Expand Mari Santos Big3 is not broadcast in Canada, but that didn't stop the league from making its international debut in Toronto on Friday night July Sure, it's played on half court with playground rules if a player gets a defensive rebound, he has to clear the ball by dribbling it out to the key before he can shoot and there's an NBA Jam-style four-point shot, but for the most part what the league is selling is nostalgia. For Toronto fans, it was a much more affordable alternative to the Raptors at a time of year when the team isn't playing anyway. And so, at a time when the team has felt more high stakes than ever trading your most loyal franchise player for a guy who may or may not show up for you will do thatBig3 was some casual summer basketball with recognizable, fondly remembered players and an atmosphere that felt light and fun, largely free of the white-knuckle drama Toronto basketball fans have become accustomed to in the last few seasons of playoff heartbreak. But that kind of spirit isn't just transferable to any basketball.
To celebrate the impending return of Ice Cube's three-on-three basketball league, CloseUp spoke with five notable hoops luminaries involved in the league, who will be serving as players or coaches on the circuit this summer. After his last game with the Los Angeles Clippers in , he took his talents all over the world before returning stateside for stints in the D-League now G League.
With his first scoring title secured in , he has an even bigger goal in mind for this summer: a championship with Ghost. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Ricky Davis is going into his third season with the BIG3.
Where did your basketball journey take you from there and why? Ricky Davis: I played in France, played in Turkey, played in China, played in Puerto Rico, just trying to get myself healthy, get back to the league there, get my rhythm back.
CU Did you find that you were able to rediscover both your own health and then the joy that comes with playing the game as a healthy person?
RD: Oh yes, definitely found that. I came back. My knee started feeling a lot better, and I just started feeling much better and better.
CU This will be your third season. How would you describe those first two years of playing in the BIG3 and getting to play pro ball in the U.
RD: It was great just getting back and starting this new league, getting it off the ground. And just seeing the talent, seeing it come together was just amazing. Getting the camaraderie of seeing these guys every day and hanging out with them.
Each year got better and better.
I got in better shape. Last year, won a scoring title. So just getting myself back in shape and out here, having fun with the guys. CU Are there any guys in particular that you've reconnected with as a part of the BIG3 that you played with or against in the NBA, but sort of had lost touch with?
RD: It's a lot of them. It's about 20, 30 guys—even my teammates, [Carlos] Boozer, [Marcus] Banks. I hadn't seen those guys in over five, 10 years, so just good to see this camaraderie with the guys and hang out with them and catch up.
CU Have you found that in reconnecting with some of these guys on the court through the BIG3 that it helped to strengthen any relationships off the court?
RD: Yeah, it does. Definitely gets to rekindle that relationship back.
When you're playing, guys get traded, you never seen them for a while. So just to get the chance to have our kids see each other's kids and us catch up. Guys are starting businesses together and just starting to help transition from that NBA life. It's definitely a great thing for us. What was the pitch from Ice Cube that made you think, Okay, this is something I need to be a part of?
RD: Just Ice Cube himself. Just being a part of anything he touches is good for me. Me making the league and being able to have this opportunity to start the league and be a good face of it, it's just amazing. CU Ice Cube didn't play professional basketball, he wasn't involved in the NBA or pro basketball in an official capacity, but was still able to start something that's made a difference so far.
What does that say to you about the basketball world, that it's able to incorporate people from different walks of life in that way?
RD: It says a lot. What he's done, not being an athlete, starting a league of these type of name-caliber guys, it's just And it shows that when you put your mind to it, you can actually do what you want. It shows the new generation that you can just keep going and keep going and whatever you put your mind to, whether you grew up doing sports or not, you can achieve anything if you put your mind and spirit to it.
CU It's my understanding that part of the appeal of the BIG3 for you is a charity element, that you do a lot of philanthropic work outside of the game. Can you tell me about that work that you've been doing and how the BIG3 plays into that?
Helping others help themselves. It's a whole key for us and wherever we can lend a hand—feed the homeless, doing things that we do with the children, and the kids and single mothers.
Anywhere we can help out, that's what we're here to do. I've just been giving back to communities and kids in need and just being that catapult, that platform to help kids get to that next level.
CU What else do you do outside of basketball? Are there any particular business endeavors you're involved in? Any other passions you pursue?
RD: Oh, of course. I've got my kids, of course. My oldest one goes to DeMatha High in D. Definitely like to golf, fish, do that other stuff.
Me and my wife started a CBD store there in Houston, so we're doing all kinds of stuff. RD: Just with the natural healing stuff.