The BIG3’s second season starts on Friday, and with it comes a few new (but familiar) faces and an important wrinkle for fans of the 3-on-3 league: live TV. Answering the hopes of many and continuing the precedent set by the league’s inaugural championship game, Fox Sports is broadcasting BIG3 games live this season.
The broadcasts kick off on Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST on FS1 as the league takes its weekly showcase to Houston. From there, BIG3 tours the US and Canada, hitting Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, Miami, Toronto, Boston, Atlanta and Dallas with the championship game taking place in Brooklyn.
Live broadcasts are a big step for the league and a broadcast crew that used the first season as a test palate for how a fast-paced, half-court league should be presented visually.
“Last year it was an experiment in regards to TV,” said Jim Jackson, who returns to the BIG3 broadcast for a second season as an analyst. “We didn’t know how games would flow, so I think it was best that we did it on tape delay so we could filter out the better games. Make the mistakes early and understand what the product is in order to bring it live”
Jackson told Uproxx that editing the earlier games and then trying the championship game on live television prepared the broadcast team for its second season, and he’s excited about the changes the league has seen in its second year. One of those changes is an expanded broadcast team for Fox, which will broadcast the 10-week schedule on its FS1 network each Friday night. Boadcasting four 3-on-3 games a night live may bring some unexpected moments, but those involved seem excited about the challenge.
“That’s part of why we love sports, because there’s no editing, right?” broadcaster Charissa Thompson remarked. “The consumer is used to seeing sports live so for us to be able to provide that this year, I think it speaks to the production being bigger and the resources that we’re putting behind the BIG3.”
Thompson is a longtime host for Fox but a rookie on the BIG3 broadcast as a studio host, rotating duties with Mike Hill and Kristina Pink on a weekly basis. The biggest thing she’s learned in covering the league is that the players, despite participating in what is viewed as a “retirement league” by some, take it as seriously as anything.
“The time commitment they’re making to travel, to practice, it’s not just sort of a throwaway game on the weekend,” Thompson said. “I don’t want people to confuse the BIG3 with, like, a pickup game on the street. Because yes, there is that element, but these guys take themselves very seriously.”
Jackson also noted a much more serious vibe heading into year two, with some players working out year-round to get ready for their summer of hoops.
“Guys are coming in better in shape, more tuned in to what they have to do to have their games on point,” Jackson says. “A lot of them have just worked all year round to play and be at their best for opening day.”
The rest of the broadcast team on FS1 includes play-by-play man Brian Custer and Michael Rapaport, who returns as a sideline reporter. Year two of the BIG3 might include some new faces, but it’s also about building on the continuity a first season created for the league and some of its teams — Jackson said to expect much more strategy from teams this summer.
“I think the biggest thing is guys know and understand the strategy behind 3-on-3,” Jackson says. “The first four or five games last year were kind of choppy because even though you’ve played 3-on-3, before there’s a strategy behind it, a mindset you need. You’re going to see a lot more strategic thinking: using the 4-point line, utilize isolations on the weak side or strong side of the court. Pick-and-rolls are going to be really valuable.”
While Thompson didn’t want to single any one player out, Jackson is excited for the addition of Baron Davis, who will play for 3’s Company as a co-captain this year.
“That should be great,” Jackson says. “I watched Baron play over at UCLA and he’s still got a lot of moves. Maybe not as quick and athletic, but his mind is still there. We have a great influx of guys.”