.” Sometimes, players just need more promotion, more of an opportunity. I love Gerald Green’s game and I love him as a person; he’s a good friend of mine. I say the things I say for the players.
Your team, Trilogy, is pretty stacked. In addition to yourself, you have Kenyon Martin, Al Harrington, James White, Jannero Pargo and Dion Glover. You guys are currently undefeated; do you have what it takes to win the BIG3 championship?
RM: Yeah, we have the defense, we have the mismatches, we have the size, we have the shooting and scoring ability and we have the chemistry. Chemistry is really important in three-on-three basketball; you have to play well together.
One of my favorite things about this league are the Hall of Fame coaches. Your coach is Rich Mahorn; what has it been like to be around him and what kind of messages is he passing on to you guys?
RM: Oh man, Coach Mahorn is great. My dad was a big fan of the Bad-Boys Pistons, so I watched a lot of him, [Bill] Laimbeer, [Joe] Dumars and [Isiah] Thomas. I think that’s the type of basketball we all play. With Coach Mahorn, he wants to make sure we don’t give up anything easy; he wants us to make sure that the other team is working hard for every single point. He also wants us to play together, play team basketball. I think we have the right players to do those things.
Interview, Big3, Top, Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Dion Glover, Gary Payton, Gerald Green, James White, Jannero Pargo, Julius Erving, Kenyon Martin, LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Rashad McCants, Rick Mahorn, Roger Mason, Stephen Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves