Ice Cube’s BIG3 landed in Rupp Arena Sunday afternoon during its 10-week tour and featured former professional basketball players and coaches.
Fans from the Bluegrass state showed a strong attendance in the BIG3’s inaugural season with 8,009 in the stands and expressed its gratitude to Cube when the rap legend and actor came out on the floor to sign autographs.
The event had four 3-on-3 match-ups and featured players and coaches such as Rashard Lewis, Brian Scalabrine, Gary Payton, Rick Barry, Chauncey Billups, Charles Oakley, Stephen Jackson, Al Thornton, Ruben Patterson, Al Harrington, Cuttino Mobley, Kenyon Martin, George Gervin, Mike Bibby, Ricky Davis, Bonzi Wells, Clyde Drexler, Rick Mahorn, and Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
Out of all the familiar names, perhaps the most popular participant, Allen Iverson – who is on the tour – was the highest anticipated name for fans. But due to his absence in Dallas, TX, many questioned if the NBA Hall of Famer would be in attendance. Well, A.I. – known as The Answer during his playing days – failed to give an answer to his presence due to suspension.
Nonetheless, it was a fun-filled event with other notable faces such as Rajon Rondo, Rex Chapman, and Michael Rapaport.
In the first game, the 3 Headed Monsters coached by Gary Payton faced off against the Ball Hogs coached by Rick Barry. They got the better end of the stick, winning 50-34, led by Rashard Lewis who led the way with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting.
Lexington, known for its rich history in college basketball, had the chance to host some pro talent. After the game, Payton believed that the BIG3 is a positive sign for sports towns without a professional team to gain more coverage.
“This (Lexington) is a rich basketball college town. It’s like what Oklahoma did too. They were a rich college town, and a rich billionaire comes in and buys the Seattle Supersonics and moves them there. It’s a lot of cities that should have (NBA) basketball, but we can’t help that. It’s not enough teams for that. So when you can come here, it’s just like Indiana – its rich basketball. When the BIG3 comes back, and when we make another schedule, we have to go to those rich cities. This year we chose Lexington first, and next year we may choose Indiana. So instead of having the NBA here, you guys get to see something like that close to this in the summer.”
In the second game, the Killer 3’s coached by Charles Oakley and featuring players Chauncey Billups and Stephen Jackson took to the court against 3’s Company, who was without the company of Allen Iverson.
3’s Company eliminated the Killer 3’s 51-48, in a competitive battle that had playoff implications on the line.
Andre Owens, who’s had a nice outing on the tour thus far, led the way with 20 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
“I’ve been playing on a national stage for 12 years now and worldwide. Right now, I feel our team is peaking at the right time,” he said after the game. “This is what we love to do. When we lost a couple, we began to press a little. But the guys got on the group chat and we realized we weren’t having fun. So we got back to having fun, talking, and right now we’re together as three’s company.”
3’s Company co-captain, DerMarr Johnson, expressed the fun he’s had in the league so far and gave his thoughts on its 10-week schedule.
“The league has been great. If we could play more months out of the year, that would be fun for us, but we have other leagues that’s going to start up soon. So we don’t want to have to clash with those, but if they can make it longer and better, it’ll be better for all of us.”
Round three included the Power, coached by Clyde “The Glide” Drexler versus the undefeated Trilogy squad, coached by Rick Mahorn.
Trilogy’s Kenyon Martin entertained fans with his infamous trash talking as he, Rashad McCants and Al Harrington looked to stay unblemished against Power’s Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson and Rasual Butler.
The play of McCants and Harrington dismantled the Power, and improved the Trilogy to 7-0 after a 50-45 win.
“This really takes guys back to their roots,” said Kenyon Martin after the contest when reflecting on how the guys grew up on 3-on-3 playground basketball. “This is how we started playing basketball, with ones, twos and threes – stuff like that. It’s just a different game, even a different game from the NBA. It’s a lot more physical in the NBA, but it’s a different style of ball and a different excitement for different fans. Older fans appreciate the way the game used to be played. Some parents want to teach their kids how the game used to be played, so it’s fun basketball all around.”
In the finale, Mike Bibby, Ricky Davis and Joe Smith led the Ghost Ballers coached by George “The Iceman” Gervin against the Tri-State who had notable players Bonzi Wells, Dominic McGuire, and Mike James, but absent of Coach Julius Erving.
Tri-State didn’t need the doctor, as they surgically removed the Ghost Ballers 51-43.
“I feel good about this league,” said Bonzi Wells. “When I got the call about 8-10 months ago, I didn’t think it was real, because guys have been out of the league for a long time. So Ice Cube gave us an outlet to come out and play in front of our fans again and that is just priceless. I feel like I still got some in the tank, so it is a blessing for guys like Ice Cube and the whole staff to put this together.
“I definitely think this is going to be something for years to come. We’re just blessed to be in the inaugural season. Ice Cube called us the ‘believers’. We believed in his idea and we believed in his vision and we want to take this thing all the way to the top. The momentum is great every week and the fans are even greater, so it gets us excited to come out and play harder every week.”
The BIG3 airs on Mondays, 8pm on Fox Sports 1. August 13 will be Week 8 for BIG3 in Los Angeles, CA at the Staples Center. The matchups are as follows:
GAME 1: Ghost Ballers v. 3 Headed Monsters
GAME 2: Tri-State v. Power
GAME 3: 3’s Company v. Ball Hogs
GAME 4: Killer 3’s v. Trilogy
By Randy Whetstone, Jr.