None of the professional sports leagues have any certainty on when they can resume play. Not with the coronavirus outbreak growing by the day.
That has not inhibited the Big3, however, from making plans for its fourth season, a pre-season tournament and even a reality show. The 3-on-3 basketball league partnered with media production company Endemal, which has produced the highly-rated reality show “Big Brother,” to create a quarantined reality show and a three-week pre-season tournament starting the first week of May. Big3 also plans to open its fourth season of its 12-team league on June 20 in Memphis.
"We can’t control what happens with the virus. Nobody can control it," Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz told USA TODAY Sports. "If that has to be pushed back a week or two, that’s possible. But we feel pretty good about being able to be up and running in May."
The reason? Big3 and Endemal have outlined strict parameters to ensure this event happens without exposing anyone to COVID-19. They first will test the participating 16 players and officials, and will only clear them to participate should they test negative. They will then stay at a designated house in Los Angeles that Kwatinetz said is currently being constructed. The tournament will take place at an undetermined venue behind closed doors.
"No one is allowed to leave the quarantine area. That’s part of what keeps the safety and health of the players," Kwatinetz said. "It also dovetails with what makes 'Big Brother' so great. You have a group of 16 people locked in a house together and the social dynamics that come out of that. One minute, you’re hanging out with someone in the house. That night you have to play them. Our games are very physical and very competitive. Then you’re back in the house with the same people. So it definitely lends itself to some drama."
Kwatinetz said that he and Ice Cube, the other Big3 co-founder and hip hop mogul, are "probably just a few days away" from finalizing various logistics to ensure the tournament is broadcast globally. That includes resuming talks with potential broadcast partners, calculating the show’s budget and the tournament's rules and schedule. Kwatinetz said he has fielded interest "far in excess" for the potential 16 players. Former NBA players will mostly represent that field, but Kwatinetz said he wants to "include at least one or two of the best female players." Part of that hinges on the WNBA schedule. It will hold a virtual draft on April 17 and said it remains on schedule with the beginning of training camp (April 26) and the season opener (May 15). The WNBA might change its itinerary, though, depending on if it is considered safe to resume business.
That uncertainty also has prompted the Big3 to set up contingency plans with its fourth season.
The league currently has games scheduled in Memphis (June 20), New York (June 27) and Portland (Aug. 22), while six of its other games will take place in L.A. at a to-be-determined venue (July 11-Aug. 15). But if government and CDC restrictions are not lifted in any of the respective cities the games will take place, Big3 will likely shift all of their games to L.A.
That plan remains subject to change, too, since the league maintains it will adhere to local and federal health guidelines. Either way, Big3 said it has received commitments for its fourth season, including from former NBA players Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Greg Oden, Al Jefferson and Nate Robinson. Among the committed coaches include a handful of former NBA stars (Julius Erving, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Gary Payton) and WNBA luminaries (Lisa Leslie, Nancy Lieberman).
"Ice Cube and I are in the business of entertaining people," Kwatinetz said. "In times like this, they need entertainment. We have to make sure it’s safe and that the basketball is credible and really competitive. We feel like we’re able to do that."
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Kwatinetz maintained that optimism about Big3’s reality show and preseason tournament partly because of its safety measures.
"We would obviously test everybody before we flew them out. Then before we would let them enter the house, that would be under quarantine," Kwatinetz said. "We’ll be able to know that all the players and the refs that are put in the house are virus free. Then we’re going to maintain complete quarantine. So if a player breaks quarantine, they’re out of the tournament."
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