Roundtable: Recapping Season 2 of the BIG3

(Photo by Al Bello/BIG3/Getty Images)

With season two of the BIG3 in the rearview mirror, several members of the Society gathered for a roundtable discussion on the summer that was on the 3-on-3 league, who their favorite player to watch was as well as their biggest takeaway. Our participants are:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the BIG3’s second season?

Kirkland: 10 for sure. We’ve seen other sports leagues come and go over the years like the XFL (which only lasted one season) and LaVar Ball’s new JBA League which has gotten mixed reviews.

The BIG3 managed to get their games televised live in season two as well as adding more high-profile names to their rosters. There are Hall of Famers and celebrities at every stop along the way and there are talks of increasing the number of teams for next season due to many people getting cut that deserved to play. Most importantly, players seem to be a huge fan of these events and it is the perfect way to transition into retirement for guys who have a little juice left. Everything was better in season two, and that’s what you want.

Calpin: I would give the second season a nine. I think they do a fantastic job of incorporating big names, with big venues and keeping the competitive spirit high. One of the most underrated parts of the BIG3 for me is how close you get to the players/coaching staff. With Michael Rappaport conducting court-side interviews all the time and the players having fun with him, coaches and players being mic’d up is always fun as well. I think the one thing missing is that star, *cough cough* Kobe Bryant *cough cough*.

Fischbein: I’d go with a rating of an eight. This season was fantastic, don’t get me wrong. There were still some things that can improve. Ice Cube and company seem to be doing all of the right things to introduce and maintain a new sports league. As Justin said, we’ve seen many leagues try and fail. This league is attracting Hall of Famers, former players with noticeable names, celebrities, and basketball fans alike. Not only is it attracting new fans with every week they have a game, but the way that the players are now talking about the league, it’s only going to attract higher profile players.

Soaries: I’ll give it a nine on its second season. They added 21 newcomers and a nice batch of names to add more juice. I think it’s recognition definitely grew in each city they visited and for basketball fans in general. Now they have people wondering who will come to play next. It wasn’t a home run season but it was a major success.

2. Who was your favorite BIG3 player to watch this summer?

Kirkland: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is 49-years old and his ability to get out there and play is absolutely amazing. Last season Allen Iverson at age 42 headlined the entire BIG3 and as a player looked like a shell of his former self. For Rauf to come into the league and play significant minutes while scoring efficiently is a testament to his preparation and commitment to staying in shape even long after his professional career was over. I can’t get enough of seeing that guy get buckets.

Calpin: Big Baby Davis was my favorite player to watch. I think the reason is that you can tell he really gave his all out there. He truly cared about the league and competing. You can tell how important the league was to him by listening to his post-game press conference after the championship win. Sometimes in a league like this, you worry about players taking plays or minutes off but his hustle and heart is what made him my favorite player to watch.

Fischbein: Nate Robinson was my favorite by far. He was already one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA due to the way he overcame his height mismatches, so it was even more fun watching him beat guys in a more iso-centric brand of basketball. Not only was he beating teams, but he was still doing it with flare. When he hit the game-winning shot early on in the season and stole the other team’s mask, it was not only hilarious but a badass move.

Soaries: The MVP, Corey Maggette. The way he consistently dominated situations was amazing, all the way up through the championship game. He was unphased and got it done on all levels of the floor and on both sides of the ball. Maggette raises the bar competitively and professionally for the BIG3.

3. What improvements do you think the league can make to attract more fans/viewers?

Kirkland: I say stay the course. This league has real ballplayers in it and there will be guys that no longer can get through the grind of 82 games that still want to play at a high level. This is that league that players will default to after their NBA careers are over. Basketball is a fraternity and before this league, there was no space where guys could get together and hoop at a high level and still make some money. Just keep recruiting until the bigger names continue to file in.

Calpin: I think they are in a good spot right now. Obviously, the more big-name players that can still play effectively is always going to attract more viewers. But, one thing I think they can do outside of the actual game is trying to sign some bigger contracts with the channels that are broadcasting the games. Fox Sports 1 is good but if they could get the games on ESPN, ABC, CBS or even TNT I think they would get a lot more exposure. Overall, the BIG3 should continue the path they are on because a league that once had a lot of doubt is really starting to pick up steam.

Fischbein: There isn’t much that I would change apart from the obvious ones. Bigger named players and maybe a bigger network would definitely help. The one change I would make to the actual game is to extend the winning score. Instead of 50 points, if the league wants to continue on with only eight to ten teams, then they should make the target score either 60 or 70 points. The games to 50 are sometimes too quick, so if the winning score is a little higher, it will create more drama and allow for higher stats from everyone’s favorite players.

Soaries: Maybe some kind of adjustment with the scheduling. I think games on Friday nights are great for the city they’re playing in but can possibly be a drawback for some key TV audiences. I think the Friday night game was great for the championship compared to the Saturday afternoon game last year, and the ratings proved that, but an adjustment during the regular season might be something to consider in promoting the games as more must-watch television.

4. We’ve all heard the rumors about Kobe Bryant joining the BIG3, but how can the league entice players of Bryant’s stature (Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, etc.) to join next year?

Kirkland: Not to sound like a broken record but stay the course. Ice Cube and Roger Mason Jr. have both been vocal about how they have actively recruited the game’s biggest names. The league brilliantly takes place in the offseason so guys with broadcasting/TV jobs like McGrady and Garnett would potentially be able to play without messing up their schedules too much. All it will take is for the first super high profile guy to join in and then the dam will break.

Calpin: I am not sure I know what the right answer to that question is. I think every one of those players is going to make a decision on their own if they would want to come back to the game. Money isn’t important to them, TV time isn’t important to them so finding what is important to them since they have closed the chapter of their NBA career is what I would say. Maybe it is donating money to a specific charity, maybe it is allowing their family to sit on the bench with the team, maybe it is being able to play when they go to select cities and allowing them to play part-time during the season. I am not sure and I don’t know if there is a right answer.

Fischbein: Continue on the road that they’re already on, and show these bigger players the improvement in fan engagement and player happiness. The interviews and press conferences that the players gave at the end of the season proved that they are thrilled with the league and where it’s headed. Big Baby Davis even said this league helped him out of a depression. So, if the more talented players see that the rest of the players are taking it seriously and more fans start tuning in, then they will be more obliged to join in on the fun.

Soaries: All they can do is continue to deliver a product that means something to basketball, its fans, and these pros who retire but still have an edge to compete. The BIG3’s existence has now proven to be legitimate for all of those categories, so attracting some more high caliber players, in my opinion, will become inevitable.

5. What’s your biggest takeaway from this BIG3 season?

Kirkland: I loved the fact that the BIG3 proved to doubters that there are reasons to watch basketball even if it’s not the NBA. Stadiums were sold out all over the country wherever they went and it is truly a fun and fast-paced spectacle to watch. There were those who felt like the league would be a dud because no one wants to see old guys play, but that could not have been further from the truth this season. Basketball is a game that remains competitive and entertaining even if you are past your physical prime.

Calpin: That some of these older guys can still ball and still have the fight and competitive spirit. Seeing scuffles between Corey Maggette and Dahntay Jones to Quentin Richardson and Gary Payton. was fun and always will be. As long as they can play and still care, people will always follow. Well done, Ice Cube.

Power coach Nancy Lieberman and Quentin Richardson admire the BIG3 Championship trophy (Photo via Alex Fischbein / Basketball Society)

Fischbein: My biggest takeaway is that basketball players can still enjoy this game and build relationships through the game despite being in the social media world. Everyone from Power had some sort of issue or injury that they dealt with. They were also always told by fans how they came up short and never met expectations. However, after winning the championship, they celebrated as if it was an NBA Finals ring. Quentin Richardson even spoke about it feeling like a ring from the league, but if you allowed the trolls on social media to sway your opinion, you may think it’s some sort of old man’s pickup rec league. Good thing we listen to the actual hoopers and not the armchair athletes.

Soaries: That the ability of basketball continues to transform into new forms of competition and entertainment. Ice Cube, a rapper, has been able to put together a meaningful platform for players who still want to perform. The BIG3 is making history.


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