I never knew how tall Greg Oden was until I saw him Sunday.
I mean, I had heard about him as his ill-fated career and injury problems have him labeled as possibly the biggest NBA bust of all time. But, I had never seen actually him play basketball.
The former No. 1 overall pick of the Portland Trailblazers is back on the court, playing for the Aliens in the Big3. He was slamming down dunks, blocking out for rebounds and overall playing with a smile on his face.
When I was in middle school, I never really watched college basketball aside from Oklahoma State, so I don’t remember Oden dominating for Ohio State.
Inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, though, I finally got to see him play and it was awesome. It is just one of the many things that I am thankful of the Big3 for.
I have been an advocate of the Big3 ever since Ice Cube announced it back in 2017.
It does thrive on forms of nostalgia and having people recall names and faces they haven’t seen in years – Kenyon Martin anyone – but there is one thing you don’t notice on TV that you definitely see in person.
The effort. Most of these guys know it is the end of the road but it doesn’t look that way. They are fighting for loose balls, running plays, banging in the post for rebounds and ultimately, trying to win.
Oden isn’t making a comeback attempt in the NBA, but he still wants to play basketball. My favorite basketball player of all time – Chris “Birdman” Andersen – finally had age catch up to him, but there was still a little left in the tank so he went to the Big3.
A couple of years later, he is a champion playing for the best team in the league: Power, which is coached by Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.
That is another great thing about this league. I do have a feeling that the NBA will be the first pro association to have a female head coach. Becky Hammond will probably be the first to do it, but the Big3 didn’t care about outdated gender roles. Lieberman coaches a bunch of middle-aged men, and was there any problems that so many talking heads discuss every time the issue is brought up? No, they won a championship.
The Big3 needs support for things like that. I was really happy at the Peake to see a crowd of I would say 7,000 or so show up, because I know while it might not seem like much, it is enough to keep this league going.
People laughed in Ice Cube’s face when he announced the league, because like so many alternative associations, it was thought to be short lived. I mean, all you have to do is look at the Alliance of American Football from this past winter to show you that.
But, Ice Cube did things differently. A man who has one of the best success stories in America, a country founded on rags-to-riches tales, has created a place that is surviving because it is innovative.
Not only did he pick a good time to play it – in the dog days of summer, when the only thing going on is the dead middle of the MLB season – but he also altered the game.
He made it a 3-on-3 league, making it a first-to-50 game and added cool things like the 4-point shot and bringing in Hall of Famer such as George Gervin and Julius Erving to coach. Clyde Drexler is there as the commissioner and Ice Cube is courtside at every game, backing his investment.
The league knows where it is at, but it did something different this year by lowering the age limit to 27 to it could get some guys like Perry Jones III and Anthony Morrow, who were recently in the league, and gave them a chance to try to get back in the NBA while also keeping in shape.
It is such a great concept. Ice Cube really knows how to put on a show, too. When I was there Sunday, the games were very user friendly, they really give it up for the fans. In between game two and three (each weekend has three games on Saturday and three on Sunday as there are 12 teams) Cube even got up and performed “It was a good day.” Where else can you see Gilbert Arenas playing ball while one of the greatest rappers of all time performs his signature song?
Ice Cube has gone on record that he hopes to not be the face of the league in a few years, meaning he wants people to go to see good basketball instead of just a glimpse of him. It’s not at that point yet, but I think if the Big3 keeps going, then it will attract names like Vince Carter and maybe even Michael Jordan.
Young NBA stars like Kemba Walker have even said they would look for a career in the Big3. That is some good publicity right there.
I am thankful for the Big3, not only because I still get to see Birdman play (although Power had the day off Sunday), but also because it really helps with some of these guys like Oden, who never got to have the career they wanted.
Oden’s team won that first game, too, as former Kansas star Brandon Rush crossed over Ricky Davis for a game-winning 3-pointer that was definitely worth the price of admission.
I have been spreading the good word of the Big3 for the past few years and I’m glad other people are starting to catch on for what the league does and how entertaining of an idea it is. I had been wanting to watch it in person for years and I’m happy that happened last Sunday.
It was something I won’t ever forget and I hope it will be something that I can see every summer. Watch the Big3 on CBS next weekend. You never know, you might fall in love with it like I have.
Jordan Bishop is the assistant news editor for the Stillwater News Press and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.