BIG3 brings half court hoops and former NBA ballers to Indy

BIG3 basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (WTHR Photo/Rich Nye)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosted a tripleheader on the opening weekend of BIG3, a 3-on-3 basketball league founded by Ice Cube, featuring players not too far removed from the NBA.

"We wanted to get to Indiana because we felt like this is where basketball is loved,” said Ice Cube. “They eat, sleep, drink basketball here. So, we had to come."

Seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson drove and scored over Lawrence North High School product Greg Oden for the winning shot in the Triplets 50-40 win over the Aliens, the opening game at the Fieldhouse.

The teams have legendary coaches like Dr. J, George Gervin and four-time gold medalist Lisa Leslie. She coached the Triplets to their first win in their first ever-game in BIG3.

"We practiced 30 minutes for the first time yesterday,” said Leslie. “But what is great is the high IQ of these players."

34-year-old former Indiana Pacer Al Jefferson plays for the Triplets after 14 seasons in the NBA.

"When somebody told me I could play half-court basketball at a high level, that was my game,” said Jefferson, a Triplets co-captain. “Sign me up."

Former Perry Meridian High School and Indiana University player Andre Owens, captain of the Aliens, is in his third season in BIG3. Owens went to Columbus, Ohio, to check out Oden’s current game, then asked the seven-footer to join his team.

The Aliens selected Oden seventh in this year’s BIG3 draft.

"I think he's going to be very dominant,” Owens said. “I feel like he's going to be a great fit for our team. He's new. He's got to get the concept of the big three."

Oden, the NBA number one draft pick in 2007, scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in his BIG3 debut. His career was derailed by injuries. BIG3 is his first professional action since three years ago in China.

“I'm so thankful to Ice Cube and Andre for giving me this opportunity to come and compete again professionally with this kind of talent,” said Oden. “It was fun."

The half-court game with a 14 second shot clock allows players over 30 years old to extend their careers. The first team to 50 points (win by two) wins the game. Halftime is taken when one team reaches 25 points.

"It's not cool when our favorite players retire,” said Ice Cube. “So how can we keep them back in the game? How can we keep them going? We thought three on three. Everybody plays three-on-three. Everybody loves three-on-three. So it would just make sense to try to put a league together with former NBA players, three on three, See what happens."

In game two at the Fieldhouse, Killer 3s beat Tri-State 54-52 on a Donte Green three-pointer.

Game three saw Ghost Ballers outscore Ball Hogs 50-39.

BIG3 teams play for nine weekends all over the United States this summer, followed by two weeks of playoffs.

The championship is played in Los Angeles on September 1.

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