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Ice Cube’s Big3 becomes place to keep NBA dreams alive

UPDATED: Thu., July 19, 2018, 8:31 p.m.

In this June 25, 2017, file photo Big3 Basketball League founder Ice Cube applauds the crowd during a timeout in the first half of Game 2 in the league’s debut at the Barclays Center in New York. Winner stays. That’s the norm on the playground, where a team playing pickup ball remains on the court until it is beaten. And that’s the way Ice Cube insisted it had to be in the BIG3. (Kathy Willens / AP)
In this June 25, 2017, file photo Big3 Basketball League founder Ice Cube applauds the crowd during a timeout in the first half of Game 2 in the league’s debut at the Barclays Center in New York. Winner stays. That’s the norm on the playground, where a team playing pickup ball remains on the court until it is beaten. And that’s the way Ice Cube insisted it had to be in the BIG3. (Kathy Willens / AP)

MIAMI – The novelty is in the approach: halfcourt basketball played on a competitive level by those who recently showcased their 94-foot skills in the NBA.

The reality is what the Big3 has become: a showcase for several who refuse to allow their NBA dreams to die.

It is among the reasons former Miami Heat players Amar’e Stoudemire and Chris “Birdman” Andersen will be on the court when the circuit makes its South Florida debut Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“We’ve always seen this as a vehicle for players to showcase their talent,” said Ice Cube, the rapper, writer and actor who co-founded the Big3 a year ago. “We figured scouts at home would be watching the Big3, even if was just for interest, alone. So we knew guys who might not get a look or get the right kind of look in a camp or in a workout can really show what he can do when the lights are on and against some great basketball players, against some savvy vets.

“So, yeah, it was always to me a no-brainer that players would go from the Big3, some would get invited back to the NBA. And we have an open policy for that. We want our players to get back in the NBA. We want the best for our players. So if it’s getting back in the NBA, we’re definitely going to give them our blessings on that.”

Andersen said it makes for serious competition, but also respectful competition.

“What Cube has done and provided is a stage for these guys and myself having the opportunity to be those guys again and have that high level of competitiveness and still be cool with each other and connect with guys,” Stoudemire, the former Miami Heat center, said. “All those years of battling in the league, now we’re doing the same thing, just a little bit higher on the age scale. It’s a blessing that we’re still capable of being able to go out there and compete.”

Clyde Drexler, the Hall of Fame guard who serves as Big3 commissioner, said the league provides an outlet for teams looking for veteran mentors, the type of players who rarely compete in NBA summer leagues.

“For some of these players from the NBA to come out and show off and just light it up in the Big3,” Drexler said, “that gives some of the scouts in the NBA who might have given up on some of those players, and thought they didn’t have enough in the tank, here’s your opportunity to come and show off and let’s ’em know, ‘Hey, I still love this game. I can still play at a very high level.’ And so that’s what I think has happened.”

It is precisely the reason for Stoudemire’s participation.

“I’m just kind of going with the flow,” the 35-year-old former Heat big man said. “I think there’s going to be teams that have some open roster spots for a guy like myself. I’m only given a minimum contract, so I’m not taking up a lot of salary space and my veteran leadership will be pivotal.”

Ice Cube’s goal is to eventually have his circuit stand as an offseason complement to the NBA, not an either-or proposition.

“We just hope one day players can go and they can play in the NBA in the winter and the fall and play for us in the summer, and go back to play in the NBA in the winter or fall,” he said. “That’s, to me, where we see the league in the future, as a place to keep your game, keep your tools sharp, instead of having to go to summer league and play with glorified amateurs. So we always envisioned that.”


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