Al Jefferson is excited about returning to Salt Lake City with the BIG3 Basketball league. He spent three of his 14 NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz. Though Jefferson’s time with the Jazz was short lived, the stint made a huge impression on him. “I feel like Utah really saved my career,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune.
BIG3 gives Al Jefferson a chance to visit NBA cities he called home
The Boston Celtics drafted the 6-foot-10, 280-pound center, straight out of high-school in Mississippi. The veteran big man was one of the few who successfully transitioned from high-school to the NBA without going to college first.
During his third season with the Celtics, Jefferson doubled his production on the court. During the offseason, they traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In Minnesota his numbers continued to improve, he averaged (20.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks) during his three seasons with the Timberwolves.
It thrilled Jefferson to leave Minnesota for Salt Lake City. “Utah was that team that was used to winning’, Jefferson said. ‘… They kind of taught me the professional way — how a first-class organization does things.”
Trouble in the locker room between future Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams made the move to the Jazz more difficult than Jefferson expected. The chaos led to Sloan quitting abruptly mid-season and Williams being traded the New Jersey Nets.
“I feel like I was headed down that road of being labeled as a good player on a bad team,” he said. “And [the Jazz] gave me a new life.”
Jefferson continued reminiscing about his time in the NBA.
“the NBA don’t owe me anything.”
After playing in China for a short spell Jefferson hung up his high tops and walked away from basketball. His plan was to retire and start a new chapter without basketball. A call from BIG3 and NBA veteran Jannero Pargo changed his retirement plans. Pargo asked him to give Ice Cube’s summer basketball league a shot.
“He called me up and said, ‘We got Joe Johnson playing,’ and I said, ‘Well, you know, that might not be a bad idea,’” Jefferson said with a laugh. “And you know, this has been a lot of fun, man.… If you got that itch, this is a good way to scratch it.”
Back together again
This season Jefferson is averaging 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds for the 4-1 Triplets. Three of the league’s stops have been like old home week for Jefferson and his fans. So far this season he has made stops in Charlotte, and Indianapolis, Salt Lake City completes the three-city trifecta. He playfully took credit for the league’s schedule.
“Wow, they must’ve known I was gonna sign with the BIG3!” Jefferson said.
Fellow former Utah Jazz player, Joe Johnson found success with the BIG3. Johnson is balling and putting up MVP numbers this season. He spoke to the Salt Lake City Tribune about playing with Jefferson in the BIG3 and the Jazz.
“Man, Al’s just a supercool, laid-back kinda guy. He reminds me so much of myself — low-maintenance, easygoing; Al comes out every weekend and competes hard,” Johnson said. “… just takes it for what it’s worth, man, and has fun with it. I enjoy him as a teammate. He’s a great guy.”
BIG3 Season 3 Rules
The BIG3 is comprised of 12 teams. Former NBA players, many of them Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers compete in the half-court games. Games are played in the 3 on 3 format. The first team to 50 gets the W. A 4-point shot area keeps the games interesting. Check out this short video for a more detailed look at the rules for the BIG3 Basketball league.
BIG3 take over in Salt Lake City, Utah
Jefferson explained the excitement and competitiveness the players bring to the league. “It’s really intense. I think the fans will really appreciate that guys are out there playing their butts off and really trying to compete and win.” That’s the kind of hoop skills Utah Jazz can appreciate. Saturday night should give fans going through NBA withdrawal a much needed fix.
When the BIG3 arrives in Salt Lake City Saturday July 28, 2019 Jefferson, Joe Johnson, and DeShawn Stevenson should feel right at home. The former NBA veterans all spent time on the Utah Jazz roster during their NBA careers. Fans can count on a show stopping BIG3 action from their former hometown favorites.
Whether the NBA, NCAA, or Rucker’s streetball the BIG3 has something every hoop fan will love. The league is a throwback to pure basketball, and fundamentals. There’s the banging defense and trash talking of old school basketball, mixed with the flair of today’s NBA. It’s the perfect slice of summer basketball. The games are competitive and entertaining, but short enough so the older or injury prone guys aren’t having issues competing. No one wants to see a winded Hall of Famer looking gassed on the court. The format keeps everyone looking fresh and the games interesting.
Six of the league’s 12 teams will match-up in Salt Lake City. Fans will see 3’s Company vs. Killer 3s; Ball Hogs vs. Triplets; and Bivouac vs. Aliens. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster. Tune in and watch the games live on each week on CBS.