- The BIG3 is a 3-on-3 basketball league founded by rap legend Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz.
- The BIG3 will begin their 2021 season on July 10 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
- This will be the fourth season for the BIG3 after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You’re excused if you don’t remember much about the BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league. The league hasn’t played a game since September 1, 2019 when the Triplets beat the Killer 3’s at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to win the season championship. That was Season 3 for the BIG3 but they were forced to cancel the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps the most memorable thing about the league is the founder–it is the brainchild of rap legend Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz and before the BIG3’s ‘lost season’ of 2020 they had gained a lot of traction. That’s tough for any ‘alternative’ sports league to do, pandemic or no pandemic. The BIG3 wasn’t given much of a chance at the outset but it overcame early logistical issues to survive and prosper.
The BIG3 has gone from what looked to be yet another doomed from the start celebrity vanity project to an actual sports league with the potential for long term legitimacy. A lot of the credit for that has to go to co-founder and most visible member of the executive team–rap legend Ice Cube. Cube has been tireless in his promotion of the league and has excelled in his role as the head pitchman and public spokesman. Think Dana White without the ‘douchebag factor’. For the most part, he’s handled skeptics and detractors with poise and humor and has kept his focus–and the focus of his public comments–on the many positives to come out of the Big3’s first three seasons.
BIG3 plays by their own set of rules called ‘FIREBALL3’ that have evolved over the first three seasons and are dramatically different from the more common–and more traditional–FIFA 3-on-3 rules. Before the ill fated 2020 season Ice Cube explained the genesis of the new ruleset:
“There are a lot of sports out there that require similar skill sets, like MMA and boxing, football and rugby, baseball and cricket. Our fans let us know that we were playing something extremely unique, Fireball3, which is nothing like the typical three-on-three FIBA game coming to the Olympics.”
Ice Cube has repeatedly emphasized the need of the league to grow, evolve and innovate. That was the primary reason that they decided to brand their own set of rules. Rules include unique touches like a 4-point shot and a 14-second shot clock and you can no doubt expect some more new rules for this season. One new innovation is what the league calls “a first-of-its-kind “Bring the Fire” rule that allows teams to challenge one foul per half resulting in an in-game one-on-one’. The unique nature of the game played in the BIG3 made it necessary to not come off as disrespecting FIFA or the NBA–the entire brand identity of the FIREBALL3 ruleset exists to emphasize that what they do is a different sport entirely. They even have a ‘sizzle reel’ video:
In the BIG3’s first few seasons the rosters of the teams were primarily retired NBA players. Concerned that the perception of being an ‘old timers league’ would hamper the growth of the BIG3 the minimum age to play has been lowered from 27 to 22. Retired NBA players are still welcome but the BIG3 will now also hold open tryouts for all athletes. In other words, professional basketball experience is no longer required. Ice Cube explained the reasoning behind the changes:
“I think lowering the age does erase the stigma [of this being a retirement league]. It might’ve kept people from playing in the Big3 because they don’t want to seem like they’re done.”
The league has grown and evolved off the court as well locking up better and better sponsorships and TV deals. This season, games will be televised on CBS and CBS Sports. Toyota is back as a sponsor and the league is clearly looking to find a place in the sports betting/daily fantasy sports ecosystem. Earlier today, the BIG3 announced that SuperDraft will be their first ever ‘official daily fantasy sports partner’.
We talked about SuperDraft in January of this year when Caesars Entertainment made a ‘strategic minority investment in the DFS company. Caesars has the option to increase their stake at ‘predetermined levels’ up to 100%. I would be very surprised if the BIG3 doesn’t announce some sort of sports betting partnership this season with Caesars, William Hill and/or other sportsbooks. The BIG3 quickly became a fixture on sportsbook boards and generated a decent amount of betting interest so there’s no reason for the league not to monetize this. SuperDraft has a ‘free to play’ sports betting game on their platform so the BIG3 is already in the neighborhood. Here’s some more details about the partnership from the press release announcing the deal:
Today, the BIG3 announced a first-of-its-kind partnership to make SuperDraft, the daily fantasy partner of Caesars Entertainment, the first-ever Official Daily Fantasy Partner of the league. As part of the exclusive deal, SuperDraft will become the presenting sponsor of the 2021 BIG3 draft, which will be renamed the 2021 BIG3 SuperDraft. The season will tip off on July 10, 2021, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV with 10 weeks of action-packed games.
The partnership gives BIG3 the ability to offer daily fantasy contests for every game that feature SuperDraft’s player-friendly Multiplier Mode, as well as free betting in its Free SportsBook app. Daily fantasy strategy segments will be integrated into each game broadcast and the Multiplier Mode will be featured on each player’s stat lines.
SuperDraft will provide Fantasy 101 educational broadcast segments as well as in-arena activations. For fans sitting courtside, one-of-a-kind games will be available, giving more opportunities for fans to win. BIG3 players and coaches will also become brand ambassadors for SuperDraft across linear and digital media.
Both parties sound legitimately excited about the potential of the partnership. Here’s BIG3 CEO Chris Hannan:
“SuperDraft couldn’t be more suited for the BIG3 family. They bring an extra edge to the game of daily fantasy and our league recognizes that special ‘it’ factor. The wide variety of gaming and technological features sets SuperDraft apart and their entrepreneurial spirit makes them a perfect fit with our league. It’s a pleasure to officially announce this long-awaited partnership with one of the industry’s best and rising companies.”
Steve Wang, Founder and CEO, SuperDraft returned the pleasantries:
“The BIG3 is the ideal partner for our first sports league sponsorship and will continue driving our growth during the summer months. We also wanted a partner who would allow us to be our unique selves and be actively involved in how we plan to engage and reward BIG3 fans for their fandom. Whether BIG3 fans want to be part of the action by playing our fantasy sports app or by making picks with our free sportsbook, we are thrilled to be integrating our gameplay experiences into the live broadcast and provide serious entertainment value for all of their fans.”
We’ll no doubt have more news from the BIG3 in the lead up to their 2021 season. Here’s the full week by week schedule: