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35 Questions About the Big 3’s Proposed Tournament/Reality Show/Social Experiment

Basketball has been canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ice Cube’s three-on-three league has a plan to change that.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

All the basketball is gone. March Madness is canceled. The NBA season is postponed. For a desperate minute, I became deeply invested in Australia’s National Basketball League, which was playing its championship series last week. But then Andrew Bogut and the Sydney Kings held a team meeting and decided that it would be irresponsible and unsafe to travel via plane to Game 4, and the series was called with Miles Plumlee and the Perth Wildcats leading 2-1. My online sportsbook prompted me to bet on Turkish basketball, but alas—that, too, has now been canceled.

Enter Ice Cube, who’s here to save the day with a concept so alarming that I’d probably be outraged by it if I weren’t completely starved for basketball. The Big 3, the three-on-three league composed primarily of retired NBA players, plans to launch a tournament/reality show/social experiment intended to give fans basketball while everyone is social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. A handful of Big 3 players who test negative for the coronavirus will reportedly move into a large house with a basketball court, and will be quarantined as their games—and apparently their entire lives—will be broadcast to the world. From the Yahoo report:

To assure the league is operating under safe conditions, players will be quarantined in a large home provided by the league, sources said. A basketball court/facility will be built on site. If a player breaks quarantine at any point during the tournament, he would be eliminated and removed from the premises, sources said.

The games and the players’ daily lives will be captured on camera for added drama and storylines. The production crew would be stationed nearby but offsite from the players.

Ice Cube summarized the concept to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears: “It’s Big Brother meets Big3.”

I’m a big Big 3 fan—watching Joe Johnson cruise to an MVP trophy and championship last summer was more entertaining than a lot of higher-level basketball I’ve seen. (Unfortunately, my description of how much better Johnson was than everybody else in the league ended up angering Ice Cube, spoiling my lifelong plan to avoid disappointing any members of N.W.A.) And in the Long, Sportsless Night caused by the pandemic, I’m willing to settle for basically any sports product. We’re all bunkering down to avoid spreading the virus; these players might bunker down together to play basketball for us to watch.

According to Yahoo, the tournament/reality show/experiment would feature 16-22 players, and include seven rounds of games. When a player records three losses, he is eliminated. Teams would be “reshuffled” throughout the event, and cash prizes will be doled out for first, second, and third place. “As long as we can protect the players, which we will do through proper testing and quarantine, Ice Cube and I feel we can give fans some safe, entertaining brand of basketball to get everyone through this pandemic,” league cofounder Jeff Kwatinetz told Yahoo.

Naturally, I have some questions about the Big 3 Quarantine League (a.k.a. the Q League). Let’s get to them.

1. What will the sleeping arrangements in the Big 3 house be like? Will there be bunk beds?

2. Do they make bunk beds large enough for 7-footers?

3. Is Glen “Big Baby” Davis going to have to sleep on the top bunk of a bed designed for children?

4. You know that scene in Step Brothers where the bunk bed collapses on top of Will Ferrell? Wouldn’t that potentially kill someone in real life, especially if the person in the top bunk was Glen “Big Baby” Davis?

5. Will there be alcohol in the house?

6. Can there please be alcohol in the house? I want to livestream footage of 20 drunk former NBA players more than I want to watch basketball.

7. The league specifies that players will reshuffle through teams during the tournament. Can the Big 3 please hire the people who make Love Island to film the recoupling process?

8. Will Joe Johnson, who made $220 million during his NBA career, be willing to leave whatever mansion he’s social-distancing in to live in a house (possibly with bunk beds?) with 15-21 other guys?

9. Is this tournament actually going to be played in whatever house Johnson bought with his $220 million in career NBA earnings?

10. Will the games be played according to the Big 3’s official rules, or will they just be pickup style?

11. If the games are played by the league’s official rules, does that mean there will be referees in the house?

12. How many refs will there be? And won’t those refs have to be quarantined inside the house too?

13. Can you imagine something worse than being a referee trapped inside a house with 16-22 retired NBA players whose games you have to officiate every day?

14. On March 11, the Big 3 announced that it planned to abandon its usual strategy of playing games in cities across the country during the summer, opting instead for a season played at a “non-arena venue.” Given this news, does it still plan to play a summer season? Will that be quarantined?

15. That March 11 announcement came before the NBA postponed its season and the NCAA canceled March Madness. A week later, the Big 3 has already come up with the premise for a Quarantine Basketball League. Do the people in charge of the Big 3 also need to be in charge of every other sport?

16. Was it really just a week ago that March Madness was canceled?

17. How did it take only a week for me to get to the point where I’m ready to fully buy into quarantine basketball?

18. What live sports will I be willing to watch in a month? What about two months?

19. Are they going to actually do this Big Brother–style and evict the losing teams from the house, until there’s just one team left that wins a prize?

20. Is it possible that teams might intentionally want to lose to escape from the quarantine basketball facility and return to their homes?

21. Is “Big 3rother” a thing?

22. My coworker and Big 3 aficionado Matt James heard about this tournament and immediately asked one question: “Are they picking a few existing teams, or creating new teams?”

23. How funny is it that Matt heard about a tournament of quarantined basketball players living in some sort of biodome during a global pandemic and instantly questioned the implications it’d have on the Big 3’s rosters?

24. Is this tournament just that Nike commercial from the 2002 World Cup, but for basketball?

25. Wait, did the Big 3 really say that it’s going to test all of the players involved before they enter the house?


27. Are we all going to have to invent basketball leagues to have access to tests for the coronavirus?

28. Is the league going to have a big reveal show in which all of the players who have signed up for the tournament get their coronavirus tests back and find out whether they’re positive or eligible for quarantine basketball?

29. Will the basketball court in the house have the league’s signature four-point circle on it?

30. Can I bet on the Big 3 Quarantine League?

31. Can I please, please, please bet on this? I’ve previously taken to betting on Aussie rules football. I need this.

32. Can the players bet on this?

33. Am I going to wind up in jail after attempting to fix Big 3 Quarantine League games?

34. Is having 16-22 basketball players take tests for the coronavirus so that they can be quarantined in the same house together the only ethical way to play sports during a global pandemic?

35. Or is having a bunch of basketball players take tests for the coronavirus so that they can be quarantined in the same house together the least ethical move by a sports league I’ve ever heard of?