The BIG3, Ice Cube’s three-on-three basketball league, makes its eighth and final regular season stop Sunday in Los Angeles, bringing with it an intriguing mix of gimmicks, pop culture and nostalgia.
Co-founded by Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, the BIG3 features a four-point shot, actor Michael Rapaport as its sideline reporter, and an assortment of everyone’s favorite NBA stars of the past, like Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Mike Bibby.
Though the names may sound familiar to NBA junkies, the on-court product will be anything but. Compared to the elite athleticism and refined strategy expected at the NBA level, the BIG3 resembles a glorified, below-the-rim pickup tournament. Regardless, the unique format has drawn thousands of fans to arenas across the country to see NBA All-Stars from the last decade compete in a race to score 50 points. (Win by two, of course.)
Not all, however, have been impressed.
The nostalgia factor has brought fans into arenas, but it hasn’t kept them glued to their seats. The league, whose main assets are professional athletes way past their primes, has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. Long stretches of scoreless half court basketball can force a full slate of four games to last nearly seven hours, driving fans to the exit gates hours before the action ends. For those who are fans of the “old-man” game though, the BIG3 is the place to see it. Whatever is missing in athleticism, is made up for with physicality and old school guile.
When asked what fans should expect at Staples Center, Ice Cube rattled off a list of platitudes about the quality of the athletes and the unique experience of the league.
But when asked what the league won’t feature, his answer was much more simple.
“I know you won’t see soft basketball,” he said.