A gray-bearded, 46-year-old Cuttino Mobley playing basketball, by itself, is a little interesting, but not a needle-mover.
Big3 athletes still have some of the skills they possessed while playing in the NBA. The hand-eye coordination is there. Hell, Joe Johnson is still as smart as when he was in The Association.
But the biggest issue for old pros and retired NBA players showing off what remaining skills they have left? They can’t jump that high.
Don’t fret. I have a solution to fix the Big3: Trampolines.
Let’s revive SlamBall and incorporate it into the Big3. I’d watch that every week. It’d be appointment television. It’d be a dog-house-to-penthouse scenario with Colin Kaepernick recently investing in the league, avoiding a potential shutdown of Ice Cube’s startup sports organization. And this change would make it stand out even more.
Would the risk of injury be higher? Absolutely, but it shouldn’t skyrocket beyond belief. Plus, part of the appeal of NASCAR is to see the wrecks. Every time there’s a wreck, there’s a traffic jam, as drivers tend to rubberneck, enthralled by seeing the damage.
SlamBall was played 4-on-4, but on a full-court, as opposed to the half-court and 3-on-3 style of Big3. So an abridged version wouldn’t need to put more players on the court. In between each basket and the 3-point line would be four trampolines in a diamond formation. All slam dunks are worth 3 points in addition to traditional basketball rules for shooting inside and beyond the arc.
The court is surrounded by plexiglass and substitutions were allowed on the fly, like in hockey. Another huge difference from traditional basketball: SlamBall is a full-contact sport. With both players on the ground, hockey-style hip-checks are legal. If you did that in the NBA, it’d be a flagrant foul. But don’t worry, players wear plenty of pads.
The league only ran for three full seasons — 2002, 2003, and a 2008 revival — all with players you hadn’t heard of before and haven’t clamored for since. Does the name Sean “Inches” Jackson ring a bell? He performed his signature 360-degree, between-the-legs dunk in games. While you might not have heard of SlamBall’s greatest players, they were athletic and made the games hella fun. Imagine giving that space to players who’ve been in the limelight and just need a little bounce.
While the SlamBall rosters weren’t filled with memorable names, the coaching ranks were. Knicks legend John Starks, Kenny Anderson, and Rocket Ismail were all head coaches in SlamBall, although they combined for one playoff appearance and no wins. Name recognition wouldn’t be an issue for the Big3.
The evolution of Big3 into trampoline basketball would be a true alternative, not the senior NBA tour. Since the Big3’s debut season in 2017, it hasn’t made a dent in the American sports scene. It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters but without much of the pageantry and tradition. Put four rectangular trampolines on the court, and it’s a whole new ball game. And I’d love every second of it.