Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for BIG3

BIG3 Launch

Mike Bibby just turned 39. He played 14 years in the NBA, reached an NBA and a Western Conference Finals, won an NCAA championship and received contracts totaling more than $100 million. So why would he want to play in a fledgling professional 3-on-3 basketball league?

Sure, he loves basketball and enjoys competition, but when he spoke to BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube, the hip-hop star whom he grew up idolizing, that's when it truly became an opportunity he couldn't turn down.

"You can't say no to Ice Cube," Bibby said. "He's a living legend."

Ice Cube's half-court, 3-on-3 league tips off June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. All eight of the BIG3 teams will play on eight successive Sundays at the same site. Then it's the playoffs August 20 in Seattle and the championship August 26 in Las Vegas.

Basketball luminaries are involved, which is exactly the way Ice Cube -- the hoops enthusiast, not the rapper, actor or entertainment mogul -- envisioned it.

"This idea of the BIG3 truly comes from a fan wanting to see these guys continue to play," said BIG3 president and commissioner Roger Mason Jr.

The eight teams each have five-man rosters, and every player has played in the NBA, including captains Bibby, Allen Iverson, Brian Scalabrine, Chauncey Billups, Jermaine O'Neal, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis and Corey Maggette. Other notable players include Stephen Jackson, Reggie Evans, Jason Williams, Kwame Brown, Al Harrington, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Jerome Williams, Josh Childress and Rashad McCants, the No. 1 overall pick in the BIG3's draft.

Allen Iverson

The coaches are the biggest names. Iverson, George Gervin, Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, Rick Mahorn, Charles Oakley and Dr. J will guide the eight squads.

Baskets are worth two and three points (the BIG3 uses the NBA's three-point line), but shots made from three different circles on the floor at 30 feet are worth four points.

"Unless he's hot," Bibby said, "it's a pretty far shot."

The first team to score 60 is the winner, though it must be by at least two points, and halftime occurs when a team reaches 30 points. Games should typically last between 30 and 45 minutes with about a 15-minute break in between.

Tickets prices vary by venue. The cheapest seats for the Brooklyn game cost $27, but tickets for the July 9 game in Tulsa are available for $17.

"One ticket -- you get to see all four games," Ice Cube said. "It's a great value for a basketball fan."

Every player in the BIG3 earns the same $100,000 wage, but in addition each player will take in a percentage of the overall pot, which will be determined by ticket sales, sponsorships, etc. The championship team will receive 30 percent.

"The winner takes the most," Mason Jr. said. "It's a sliding scale all the way down."

FS1 will air the first nine games on tape delay Monday nights, but the championship will be broadcast live on Fox Sports on the afternoon of August 26.


In preparation for a possible NBA lockout before players and owners reached an agreement in December, Mason Jr., then deputy executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, was exploring alternative sources of revenue. Mason had discussed with entertainment agent and producer Jeff Kwatinetz the idea of monetizing a one-day, 3-on-3 tournament with current NBA players.

And Ice Cube, a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan, had told Kwatinetz how sad he was to see some of his favorite players, like Kobe Bryant, retire. With Kwatinetz, who went on to co-found the league, serving as the conduit between Ice Cube and Mason Jr., those ideas morphed into the BIG3.

"Two different things," Mason Jr. said, "but we both had 3-on-3 on our minds."

The 3-on-3 setup makes sense for several reasons. Bibby admitted that he probably could no longer endure a grueling 82-game NBA season that includes many back-to-back contests. But if you curtailed the schedule to 10 games and shortened the full-court game in half, it would be conducive to older stars.

"In the 3-on-3 format," Ice Cube said, "their skills would still be top notch."

That format capitalizes on a growing basketball trend.

The NBA launched its Dew 3X summer tour in 2016, and it is back this year in six cities. The team that won the Dew NBA 3X event in Chicago will compete in the world championships later this year. The Olympics just added 3-on-3 to the 2020 Games in Tokyo. While being honored by the 16th Annual World Congress of Sports in April, Hall of Fame basketball coach and current Nike executive George Raveling predicted that the NCAA will sanction a national 3-on-3 championship within 15 years. Another startup, the 3Ball Association, plans an eight-team outdoor league to open in the summer of 2018 with former college stars who didn't make it in the NBA, according to Sports Business Journal.

"[It] is a game that is played throughout the country at all age levels and throughout the world," BIG3 CEO Amy Trask said. "Wherever you go, you see people playing 3-on-3."

Ice Cube, Amy Trask

After Kwatinetz and Ice Cube brought Mason Jr. aboard, they added Trask, Al Davis' former right-hand woman, whom they met long ago through their fervent support of the Raiders.

That impressive foursome will pilot this upstart professional sports league, though the history of such in the past 30 years -- think of the USFL and XFL -- has been dicey.

The BIG3, however, features an interesting model. There are no team owners, and the teams are not affiliated or based in a specific city.

Instead the teams will play in successive weeks in pro and college arenas in Brooklyn, Charlotte, Tulsa, Philadelphia (a homecoming for 76ers legends Iverson and Dr. J), Chicago, Dallas, Lexington (Kentucky), Los Angeles, Seattle and Las Vegas.

The league declined to divulge specifics, but the BIG3 plans to have entertainment acts, especially between Games 2 and 3 of the slate. And Ice Cube and Kwatinetz, who has managed the careers of musicians like Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Lopez, Backstreet Boys and OneRepublic, certainly have the connections to high-quality performers.

"The inter-arena experience is going to be a lot more than games," Trask said. "There's also going to be an exciting entertainment component."

The BIG3 also has timing on its side. Major League Baseball is the only major professional or college sport that has regular-season contests during the dog days of summer when the new league will play its 3-on-3 games.

"It's great if you're a basketball junkie," Ice Cube said, "especially in the summer when it's so boring when it comes to sports on this level."


Bibby remains in touch with several former NBA teammates, including Maurice Evans, Cuttino Mobley and Bonzi Wells, who will be playing in the BIG 3.

"Everybody's excited," Bibby said. "We're starting to create a buzz."

The question, though, is how much the players have left and how good the quality of play will be. League executives and players have strongly defended the latter.

"We still have that fire and can still play," Bibby said. "It's not going to be a half-assed thing with guys just being out there, looking old."

Oakley, the 53-year-old player/coach of the Killer 3s, is the oldest player in the field. But only five of that team's six players can be active, so Oakley probably will not play every game, though the former New York Knick likely would be up for it.

Charles Oakley

"He's ready," Trask wrote via email. "His physical abilities and conditioning are of no concern whatsoever."

Bibby plays basketball four to five times a week and trains college and NBA players. His pick-up games are at fitness centers, community colleges or at Arizona State. (Though he played for the rival Arizona Wildcats, Bibby lives just 20 minutes from ASU's Tempe campus.)

"I'm always in the gym," Bibby said. "Basketball is what I do. It's second-nature to all of us."

Half-court ball obviously involves less running than a full-court game, but there won't be many stoppages of play in the BIG3. After a made shot, the referee touches the ball and gives the defense three seconds to get set before the offense inbounds it from the top out-of-bounds line.

"It's going to be fast-paced," Bibby said. "You've got to be ready to be in shape."

There won't be scheduled practices during the week. Players live in different cities, but they will likely meet with coaches for shootarounds and game-planning discussions each weekend during the 10-week season.

That should have them ready to go for each game of the BIG3's debut season.

"It's going to be a big-time thing," Bibby said. "People should come out to watch."

Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.