What a Championship Would Mean to Each Playoff Team
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn August 13, 2022
TUNE IN ON SUNDAY AT 3:30 PM EST FOR THE BIG3 PREGAME SHOW ON CBS OR PARAMOUNT PLUS. AT 4:00 EST ON CBS AND PARAMOUNT PLUS, TRILOGY WILL PLAY THE ALIENS IN THE FIRST SEMIFINAL MATCHUP. AT 5:00 ON CBS AND PARAMOUNT PLUS, THE 3 HEADED MONSTERS WILL PLAY POWER IN THE SECOND AND FINAL SEMIFINAL GAME.
Four teams lie 100 points away from claiming the 2022 BIG3 Championship. What would a Championship mean to each remaining team? Let’s take a look:
3 Headed Monsters: Sisyphus Ascends
For those of you unfamiliar with Greek mythology, Sisyphus attempted to deceive the Gods. As punishment, he was sentenced to push a boulder up a hill for all eternity, only to have the boulder go through him and roll back down to the bottom of the hill just as it was about to reach the top.
They punished Tantalus in a similar way. As punishment for his misdeeds, he was forced to stand with water beneath his chin and fruit just above his face, both of which would move away from him when he attempted to drink or eat, leaving him starving and thirsty for all eternity. (He was thus “Tantalized.”) The Greek Gods did not mess around.
Despite the fact that, to my knowledge, the 3 Headed Monsters have never angered any God, their BIG3 history could perhaps best be described as Sisiphyean.
In the league’s inaugural 2017 season, they finished the regular season with a 6-2 record and made it to the Finals. Unfortunately for them, they lost the Championship game to Trilogy by a final score of 51-46.
In 2018, they went 7-1 in the regular season, but were blown out by 3’s Company by a final score of 50-28 in the first round of the playoffs.
2019 was a bit of a reset year for 3HM and there was no season in 2020. In 2021, 3HM finished 6-2, which gave them a share of the best record in the league. They also made the Finals once again. Once again, they faced Trilogy. Once again, they lost, this time by a final score of 50-45.
This season, 3HM again finished with a 6-2 record, and actually clinched a playoff spot in Week 6. They have Kevin Murphy, the league’s leading scorer and presumptive MVP. Rashard Lewis and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who have been with 3HM since the very beginning, are still on the roster. Before the season, Gary Payton left the team to coach Bivouac and Reggie Theus became the new coach of 3HM, so it would be an impressive feat if Theus can bring home that elusive championship in his first season with the team.
Once again, 3HM appear to be the betting favorites heading into the postseason. Will this be the year they finally roll the stone all the way up the mountain and finally become BIG3 Champions? We’ll see, but I can’t imagine how badly Lewis and Abdul-Rauf want this after a half-decade of coming so close.
POWER: A Return to Glory
Power’s championship in 2018 brought with it several other firsts. It was Nancy Lieberman’s first season coaching the team, and Lieberman became the first female head coach to win a championship in a male professional league.
When I spoke to Coach Lieberman earlier this year, she was typically humble about her 2018 Championship win. She gave much of the credit for her team’s success to former Power Coach and current BIG3 Commissioner Clyde Drexler, whom she inherited the team and roster from.
Four years later, there can be no doubt that this is Coach Lieberman’s team. The only player still on the roster who played in the 2018 Championship game is Captain Cuttino Mobley. Mobley does still technically start for Power, but his minutes have been limited this season due to lingering injuries.
The team is built in Coach Lieberman’s image. Lieberman earned the nickname “Lady Magic” during her playing days due to her combination of size and passing ability, and her Power squad has a whole lot of size and passing ability. As it turns out, you don’t need to go small to out-quick your opponents, because no player is as fast as a basketball flying through the air to another player.
Royce White stands at 6’8 and is one of the strongest players in the league – if he gets the ball in the paint, he’s more than happy to bully-ball his man under the rim and lay the ball home. He’s also one of the best passers in the league; only Dusan Bulut and Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session had more assists than him this season.
White’s partner-in-crime on Power’s frontline is TJ Cline, who is likely the best big man in the league at playing without the ball and is constantly looking for cuts, which allows White to feed him for layups. Cline can also pass the ball himself, take his man off the dribble and unleash his signature floater, and occasionally step out and hit the three. He’s extremely comfortable playing in Coach Lieberman’s system, possibly because he happens to be her son.
The team’s not-so-secret sauce is Glen Rice Jr., whom Lieberman took with the #1 overall pick in the 2022 BIG3 Draft. He’s a plug-and-play scorer who can make shots from anywhere on the floor, which means he can fit in any system, and he spaces the floor for the team’s big men when Mobley hits the bench.
Finally, there’s Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who had a slow start to the season but became a contributor when Coach Lieberman helped him find his mean streak.
If this Power team goes all the way, Coach Lieberman will become the first person to coach two Championship teams in BIG3 history, become the first person in the history of professional sports to win two championships in an all-male league, and win a championship with a hand-crafted roster that includes her son. Fairly impressive stuff.
Aliens: The European Invasion
I, for one, welcome our new European overlords. There were two times this year where I felt I was looking into the future of the BIG3. One was in Week 6, when 3’s Company integrated the four-point shot into their gameplan.
The other was in Week 1, which is the first time the new-look Aliens played. In the offseason, Aliens Coach Rick Mahorn went all-in on a trio of European players: Captain and point guard Dusan Bulut, Co-Captain and off-guard Karlis Lasmanis, and Co-Captain and center Tomislav Ivosev.
Ivosev missed Week 1, but it was clear the Aliens were bringing something the BIG3 had never seen before. Tons of players in the BIG3 have experience playing overseas, but there’s a difference between spending time overseas and spending your whole life playing the European style.
Furthermore, all three of the Aliens’ trio of European players have had extensive experience and success playing 3×3 professionally. American-born players don’t tend to have experience playing professional 3×3 ball before they reach the BIG3, so that gave the Aliens another leg up, even though they had to adjust from the international iteration of 3×3 to FIREBALL3.
When they’re on their game, the Aliens’ offense is symphonic. It’s constant cutting, passing, off-ball screening, feints, and just so much ball movement and man movement in search of the best possible shot.
When the opposing team is able to force the Aliens into a “conventional” game, they have a secret weapon in the form of Deshawn Stephens. Stephens stands at 6’8 and has the mobility of a wing, but his 7’3 wingspan and ability to get off the floor give him the ability to control the paint on both ends of the floor on both ends of the wing. His skills mean that when the Aliens’ offense isn’t whirring as intended, they can go to a straight-up two-man game and still find success.
Still, a Championship would mean what I called “the Aliens experiment” back in Week 1 would have to be considered a rousing success. If they get to the promised land, expect a lot more European-born players and European-inspired offenses in the BIG3 going forward.
Trilogy: Triple Your Pleasure
I mean, this is fairly straightforward. If Trilogy wins the 2022 BIG3 Championship:
– They will become the first team in the history of the BIG3 to win back-to-back Championships
– They will become the first three-time Champions in league history
– James White, who took over as Captain this season after Jarrett Jack left in the offseason, will become the first player to win three championships as a player
– Stephen Jackson will become the first person in BIG3 history to win two championships as a coach
– Isaiah Briscoe, who emerged as the team’s on-court leader this season, will have filled Jack’s shoes and take his place as one of the best players in the BIG3, even though he’s still just 26
In short, Trilogy are two wins away from being the first true dynasty in the short history of the BIG3. Coach Stephen Jackson and Co. must like the sound of that.