The Bulls might be in offseason mode, but there’s another basketball league in Chicago this weekend that’s just hitting midseason form.
BIG3, a professional three-on-three halfcourt league founded this year by entertainer Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, comes to the UIC Pavilion this Sunday for its fifth week of competition.
The league features eight teams brimming with former NBA players such as Julius Erving, Gary Payton and Clyde Drexler. But league executives are emphasizing the competitiveness of the games rather than the nostalgia of the names.
“When we set out to establish this league, we always said, if this became a league about nostalgia, then it would be a flash in the pan,” Kwatinetz said. “If it became a league about credible and competitive sports, then it could be something that would stand the test of time and only get better.”
The season consists of 10 weeks of games, each of which is aired Monday nights on Fox Sports 1, except for the final game, which will be broadcast live.
This week features nine players and coaches who played for the Bulls, including Charles Oakley, who played with the team from 1985 to ’88, then again in 2001-02, and Brian Scalabrine, who became a fan favorite during his time with the team from 2010 to ’12.
Kendall Gill, the fifth overall pick in 1990 from Illinois who played with the Bulls in 2003-04, will be making his second appearance in the league after his debut last week.
Although Kwatinetz would not give specific details on how high the TV ratings have been, he admitted he was surprised at how many people the broadcasts were reaching. Ice Cube also expressed his surprise at the success of the league.
“We thought that we would really have to work hard to prove that we had a credible league that wanted to bring three-on-three basketball to the professional level,” Ice Cube said.
“We thought that would take a little time, but it shows how much people really wanted something fresh and something real, and here we are.”
The United Center is being used this weekend for a Roger Waters concert, so the games are being held at the UIC Pavilion. Seating 8,200 fans, the Pavilion will be the smallest venue on the BIG3 schedule, and Kwatinetz said he expects the stadium to sell out.
The opening matchup will feature Scalabrine’s team, the Ball Hogs (1-3), taking on Drexler’s team, Power (3-1).
Fans can purchase tickets at BIG3.com.
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