Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league has announced a series of major structural changes to its format ahead of its fourth season in 2020, led by a rebranding of its 3-on-3 form of basketball as an entirely new sport called Fireball3.
The league’s changes for this year include: lowering the minimum age from 27 to 22; ending the requirement for professional experience, allowing open tryouts to qualify for the Big3 combine; once per half, a team can challenge a foul call resulting in an in-game one-on-one possession with the victor winning the call; a new all-red ball known as a Fireball; and a new festival-like experience at its events.
The aim is maintain the start-up league’s growing relevance in the US sports market, and to distinguish Big3 from traditional 3-on-3 basketball which is coming to the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz said: “Our appeal is young and more diverse and we needed to eliminate confusion to help fans understand what to expect from our on-court product.”
Ice Cube added: “We’ve needed the freedom to keep innovating without potential new fans thinking it was typical 3-on-3. Plus, we didn’t want our deep love and respect for the NBA to be misinterpreted by our use of different rules. We could never compete with the NBA any more than we could compete with the NFL or FIFA. We are the BIG3, our own unique thing. But that doesn’t mean Fireball3 can’t coexist with these sports and still be many fans’ favorite sport….We hope that one day Fireball3 will be an Olympic sport, too.”
Last July, Big3 cut ticket prices by 50 per cent for the remainder of the 2019 season after attendances fell by approximately 3,000 fans per event. A planned tour of China in November was postponed following the furor over Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests ahead of the National Basketball Association’s preseason games in China.
The Big3’s moves extend a growing prominence for 3-on-3 sports in the US, as a new 3-on-3 pro ice hockey league is slated to debut in 2021 and this month’s National Hockey League All-Star Game will feature a women’s 3-on-3 event.