Superstar summer basketball league hoops it up at Toyota Center
Still trying to shake off the Rockets’ loss in the NBA, er, Western Conference Finals? Pondering what could be if LeBron James picks — or doesn’t pick — Houston? Or, just trying to un-see some of those moments during the Ted Cruz-Jimmy Kimmel Blobfish Classic?
Whatever basketball malaise you’re in, Clyde Drexler is pretty sure he has the cure: the Big3 season two opener at 5:30 pm, Friday, June 22 at Toyota Center.
The Houston basketball legend-turned-Big 3 commissioner couldn’t be more excited to bring the 3-on-3 league filled with recent NBA stars and coached by Hall of Famers to his hometown. “Opening week, we wanted to be perfect,’’ Drexler says. “Houston is one of our premier destinations and we can’t wait for it to get started. We try to go to cities that follow the NBA game, that are big basketball cities and vibrant economic cities. Houston checked all the boxes. We’ve got an incredible mayor, great leadership and Toyota Center is a great place to play and our fans love the game of basketball.’’
Fans can expect a 4 pm kickoff concert from Big3 co-founder Ice Cube, followed by 8 teams filled with former NBA stars playing four half-court 3-on-3 games in one night.
For star gazers: Five of those teams are coached by Hall of Famers Julius Erving (Tri State); George Gervin (Ghost Ballers); Gary Payton (3 Headed Monsters); Rick Barry (Ball Hogs); and Nancy Lieberman, the league’s first female coach. Lieberman is coaching Power, the team Drexler coached last season.
“Nancy is one of the most competitive people I know,’’ Drexler says of the former college and WNBA star and current Sacramento Kings assistant coach. “She’s a winner. She knows the game of basketball, she’s a leader and I think she’s going to do very well in the Big3.’’
No one knows the city or the game as well as Drexler, who started working his magic here at Sterling High, then caught everyone’s eye at the University of Houston as a founding member of Phi Slama Jama. He went on to become a 10-time NBA All-Star at Portland and Houston, helped the Rockets to the 1995 NBA title and has had his No. 22 jersey retired by the Cougars, Trailblazers and Rockets.
Drexler coached the Big3’s Power to a tie for third in the inaugural season — Trilogy beat 3 Headed Monsters for the 2017 title — and says this year’s league has even more talent. He says about 80 former NBA players competed for 17 open roster spots this season.
“The talent level has risen and the game is becoming more and more popular,’’ Drexler says. “People are getting familiar with the names. We only have 8 teams, we only play for 10 weeks, but all eight teams play every single week in the same arena. We play four games. So when you go, you get to see all these players, all these Hall of Famers. “It is a festival of basketball. It’s very competitive.’’
The league has a 4-point shot (30-footers from set spots) and a 14-second shot clock. The first team to 25 points is halftime and the first team to 50 points, provided it is up by 2, wins the game. “So the games can go quick,’’ Drexler says, “or they can take a while.”
Last year Drexler’s team included Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette. This year, Power added Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Glen “Big Baby “ Davis, and Quentin Richardson. Trilogy won last year with Al Harrington and Rashad McCants and added Kenyon Martin and James White. Tri State added Nate Robinson and A’mare Stoudemire to go along with Jermaine O’Neal and Bonzi Wells.
League co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz are also committed to giving back to the communities starting with the Young3 initiative for players 7-14 years old. The Young3 will be played Thursday morning at the Boys and Girls’ Clubs.
The Big3 also refurbishes courts in the cities where they play and Drexler says Houston’s project will be in Acres Homes.
Additionally, Drexler says about 1,000 tickets will be made available to Santa Fe High school students who want to attend the event. The community is still healing from the recent horrific tragedy. “We want to show them the love,’’ Drexler says. “We want to let them know that people care about them all over the world and especially here in the city of Houston and shine a little spotlight on them.’’
The Big3 did not play in Houston last year, but Drexler hopes what he calls the best 3-on-3 league will draw big crowds and keep Houston on the league’s schedule. “With 3-on-3 professional basketball, It doesn’t get any better than the Big3,’’ he says, “So when it comes to your town, you don’t want to miss it.’’
The Big3 season opener gets ballin' at 5:30 Friday, June 22 at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St. Tickets $25-$550. Doors open at 4:30 pm.
This story originally appeared on SportsMap.