About two months ago, before the inaugural BIG3 season even began, 3-Headed Monsters captain Rashard Lewis got a phone call from Ray Allen. The retired NBA superstar had been in Portland and was driving up to Seattle.
“Man, I just had to call you,” Allen said to Lewis. “I’m pulling into Seattle right now. It’s bringing back so many memories. I just had to call you.”
Allen and Lewis were teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics from 2003-07 (and again with the Miami Heat from 2012-14).
Lewis was so glad to hear from his old friend. “And I told him that was crazy,” Lewis recalled, “because I knew I was going to be out there in just a couple of months.”
Two months later, Lewis is in Seattle getting ready to lead his 3-Headed Monsters into the BIG3 playoffs, which will take place Sunday at Seattle’s Key Arena.
Lewis said he understood Allen’s excitement about being back in Seattle.
“I’m excited to go back there, too,” he said. “Just to look around and see everything. I kinda grew into a man in Seattle – I was a teenager when I got there.”
Lewis came straight out of high school when he was drafted by the Sonics. He fell in love with the city – it’s where he met his wife, who went to the University of Washington – and he learned from the veteran players there.
One of those veteran players is currently his coach with the 3-Headed Monsters – Hall of Famer Gary Payton.
Lewis said that seeing how competitive and fiery Payton was as a player helped his own development. “You take pieces from everybody,” Lewis said. “I took pieces from Gary, pieces from Ray Allen. I learned different things from different players along the way that helped me get to the next level.”
In addfition to Lewis and Payton, Reggie Evans of the Killer 3s also played for the Sonics.
Coming back to Seattle is extra special for Lewis and the rest of the BIG3 players since that city lost its NBA franchise in 2008. The Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder that year, so Sunday’s playoffs will be the official return of men’s professional basketball there. (The city still has the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.)
When BIG3 co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz set out to create the 2017 schedule, Seattle was always in the plans. They knew what a passionate basketball city Seattle is, so they saw it as a great way for Seattle basketball fans to enjoy the game.
As Andrew Sharp noted in a 2010 story on SBNation.com, the city has a rich basketball history – one that goes well beyond the loss of the SuperSonics.
“Almost like a reminder of the NBA's absurd oversight, Seattle's basketball culture continues to thrive,” Sharp wrote. “More than ever, we're talking about one of the three or four best basketball cities in the country, with grassroots programs and intense high school rivalries, Seattle U's burgeoning program, UW's perennially contending Huskies, the Seattle Storm, and a pipeline to the NBA that's unmatched by just about any city in the country.”
That pipeline includes current Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and 2017 first-round draft pick Markelle Fultz.
According to CBS Seattle, here is a list of the top NBA players who hail from the Seattle area:
Where I Want to Be
By Rashard Lewis
I was on my way home to Houston, after the first-ever BIG3 game at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when a reporter stopped me at the airport. I think he was from TMZ. And he asked me, “You played so well today, are you thinking of getting back to the NBA?”
Even though this BIG3 experience was only one day old at the time, I knew my answer.
“I already feel like I’m paying in the NBA here in the BIG3,” I told him. “That’s how much fun it is and that’s how professional it is.”
The inaugural BIG3 season has been overwhelming. I was expecting big things for it, but it’s been even bigger than I imagined. Every week since Brooklyn has gotten better and better.
It just feels like everything’s been running really smoothly since that first week. The arenas are packed. It’s just a good feeling to be back playing in NBA arenas. Even though it’s only half-court, 3-on-3, it just gives you that feeling of when you were back in the NBA.
The bottom line is, no matter what you call it, this is professional basketball. Sure, we’re having fun getting to see old friends and reminiscing. I played with Reggie Evans in Seattle. I played with our commissioner, Roger Mason. I competed against Kenyon Martin. I played against Al Harrington in high school – that’s right, we go back to high school!
It is a lot about those relationships – we enjoy going out and having fun, reminiscing about the old days. But at the same time, when we get out on the court, we are reminded how competitive we are. It kicks in regardless of age. That competitive instinct kicks in, and that’s why the league has been so great – because guys really want to win. It’s the fierce competition that makes it more fun.
When I signed on to join the BIG3, my main motivation what that I wanted my kids to get another chance to see me play. And that’s been fantastic. They’ve been to almost every game so far. I think they’re more excited about the BIG3 than I am – and I’m very excited about it.
The couple of games they didn’t make it, my oldest daughter, Gianna, will call and text me before and after the games. She wants to know if we won, asks me to send pictures and videos.
I think Gianna has loved this experience – even the competitive part. Thankfully the 3-Headed Monsters finished the regular season 6-2, because Gianna doesn’t like when we lose. Last week’s loss in L.A. didn’t really mean anything, because we had already locked up the No. 2 playoff seed, but don’t tell that to Gianna.
She was upset about us losing. She said, “You can’t play like that next week! You’ve got to come out and play better!”
She’s really into it. And you know who she sounds like? She sounds like my old Seattle SuperSonics teammate and current BIG3 coach, Gary Payton.
There’s a lot of history I have with Gary Payton. I first met Gary when I was a teenager – a rookie with Seattle in 1998, I learned a lot from him. He’s just a real competitive basketball player. A great guy off the court, but when he gets on the court, he just wants to win. And the funny thing is, I see the same Gary Payton playing in this league.
He’s that same guy as a coach – great guy in the locker room, great guy back at the hotel. He’ll tell jokes and have fun. But when we get on the court he gets serious. He wants to win and that’s how he’s coaching the game. And it brings out the best in us, because we want to play hard for him. We’re not going to go out there and go through the motions, because Gary’s not going to allow it.
So I’ve got Gary pushing me and I’ve got Gianna pushing me. And we’re pretty driven ourselves. We play Power this weekend in Seattle, and if we win, it’s on to the BIG3 Championship Game in Las Vegas. What an honor it would be to call ourselves the champions of the first BIG3 season!
Then, of course, it would be time to focus on a repeat.
Okay, let’s get through this year first. But win or lose, I am most definitely looking forward to Year 2 of the BIG3. Next year’s going to be even more competitive. A lot of guys that didn’t play this year – guys who were watching and now see how great this league is -- I think a lot of guys will be coming out of the woodwork looking to play next year that fans are going to be really excited about.
I think it’s going to be even more exciting next year. It’s only going to get better on all fronts – the fans, the players, going to different cities and different venues.
And in addition to the great competition, one other thing I’ll look forward to next year is the continued interaction between BIG3 players and our fans.
Before this season began, I made a pledge to pay for the tickets of all kids who are accompanied to BIG3 games with an adult. It was a great experience. A lot of kids have been coming out to the games. And all the players in the BIG3 have been really good sports about taking pictures and signing autographs with these kids.
We’re obviously role models for these kids, and that was the whole object of the program, to let kids get in free with their parents – to give them good positive role models to look up to, because that goes a long way. It helped me when I was a kid, and I think it helps a lot of kids nowadays.
And hopefully the kids who got to see BIG3 games this summer will be as excited about this great league as I am.
Xavier Silas has been named player of the week following a dominant performance that led Rick Barry’s team to an upset victory over Allen Iverson’s 3’s Company. Ball Hogs came into the week with the worst record in the league only to ruin 3’s Company’s post-season hopes in front of more than 10,000 fans at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.