Kentucky’s love of basketball is the reason a new three-on-three version of the game will be played in Lexington this summer, league co-founder and rapper Ice Cube said Wednesday.
The league — which features such former NBA players as Allen Iverson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Jermaine O’Neal — comes to Rupp Arena on Aug. 6.
Other sites for the “Big3” league of players in their late 30s and older include such former or present NBA cities as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Charlotte and Dallas.
The way Kentucky “bleeds basketball” led to the games in Rupp, Ice Cube said during a teleconference.
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“We wanted to give a little love to places that don’t normally get pro basketball,” he said, “and that’s what we’ll continue to do. . . . Find these pockets in the world that love basketball, and figure out a way to get 48 of their favorite former players to that town so they can enjoy and thank the guys for bringing them so much joy over the years.”
We feel like they’re very friendly. We’re not dealing with young guys who feel like they are prima donnas. We’re dealing with guys who have kids. . . . I feel there’s much more interaction with players than you would get at any other game other than a high school game.
Ice Cube, league co-founder
The format calls for four games of three-on-three basketball. Coaches include such Hall of Famers and/or perennial all-stars as Julius Erving, Rick Barry, George Gervin and Clyde Drexler. Among the players are Iverson, Kwame Brown, O’Neal and Mike Bibby.
“We’ve got some big cities cussing us out because we didn’t decide to come there,” said Ice Cube, whose given name is O’Shea Jackson Sr. “But they get everything. So let’s give a little love to some of the cities that love basketball, but might not have a pro team.”
Other games will be played this summer in Nashville and Tulsa, Okla. The league’s championship finals are planned for Las Vegas.
There are no organized autograph sessions for the players, Ice Cube said, but the players understand the importance of interacting with fans.
“These guys are serious athletes,” Ice Cube said. “So they want to concentrate on the games and not lose too much focus.”
The players are at an age to better understand the importance of interacting with fans, Ice Cube said.
“We feel like they’re very friendly,” he said. “We’re not dealing with young guys who feel like they are prima donnas. We’re dealing with guys who have kids. . . . I feel there’s much more interaction with players than you would get at any other game other than a high school game.”
The Big3 summer league drew 15,000-plus fans in its debut in Brooklyn, N.Y., last Sunday. It’s sort of basketball in the round with a half-court set up in the middle of the arena floor.
“Kind of like a boxing ring in the middle,” co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz said. “There is that intimacy.”
There is no game clock. First team to 60 points wins. So every game is decided by a so-called walk-off basket.
Other innovations include a 14-second shot clock and three designated spots from which a shot made counts as four points (four of 20 such shots were made in Brooklyn).
Because the four games took 5 1/2 hours to play last Sunday, future games will go to 50 points in hopes of shortening the time fans spend in the arena, Ice Cube and Kwatinetz said.
Ice Cube and Kwatinetz also suggested that more fouls will be called in future games in hopes of reducing the physical nature of play in Brooklyn.
Two players were injured last Sunday. Former Florida guard Jason Williams, also known as “White Chocolate,” injured a knee and will be sidelined six to eight months. Citing privacy concerns, Kwatinetz declined to say if Williams tore an anterior cruciate ligament.
Former Duke player Corey Maggette underwent surgery Tuesday for what was called a lower leg injury.
Kwatinetz objected to the assumption that the injuries were linked to the age of the players.
“We really take issue with that,” he said, “because the truth is there are injuries at every age level in sports. . . . We do believe there was an intensity that maybe everyone didn’t expect. There will be an adjustment period as the season goes on.”
What: 3-on-3 professional basketball league
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6
Where: Rupp Arena