HOUSTON – June 24, 2018— All eyes in the basketball and entertainment worlds were on Houston for BIG3 Opening Night as Tri-State dethroned Trilogy in the fourth and final game, delivering the defending champions their first loss following a 10-0 2017 season.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 16,341 at the Toyota Center, a number of the game’s best players made their debut, showcasing the league’s elevated competition and intense play. Newcomers Nate Robinson, Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis, Drew Gooden, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen and more brought the crowd to their feet throughout the night and left their mark on the second-year league with elite performances. In their BIG3 debuts, both Michael Cooper and Nancy Lieberman, the first female coach to lead an elite men’s professional team, earned historic victories.
In the main event game of the night, a new-look Tri-State did the unthinkable in taking down Trilogy, who returned their entire roster from the 2017 undefeated championship season. The game featured a heated one-on-one battle between two of the league’s biggest personalities: Nate Robinson and Rashad McCants, who had hyped Trilogy throughout the week, entered the arena wearing a king’s crown and wore a Joker mask onto the court.
After an off-season stewing over their loss in the 2017 BIG3 Championship Game, 3 Headed Monsters opened the season with a tense, hard fought victory, beginning their road to revenge. New additions Reggie Evans and Qyntel Woods complemented returning league MVP Rashard Lewis and Co-Captain Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf to grind out a victory over the Ghost Ballers.
With fan favorites Coach Nancy Lieberman, Davis and hometown hero Cuttino Mobley, Power quickly won over the sell-out crowd and dispatched the Ball Hogs and BIG3 Draft No. 1 pick Andre Owens. Davis brought his brand of infectious energy, while Captain Corey Maggette returned from a season-ending injury suffered in the 2017 opener to pour in a game-high 17 points. Beloved former Rocket Cuttino Mobley thrilled the Houston crowd with 12 points.
The Power and Ball Hogs game opened with a touching tribute to the late Rasual Butler, who played in the 2017 inaugural BIG3 season with the Ball Hogs. Both teams played with an ‘RB 8” patch on their jerseys to honor their friend and former teammate.
In the second game of the evening, the new-look 3’s Company delivered a commanding win over Killer 3s, who were missing co-captain Chauncey Billups from the lineup. (Billups was n the bench as he continues to rehab from surgery during the offseason). 3’s Company’s Baron Davis immediately took to the league’s 4-point shot, going 1-6 from the circles on his way to 13 points.
BIG3 Co-Founder and Co-CEO Ice Cube treated Houston to a free concert outside the Toyota Center, where nearly 5,000 fans got down with hits like “It Was a Good Day,” “You Can Do It,” “Check Yo Self” and “Friday.” Rapper and Port Arthur native Bun B opened the afternoon with a set before Ice Cube took the stage.
The BIG3 Opening Night brought out the stars and basketball royalty throughout the evening. Comedians Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle caught up with their favorite players at shootaround. In the crowd for the electric Opening Night were entertainers Slim Thug, Bun B, Paul Wall, Scarface, TV Johnny, Willie D and Baby Bash alongside basketball Hall of Fame legends Willis Reed and Tracy McGrady.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to beloved and respected hometown hero and NBA legend Clyde Drexler in his first games as BIG3 Commissioner. Drexler won two championships with the hometown Houston Rockets and brought the University of Houston, whose dance team performed throughout the night, to the NCAA Final Four in his final two years on campus.
Airing live on FS1 and Facebook, the BIG3 captivated the world with NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, DJ Khaled, DJ Whoo Kid and more throwing their support behind the league on social media ahead of Game 1.
The games brought to a close an incredible week in the Houston community for the BIG3, as the league made a special effort to give back to a city that has endured hardships over the past year. On Wednesday, Ice Cube visited Houston’s Scenic Woods Public Library to surprise a group of 50 single mothers and their kids with free tickets to the BIG3. Ice Cube and Commissioner Clyde Drexler then joined Mayor Sylvester Turner at City Hall to announce plans to refurbish a community basketball court in Winzer Park.
On Thursday, the league launched the Young3, their brand new youth initiative in partnership with adidas. The program, directed by Jerome ‘Junk Yard Dog’ Williams featured skills clinics and a three-on-three tournament for kids ages 7-14. Hosted in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club at the Holthouse Club, the full day event featured a block party with music, games, and food trucks. At Friday’s game the league arranged for buses of students from the Sante Fe community to come out and enjoy the game, in the wake of the recent tragedy that impacted their community.
Below are recaps of the day’s games, as well as links to video highlights and final stats.
3 Headed Monsters (50; 1-0) vs. Ghost Ballers (48; 0-1)
Caesar’s Entertainment Sports Book Line: 3 Headed Monsters -3 ½
In a rematch of the first ever BIG3 game, 3 Headed Monsters earned another two-point win over the Ghost Ballers. After a back-and-forth first half that saw nine lead changes, 3 Headed Monsters led for most of the second half before falling behind 44-43. The two teams traded the lead before new acquisition Reggie Evans collected his own rebound off a missed free throw for a layup, which he followed with a made two-point free throw to put the 3 Headed Monsters up by two. Following a Ricky Davis tying bucket, the sweet-shooting Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf re-entered the game to seal the win with a jumper from the elbow.
3’s Company (51; 1-0) vs. Killer 3s (30; 0-1)
Caesar’s Entertainment Sports Book Line: 3’s Company – 3 ½
The new-look 3’s Company dominated Killer 3s in the second game with a 21-point win that was never in doubt. 3’s Company opened the game on fire, racing out to a 20-4 lead. Co-captain Baron Davis led the way in his BIG3 debut with 17 points, topping a balanced scoring effort in which four players scored more than seven points. For the Killer 3s, BIG3 newcomer Metta World Peace lead the team with 12 points, while Co-Captain Stephen Jackson contributed 10.
With the win, Cooper became the first coach to win a game in the NBA, WNBA, D-League, NCAA and BIG3.
Power 51 (1-0) vs. Ball Hogs 31 (0-1)
Caesar’s Entertainment Sports Book Line: Ball Hogs – 2
Power rolled to an impressive victory over the Ball Hogs. New additions Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis and Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen and a returning Corey Maggette gave Power a more dynamic attack than the 2017 team that finished third in the league. The game’s highlight came when Andersen made a thunderous block on an attempted Josh Childress tomahawk dunk. Following the block, the ball kicked out to Maggette who took advantage of the loose ball and finished with a jam.
The win earned basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman the first win by a female coach for a top-flight men’s professional team.
Tri-State 51 (1-0) vs Trilogy 34 (0-1)
Caesar’s Entertainment Sports Book Line: Trilogy – 3 ½
Nate Robinson, dubbed “The Human Spark Plug” by new teammate Amar’e Stoudemire, lived up to his new nickname with an electric, highlight-reel performance. Robinson brought the night to a close with a show-stopping three-pointer over sparring partner for the night, Rashad McCants. The trio of Co-Captains, Robinson, Stoudemire and the returning Jermaine O’Neal, proved too much for Trilogy, who were missing Co-Captain Al Harrington due to injury. Harrington’s injury, the only one of the intense, hard fought night, ironically didn’t happen that night at all, but instead the day before where he injured his leg during practice. He was a game time decision, but didn’t play to prevent a longer term injury. Harrington is fully expected to be back next week.
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