NEW YORK — Athletes are meant to be superheroes — a collection of larger-than-life figures through whom fans are able to live our their childhood aspirations. They are to win with grace, lose with dignity, and never pull back the curtain that shows a person behind the great and powerful Oz.
This is what made Glen Davis’ moment after the BIG3 final on Friday night memorable. Davis’ Power squad won a league championship — the second to be awarded by Ice Cube’s half-court 3-on-3 basketball league — with a 51-43 win over 3s Company. Through tears, he addressed the media, explaining why winning this particular trophy was such a big deal.
“I was dealing with depression before I accepted the contract with you guys,” Davis said to his teammates. “Mentally, because when I left the game, I left the game in a different phase, and you guys brought that back to me. I’ve been going through a lot of crazy things lately that it’s just not who I am.”
Davis is a former NBA champion, and yet winning the BIG3 meant enough to him that he was moved to tears. He wasn’t the only member of his squad to have that reaction — guys like Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson were emotional after the win. Head coach Nancy Lieberman, the recipient of the league’s 2018 Coach of the Year award, reacted the same way as her players heaped praise upon her after she became the first woman coach to lift a championship in a men’s professional league.
All of this gets back to the unofficial mission of the league, which is trying to elevate itself from a thing hoops fans occasionally watch to something hoops fans follow closely: The BIG3, at its core, is a league that values passion over everything.
The league itself is something of a labor of love. There aren’t many new sports leagues that pop up in the United States that survive, and who knows? Maybe the BIG3 is on borrowed time, despite the fact that its third season will occur in 2019. But if the BIG3 isn’t able to make the jump to an American sports powerhouse, it won’t be for a lack of trying.