The Big3, Ice Cube’s new 3-on-3 basketball league, will make its television debut on Monday, shown on tape delay after the live debut Sunday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The league consists of eight teams, each with several former NBA stars, that play games to 60, with 2-point margins of victory.
There are 4-point shots from 30 feet out, a 14-second shot clock, and player-coaches. Combined with NBA fans’ nostalgia for the names — Allen Iverson, Jason Williams, Stephen Jackson, and plenty more — the league has generated some buzz.
But as the four-game debut demonstrated on Sunday, the league also has two simple, and perhaps big, problems: the way the games are televised, and its players’ ages.
According to The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps, it took almost six hours to complete, far more than a network can reasonably air live. As a result, the debut will air on tape delay on FS1 on Monday.
It may not be an appealing method for anyone. Fans greatly interested in the games can’t see them live unless they buy tickets. And by the time they’re shown on tape delay on Monday, in the age of the internet, many of the results will already be known. Unless the league changes the length of the games or the number of games played a night, the way the league is televised presents a problem for building interest.
The players themselves are potentially a much bigger issue. As great as some of them may have been in their primes in the NBA, many are now in their late 30s to late 40s and have lost a step athletically. According to Bontemps, Sunday’s debut featured long scoring droughts and injuries to notable players.
Williams, one of the NBA’s most entertaining point guards in the early 2000s, went down on a noncontact knee injury and did not return to the game. Kenyon Martin, once one of the NBA’s most physical and gifted defenders, pulled a hamstring reaching for a loose ball.
Afterward, Martin told Bontemps the injury was an accident, though it sounded like it had a lot to do with the primary problem: age.
“I did everything feasible to get loose … my normal routine that I’ve done for 15 years,” Martin said. “It’s one of those things. Fifteen years playing in the league, I’ve never done this.
“It’s the same routine. Because of my age … it’s got nothing to do with that. Something happened,” he added. “I reached wrong, and I pulled it. You know how many loose balls I’ve reached for in 15 years? I’ve been playing basketball since I was 10. … I’ve never did this.”
And Iverson, perhaps the face of the league next to Ice Cube, was apparently a letdown. Player-coach for the team 3’s Company, Iverson played just nine minutes, going 1-of-6 from the field with two assists, according to Bontemps, despite hearty chants from the crowd for him to play more. Afterward, he made it sound like fans shouldn’t get used to seeing him on the court.
“I signed up to be coach, player, captain,” Iverson said. “The coach part is going to go on throughout the game. The playing part is not going to be what you expect. I’m 42 years old, been retired, what, six, seven years? The only reason I get out there for the couple minutes I do get out there is for the fans, you know what I mean?”
He added: “You’re not going to see the Allen Iverson of old out there.”
Despite these two obstacles, there were reasons for optimism, too. According to Bontemps, there were 15,177 people in attendance, including celebrities like LL Cool J, Fabolous, James Harden, and, of course, Ice Cube. Fans seemed to enjoy seeing some shoving and a technical foul between Jackson and Rashad McCants, a sign that rivalries could develop within the league. And two of the contests ended in game-winners.
Meanwhile, Williams, before his injury, showed his still solid handle (via FS1):