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Lessons Learned from Ice Cube’s BIG3

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

Updated Jan 17, 2018 · 9:38 AM PST

Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License.

Prior to the summer, when most people thought of Ice Cube, they thought of really edgy gangsta rap and really mediocre family movies. That began changing on June 25th with the launch of the BIG3, his self-styled 3-on-3 basketball league. The eight-team start up has been barnstorming its way across the U.S. all summer long, providing an answer to that eternal question: What the hell ever happened to Brian Scalabrine?

The BIG3 sounded like a long shot when Ice Cube first announced the idea in January but the league has been a surprising success. The crowds have been large and enthusiastic, and the level of competition has surpassed expectations. It’s far from a perfect product, but it has helped fill the void for basketball junkies desperate for a mid-summer fix.

The BIG3’s championship finale is scheduled for August 26th in Las Vegas, but before that date arrives, we’d like to share the lessons we’ve learned from watching Ice Cube’s nascent league.

Old Guys Sweat a Lot

NBA players have always sweat, but there’s a big difference between the gentle trickle of perspiration generated by a finely tuned 23-year-old athlete and the tsunami of flop sweat created by a huffing and puffing 40-year-old. If you were just channel surfing and happened to land upon a BIG3 game you would swear that Rashard Lewis had just swam the final leg of a 4×400 relay. The players have our sympathies, of course, but it’s the poor teens who have to mop the floors that our hearts really go out to.

Michael Sweetney Looks Like His Very Own Three Man Team

Suggesting that Michael Sweetney has packed on a few pounds would be an understatement of massive proportions. At this stage in his life, you could force feed him a tank of helium, tattoo “Goodyear” on his ass and fly him above Cleveland. The BIG3 website doesn’t officially list Sweetney’s current weight, but suffice it to say it’s somewhere between 300 lbs. and a Naval frigate.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Would Probably be the Last Guy Picked at Your Local Y

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf has never been known for his physical presence. During his prime, the player formally known as Chris Jackson topped out at 165 lbs., and it doesn’t look like he’s added an ounce since. Add to that a little frost around his signature goatee and it’s easy to see why most people would pick this 48-year-old last for a pickup game. And that would be a mistake. Abdul-Rauf can still find the bottom of the basket and is easily the most dangerous deadeye shooter on the circuit. Leave him open and he’ll nail a four-pointer in your face, or he may just light you up for a cool 19 like he recently did against Al Thornton and DerMarr Johnson.

Charles Oakley is Still One Bad MOFO

Charles Oakley may be a little older and a whole lot slower these days, but he’s still the last guy you’d want to run into in a dark alley. The 6’8” enforcer gave Al Harrington a literal blast from the past in a recent game in L.A. when he swung his fist into Harrington’s throat. The former Pacer dropped to the court like he had been shot by a howitzer and later apologized to Oakley from a very safe distance. That’s what we call respect.

The Biggest Stars are on the Sidelines 

With all due respect to Scalabrine and Jannero Pargo, the BIG3’s real stars are the coaches patrolling the sidelines. Gary Payton, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Allen Iverson, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, and Rick Mahorn lend the league a little legitimacy and have helped sell tickets in their former markets. It’s a savvy marketing move, since anyone who’s ever played 3-on-3 before knows that coaches are about as useful as teats on a bull.

You Can’t Always Count on Seeing Your Favorite Players

Sometimes even the league’s biggest stars don’t show up. Iverson was an inexplicable no-show at his team’s BIG3 game in Dallas on Sunday, July 30th. In his defense, he may have just thought it was a practice. The league responded by giving A.I. a one-week suspension, but who are we kidding? A suspension from the Big3 carries all the weight of a citizen’s arrest.

Lavar Ball Loves to Punish Rims 

Remember when LaVar Ball boasted he could beat Michael Jordan with one arm tied behind his back? Turns out he can’t even beat Ice Cube with the use of all four of his limbs. Ball lost a brutal four-point shoot-out to Ice Cube during Sunday’s showcase at the Staples Center. The nearly unwatchable debacle finished with a score of 2-1 and featured more bricks than a SoHo brownstone.

The Stats are Kind of Meaningless 

We all know that a triple double or a 25 point per game average is the benchmark of a exceptional NBA player, but what kinds of stats are indicative of a quality 3-on-3 baller? Ten points? 15 boards? Two four-pointers? Nobody really knows since stat keeping has never been a part of the 3-on-3 experience. Further complicating matters is the league’s relatively small sample size and it’s unique first-to-60 scoring set-up. If the BIG3 returns (and that’s a Sweetney-sized if at this stage), the stats should become more meaningful next year when we can compare them to the league’s inaugural season.

This Experiment Should be Even Better at the Olympics 

Watching washed up pros lace ‘em up has been fun, but just imagine how much better the basketball will be in the summer of 2020 when 3-on-3 basketball makes its long-awaited debut at the Tokyo Olympics. It’s unclear if top pros will compete in the event, but just imagine a U.S. squad featuring Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, or an Australian lineup with Ben Simmons, Dante Exum, and Patty Mills. Hell, even Canada could be sneaky good with Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, and Kelly Olynyk. The BIG3 has proven 3-on-3 basketball has serious appeal, and the Olympics should take it to the next level.

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