Of all of the former San Antonio Spurs players, these four individuals would mesh the best with the BIG3’s halfcourt three-on-three style of play.
For the last three summers, former San Antonio Spurs players and legends have participated in the BIG3 basketball league—a three-on-three halfcourt basketball league in which teams compete to 50 points on two, three and four-point shots. Many former NBA players have turned to the BIG3 as a way to make some extra cash while competing in the game they love on a high level without having to travel overseas or commit to the G-League.
Most notably for Spurs fans, legend George Gervin has been the head coach of the Ghost Ballers since the league’s inception. The league allowed former Spurs wing Stephen Jackson to showcase his talent as a member of the Killer 3’s alongside the likes of Chauncey Billups. It’s also been home to former Spur James White, who plays for Trilogy.
The BIG3 has been more of a draw with each passing year and players are becoming increasingly comfortable with the system. Last year, former All-Star Joe Johnson became the league MVP after many years of service in the NBA. He led an expansion team, the Triplets, to a championship after leading the league in multiple stat categories including four-point jump shots.
San Antonio has been home to some incredibly memorable players who would fit in perfectly with the summer circuit’s style of play. Halfcourt basketball is significantly less challenging on the player’s body compared with full-court play because it limits tempo and forces players into more one-on-one action.
While most Spurs players could fare well in rapper and entrepreneur Ice Cube’s league, the format of the league is catered to players of a certain style of play. These former members of the silver and black would be best suited for the BIG3’s style.
Next: A shortlived big man
4. David West
Even though he didn’t spend much time in the Alamo City, power forward David West was one of the first players to come to mind in regards to the BIG3. The 15-year NBA veteran won two championships with the Golden State Warriors directly after his Spurs career and was named an All-Star twice as a member of the New Orleans Hornets.
The art of the post-game is forgotten in many facets of the modern game, but the BIG3 is the perfect spotlight for a player like West. In his prime, West got many of his buckets with a playstyle similar to that of the Spurs’ own LaMarcus Aldridge. He punished his opponents in the paint, bullying his way around the rim for baskets while complimenting it with a soft jumper and plethora of post moves.
Obviously, West isn’t quite as good as Aldridge is or he’d still be in the league, but the 39-year-old has a strong skill set and the frame to match. Late in his career, West became an adept three-point shooter, which is a talent that’ll fit well in the BIG3 since spacing is emphasized. Even so, West’s inside presence at 6-foot-9 would make him one of the most physically daunting members of the league.
Many consider the classical post-up style of play antiquated, but the BIG3 is the best possible place to showcase that particular set of skills. West is the type of player who’d be forced to change his game if he were still in the NBA, but that won’t be the case in the summer circuit.
Next: The Red Mamba
3. Matt Bonner
Even though he’s already got a new gig as a Spurs analyst for home games on Fox Sports Southwest, three-point sniper Matt Bonner would fit in perfectly with the BIG3 format. Though Bonner was never the greatest athlete, his high basketball IQ and deadly outside shot made him a valuable role player for 10 years in the Alamo City.
Without the fullcourt aspect of the game at play, Bonner would have a better chance at rotating around the perimeter and setting screens to free himself and others up for easy shots. Standing at 6-foot-10 with long arms, The Red Mamba could play some solid paint defense against players smaller than him while maintaining decent mobility around the rim.
There’s no telling whether or not he’s currently in playing shape, or if he’s even interested in playing again, but the most fascinating possibility of Bonner’s place in the BIG3 would come on his four-point shooting ability. Being a player of his size and stature, Bonner has the strength to heave shots from deep outside the three-point line already. Few players of his size can confidently say that they are deadly shooters from outside, especially those who’ve already retired.
The BIG3’s four-point zone is 30 feet away from the basket and unlike a three-pointer, the player’s foot is allowed to be over or touching the line of the circle. Therefore, Bonner could feasibly take shots from roughly 28 feet with the back of his foot touching the line and hugely influence games.
Bonner doesn’t need to be a team captain or a starter for that matter, but he’d be a fun player to see suit up for a few weeks during the NBA offseason and put up some deep jumpers.
Next: A man amongst boys
2. Antonio McDyess
Grit is one factor that many BIG3 players bring to the table, but few could do it the way two-year Spurs forward Antonio McDyess did in his playing days. Most notably with the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets, McDyess had a potential Hall of Fame career robbed from him by injuries that largely diminished his athleticism.
Even with that being the case, McDyess was always a grinder who would give his all every time on the court on both ends of the floor. He influences winning by doing the little things like boxing out, muscling opponents, giving extra effort on defense around the basket and tipping in shots.
He finished his career with two seasons in San Antonio and was +7 points per 100 possessions in that span. Some players do the dirty work so that their teams can succeed, and McDyess was an All-Star at that. Playing in the BIG3 would give him a chance to get back on the hardwood and show the world what he’s made of.
Playing in a halfcourt, three-on-three setting would be much safer than the NBA was for him, assuring that the injury risk is significantly lower. At 45 years old, some might say that conditioning would be an issue for him, but McDyess could get himself in shape in time for the season. There are plenty of players in the BIG3 around that age range.
Two true, blue veterans of the game, Cuttino Mobley (44) and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (51) continue to suit up each year and contribute to their teams. Though many of their opponents are more athletic and nimble than them, these are two of the league’s most pivotal players because of their high basketball IQ and passion for the game. McDyess could bring that to the table too.
Next: Bringing Manu Magic back to the hardwood
1. Manu Ginobili
There is no former Spurs player whose playstyle is better suited for this style of play than Argentinian legend Manu Ginobili. Considered by many to be one of the greatest shooting guards of all-time, Ginobili is a masterful passer and scorer who emphasizes team play above all else. If he were to join the BIG3 and get back on the court, Ginobili could easily compete for a BIG3 championship as a player-coach and captain.
We’ve always seen what Manu could do in the open court, but imagine having the biggest stages and brightest lights set on him in a one-on-one scenario? If Iso Joe could step onto the scene and immediately dominate, then you could only imagine what Manu might be able to do.
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The BIG3 is the perfect place for Ginobili to show off some of his flashy passing, ball-handling and finishing that the basketball world has so sorely missed. He would be one of just a handful of international legends to join the league, ensuring it’s growth overseas and in new markets.
Craftiness is key in halfcourt basketball and Ginobili has it in boatloads. No one else ever made the passes that Manu did, whipping the ball into tight spots with small windows and well-placed bounces. He was never truly allowed to play the point guard under head coach Gregg Popovich, but he could do so in the BIG3 with a real chance to lead the league in assists.
He’s also an incredible shooter and floor spacer, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manu draining some four-point jumpers and shaking his defenders out of their boots with his amazing eurostep.
It’s not likely, but it’d be darn fun to see Manu Magic on a national stage once more.