It’s not just a gimmick.
That’s how Jim Jackson sees the Big3 as the second season of the 3-on-3 basketball league nears its conclusion. Jackson, the former Hawks player, serves as an analyst on the Fox broadcasts. The final games in the eight-team league will be held Friday at the Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett before the playoffs next week in Dallas and championship the following week in Brooklyn.
“Last year, you didn’t know what to expect because it was new,” said Jackson, who played 14 NBA seasons, including one-plus with the Hawks, and has been an analyst for the Big 10 Network, FS1 and Fox. “That’s why I think a lot of players, bigger name players, sat on the sideline and watched a little bit. Is this real? Is it a gimmick? What’s going to happen?
“But, I’ll tell you what, that first game in Brooklyn, the stars aligned. It was in New York. The NBA draft was leading up to it and the NBA awards show bookended it that Monday. Everything was aligned. You had all this star power in town. All the synergy in town. When the guys came out in the Barclays Center and were being introduced with 15,000 people, that set the tone for the rest of the year. This is real.”
The league, started by rapper Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, has star power with NBA legends such as Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler, George Gervin and Rick Barry having roles. It has attracted former players such as Amar’e Stoudemire, Mahmoud Abdul-Rahem, Kwame Brown and Chauncy Billups and former Hawks Mike Bibby, Josh Childress, Dion Glover, Dahntay Jones, Salim Stoudamire, Mario West, Stephen Jackson and DerMarr Johnson.
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Jackson said there is a big difference between the first two seasons of the league, where half-court games are played and include a 4-point shot and a 14-second shot clock. The teams that advance to the championship game will remain intact but the players and coaches on the other six change be changed or be out of the league next year.
“Coming into this year, guys understand they have to be in better shape, coaches understood from a strategy perspective to game-plan a lot better,” Jackson said. “The pace of play is better. The games are better. That’s because guys’ mindsets are just like they were when they were preparing for their NBA season - I have to get ready early in order to be in the best shape to play.”
Jackson admitted he was unsure whether the league would be successful. He was sure of three things – Ice Cube was in charge, former NBA players would take part and there is not a lot of other sports-related content this time of year. The more star power, the better the competition, he said. The league may also be helped by the recent addition of 3-on-3 basketball in the Olympic Games.
There is strategy, still being learned by coaches and players, even in a half-court game. A team must win by two points in a game up to 50 points. That’s where that 4-point shot can be a real weapon, as a team could go from trailing by two points to a victory with one basket.
“It’s much looser because you have access,” Jackson said. “In the NBA coaches and players are more serious because it is their livelihood. This here, is very competitive. Guys do take is serious but not where it’s life or death. Guys prepared a lot better this year than they did last year in terms of getting themselves in shape. Coaches, strategy-wise, figured out some things last year that they can incorporate this year. … There is pressure to perform because you might not be on the same team or in the league next year.”
This week’s schedule
6 p.m.: Doors open at Infinite Energy Arena
7 p.m: First game is live on Facebook with 3 Headed Monsters vs. Ball Hogs
8 p.m.: Games on FS1 with Killer 3’s vs. Power, 3’s Company vs. Tri-State and Trilogy vs. Ghost Ballers
Trilogy: Captain Kenyon Martin, Co-Captain Al Harrington, Co-Captain Rashad McCants, James White, Dion Glover, Dahntay Jones, Coach Rick Mahorn
3 Headed Monsters: Captain Rashard Lewis, Co-Captain Reggie Evans, Co-Captain Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Kwame Brown, Qyntel Woods, Salim Stoudamire, Coach Gary Payton
Power: Captain Corey Maggette, Co-Captain Cuttino Mobley, Co-Captain Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Gomes, Coach Nancy Lieberman
Ghost Ballers: Captain Mike Bibby, Co-Captain Ricky Davis, Co-Captain Carlos Boozer, Lee Nailon, Marcus Banks, Mario West, Coach George “The Iceman” Gervin
Killer 3s: Captain Chauncey Billups, Co-Captain Stephen Jackson, Co-Captain Metta World Peace, Alan Anderson, Ryan Hollins, Mike James, Coach Charles Oakley
3’s Company: Captain DerMarr Johnson, Co-Captain Baron Davis, Co-Captain Drew Gooden, Andre Emmett, Jason Maxiell, Derrick Byars, Coach Michael Cooper
Tri-State: Captain Jermaine O’Neal, Co-Captain Amar’e Stoudemire, Co-Captain Nate Robinson, David Hawkins, Robert Hite, Bonzi Wells, Coach Julius “Dr. J” Erving
Ball Hogs: Captain Brian Scalabrine, Co-Captain Josh Childress, Co-Captain DeShawn Stevenson, Andre Owens, Corsley Edwards, Jermaine Taylor, Coach Rick Barry