The Big 3 basketball league has finally made its way to Houston, providing fans with an opportunity to witness former NBA greats such as Rashard Lewis, Amar’e Stoudemire, and University of Houston’s own Andre Owens, as they go head to head in exciting games of 3-on-3 basketball. The league, which was founded by rapper/actor Ice Cube along with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, seeks to provide an opportunity for retired basketball players to continue playing the game they love while also finding ways to give back to the community.
While only in its second year, the league has received tremendous support and most recently signed a multi-year partnership with Adidas, who will serve as the official outfitter of the league along with supporting the organization's commitment to community activism and grassroot efforts.
Despite being a young organization, the league has relied upon the guidance of individuals such as Houston’s own Clyde Drexler, who coached BIG 3 team Power in the inaugural season and currently serves as the commissioner of the league.
The competing teams took the chance to get some practice at The Downtown Club Wednesday afternoon ahead of their first game Friday night at the Toyota Center. Rashad McCants, co-captain of the Trilogy team, was putting his time in on the court in hopes of continuing the team’s undefeated status from last year. In speaking about the young league having its games broadcast by Fox Sports 1 for the first time he said: “It’s monumental and we broke records last year just putting it all together in our first year. This year there’s more notoriety, more publicity, more promotion and we’re live. So you can expect some WWE type of shenanigans from myself and other players to make it more entertaining, definitely something you’ll want to watch.”
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One basketball legend in attendance was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was drafted to the Denver Nuggets and was famous for his accuracy when it came to free throws. Yet despite his prowess on the court, Abdul-Rauf’s legacy is most notable for his refusal to stand for the national anthem in the 1990s. Long before Colin Kaepernick and the ensuing waves of social activism that have swept through pro sports, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf made the quiet decision guided by his Islamic beliefs to no longer recognize a flag that represented oppression and racism. The cost of conscience was not only a $32,000 fine, but enduring death threats, his home being burned to the ground, along with being sidelined by the NBA once his contract with the Nuggets was up.
In speaking about the opportunity to play in the BIG3 league he said, “I’m extremely excited and it’s a blessing to still be able to compete, especially at this age being one year away from 50. Ultimately it’s bigger than basketball, and I hope to not only use this opportunity to compete but to open up other doors."
Despite being retired from professional basketball Abdul-Rauf has found other venues to continue his commitment to improving conditions, through speaking engagements on topics of religion and politics along with training others and learning in the process. “It’s definitely nice to see people taking positions, but at the time I look at the times and it’s a little different," he said. Quoting political scientist Richard Iton he cautioned against viewing resistance as inherently revolutionary. "Right now social activism has become fashionable and it’s sort of lost its punch, but it’s still powerful to see in and of itself.”
Fans can still purchase tickets to the first game in the BIG3 League, which begins this Friday at the Toyota Center with doors opening at 4:30 p.m. and tip-off beginning at 5:30 p.m.. Fans of hip-hop music may want to arrive early as rapper Ice Cube will be hosting a free concert outside the entrance to the Toyota Center!