Jim Jackson wants people to know something about the Big3: it’s not a gimmick. After its inaugural season last year, the league, co-founded by rapper Ice Cube, returned for a Season 2 last Friday in Houston, TX. The Big3 will also televise live games every Friday during the league’s 10-week season.
Jackson, who spent 19 years in the NBA, played for 12 different teams throughout his career. Since his final 13-game stint with the Lakers during the 2005-06 season, Jackson has remained in the business as an analyst with Fox Sports 1 and the Big3.
HoopsHype caught up with Jackson to talk about the Big3, his dream 3-on-3 squad, NBA rookies and more.
Aside from being an analyst and still being involved in the game, what’s life after the NBA been like for you?
Jim Jackson: Love it. A lot of golf, brother. I get a chance to be with family, play a lot of golf, talk basketball and travel. Just enjoy the fruits of my labor, man. I’m blessed.
With the Big3 in its second season, what are you most looking forward to?
JJ: I’m looking forward to seeing if anybody can knock off Trilogy with coach Rick Mahorn, Rashad McCants, James White – that crew. They did such a phenomenal job last year, going undefeated. I’m looking for the progression in the play. I think the guys are starting to understand what it takes now to play 3-on-3. This is a lot tougher than people think. But also [I’m looking forward] to the coaching. The coaches now have been through the gauntlet of 10 games. They better understand the strategy, how to sub guys in and what plays to call, but also using the four-point shot to their advantage a little bit more this year.
Any predictions for this season? Word is Kenyon Martin’s already saying his squad is repeating.
JJ: You gotta beat the champs, right? [Laughs]. You can talk all you want, but you have to beat the champs. Everybody has a chance to come out and kind of retool their lineups to beat Trilogy. I think the beauty was they were a really well-coached team by Rick Mahorn. They beat you with power because they can with Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington. And then they can finesse you a little bit more and shoot the ball from the 3-point line. I’m looking forward to seeing who can match up with their power. Would it be a smaller team that’s a little bit more fluid and can shoot the ball? Can they stretch them out and make Trilogy play defense and all those things? It’s going to be interesting to see how the new guys bring their talent to the table.
If you could choose any player – past or present – for a 3-on-3 squad, who would they be?
JJ: Magic [Johnson], Mike [Michael Jordan] and LeBron [James]. [Laughs].
There are a lot of vets who are making their Big3 debuts this season. Who are some other guys you’d like to eventually see play in the league?
JJ: I’d love to see Kobe [Bryant] and Tim Duncan play. I would love to see those two come in and just add value. It’s a lot more competitive than what they think it is. You can ask any of the guys who have played last year that once they got into it, it was downright dirty – in a good way. A lot of guys… that’s what they look for because in a team sport, you can’t replace that in your everyday life. For 10 weeks, you get a chance to release some of that tensed-up energy and that second nature comes out. Guys have been working all year to get ready for this year’s league.
NBA-wise, are there any of these upcoming rookies that you’ll be keeping close tabs on?
JJ: Luka Doncic from overseas… Donte DiVincenzo a guy that I think with the right team can be an asset to what you’re trying to do. I think he understands how to win… look at Josh Hart. There’s a lot of intriguing storylines. Michael Porter Jr. – nobody has seen him play outside high school other than that one game at Missouri where he got hurt.
A lot of these Euro prospects like Doncic get red-flagged long before they get to the NBA because many think they’re overhyped because they’re playing overseas. Why do you think that is?
JJ: That was a bigger concern back in the day when the international scouting wasn’t the same and there wasn’t a lot of film on guys. The scouting wasn’t as in-depth. You look at a lot of guys who’ve made an impact in this league – the NBA is more and more comfortable with having these guys get drafted high that can potentially add value. But I think it’s always going to be a factor because you can’t see the guy or know the guy indistinctly and you’re going to have questions [about him]. Is the league he’s playing in really good enough? Is the competition steep enough that we can really judge how good he can play and if that translates to the NBA? I think you’ll always have that little factor at times.
Free agency is around the corner. From a fan perspective, where do you think guys like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard end up?
JJ: Kyrie’s a little different because he’s not asking to get out of Boston. Kawhi’s [situation] is totally different because of the communication, or lack thereof, and that trust factor that’s been broken in his mind. His run is different. Now LeBron, again, what are his motivating factors? Winning championships and lifestyle. I think a lot of it is going to play out for LeBron with what moves happen before him. You talk about going to the Lakers – well you have to wait and see which free agents are going to actually land in L.A., what moves will be made [so] then he can make a plausible decision if that makes sense for his career moving forward. Now you talk about NBA all year round, which is a beautiful thing in general, but there’s so much interest in players, movements and what’s going on. I think it’s a beautiful thing. I love the drama and impact that it has on fans and us as media.
The Jordan-LeBron GOAT debate has escalated even more after the recent playoffs. What are your overall thoughts on that comparison?
JJ: I mean, it’s good for us – especially the media – because it’s always a never-ending debate. If you’re in LeBron’s camp, there’s nothing you can say that’ll make you think he isn’t better than Mike and vice versa. Now you see what kind of stats they put up, but you’re trying to compare different eras. Guys played different and it’s really hard to do that. It’s like trying to compare what Wilt [Chamberlain] did – averaging a triple-double or 50-point, 20-rebound, 9-assist game – and trying to compare that to Shaquille [O’Neal]. It’s a totally different league. What Bob Cousy did in the ‘50s and ’60s, he couldn’t do that now. It’s really hard, but I love the debate aspect of it. But it’s hard to compare eras because they’re so different, in [terms of] the way that everybody plays. LeBron started [in the NBA] and had a four-year head start on Michael Jordan, who came out at the age of 24 [Editor note: 21 years old actually] when LeBron was 18. There’s a lot of factors that go into the numbers and things that have transpired, but the one thing you can’t take away from the debate is talent and both of them are superior athletes and they go about their games in a totally different way. You gotta appreciate that and they’re totally different players, so it’s not a fair comparison in regards to what they both do and what they do well.
So, who’s your GOAT?
JJ: LeBron’s story is not written yet. His book is not complete, so you can’t say yet what’s going to happen. It’s another important summer for him because, physically, he’s fine. I think he wants to get back to the point where he wants to enjoy the game full-time because he’s carrying the load, but he still has three to four years left to do some amazing things. The greatest now is Michael Jordan, but somebody always comes along. Again, we didn’t think anyone would be better than Wilt, but here comes Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Dr. J comes in the picture; Magic Johnson comes in. There’s always somebody else. It’s always hard to live to an MJ standard, which it is, but LeBron’s book is still being written.