With the NHL and NBA done, and football outside of Canada not starting for a couple of months, it’s a slow time in sports, and a new 3-on-3 basketball league that could have been the solution to those starved for sports.
Sadly, after one episode, it probably is not the next great sports league that will keep people entertained for years to come.
The Big 3, the brainchild of rapper Ice Cube and NBA legend Allen Iverson, aimed to fill that void with a 10-week 3-on-3 basketball league featuring former NBA players both on the court and sidelines as the players and coaches.
In addition to Iverson, some big names have been associated with the league since its start, including Chauncey Billups, Jermaine O’Neal, Jason Williams, and Mike Bibby, just to name a few. If you want all of the players in this league, here you go.
The big names, Ice Cube backing, and more open concept for basketball had fans excited for Sunday’s first games (they play four games in one day, then move on to a different city), drawing more than 15,000 fans to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
Games are played to 60, win by two, feature no hand-check fouls, and even have spots on the floor that are worth four points. It all seemed like it could be a fun alternative to the NBA.
But then the actual broadcast showing the games started and it was nothing but downhill from there.
Fox Sports 1, Ice Cube, Allen Iverson, Gus Johnson, and courtside reporter Michael Rapaport did all they could to try to hype it as an actual sporting event and legit league, rather than a cash grab hoping to get people in the door simply because of nostalgia or whatever other reason.
It was boring basketball that looked every bit like it was being played by guys who were well past their prime in the NBA, or never had a prime in the NBA.
Passes were just kind of haphazardly thrown in the vicinity of other players and often went out-of-bounds for turnovers, even if the player was wide open. The players looked slow with the exception of some like Jermaine O’Neal, who could dominate when needed. They looked old, with some that were now bald, fat, graying, or some combination of all three. There were almost no dunks, and the ones that did happen were more of clearing the area and letting the player dunk just to prove he still could. And even the players looked kind of bored with it all until it came down to the wire and they had a chance to win.
And then players got hurt. Williams left with a non-contact injury to his knee, Corey Maggette also injured his knee, and Kenyon Martin pulled a hamstring reaching for a loose ball. The league has denied that age had anything to do with it, but come on, when you’re 40-ish years old, out of the NBA for a handful of season and start trying to play legit basketball again, your body probably isn’t up to it.
Gus Johnson, who went from being dang-near the face of March Madness to announcing these games, seemed bored by it all as well. If Gus Johnson can’t get fired up for close games that seem like they might be exciting, at least on paper, what chance do the fans either in the crowd or watching at home have?
Despite a big crowd, they were mostly silent for long stretches of the games, only ever getting excited near the end of games if it was close, or when Allen Iverson took the floor.
Speaking of Iverson, he was undoubtedly the reason many of the fans in the crowd and watching on TV tuned in. By far the biggest star of the people who will actually play in the games…and he played like 5 minutes, went 1 for 6 from the field for 2 points, and then spent the rest of the game “coaching” the other players on his team. So if you tuned in hoping to see AI do his signature cross-over and get to the rim with reckless abandon like he did during his NBA days…you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
I’ll be honest, I had low expectations for what to expect going into last night’s showing of the first set of games, and it didn’t even meet them.
There’s a reason that outside of golf, there isn’t a Senior League for the NHL, MLB, NFL or any other sport. Because compared to people who are at their athletic peaks, even if they were an all-time great, they just don’t stack up anymore. And regardless of how you feel about nostalgia, if you want to remember AI or any of these others guys, go watch YouTube videos, not this shameful cash grab.
Truthfully, if you could get this league with athletes in their prime, or maybe like a college summer league for players to keep playing year-round, it might work and actually be entertaining.
After this initial rush of nostalgia and curiosity wears off, I just don’t see The Big 3 sticking around for long. The basketball and spectacle of it all just plain isn’t entertaining.