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On the NBA Beat Ep. 99: Oliver Maroney: Big3 Players Really “Looking to Prove Something”

Oliver Maroney, basketball writer for Dime on Uproxx and host of The Big3 Show, calls in to discuss the Big3 tour just as it concludes its regular season and prepares for Sunday’s semifinal round in Seattle. Maroney gets into the business and marketing side of things, while also, of course, delving into the basketball issues at play. For instance, we’ll find out which team is most likely to challenge the undefeated Trilogy squad and whom he favors to take home the inaugural MVP trophy. Just a one-year novelty experiment? Oliver thinks not. He argues that this league has staying power. Listen to find out why that is.

3:24-3:41: “Obviously there’s nostalgia involved, but I think people are just overlooking the fact that this is a competitive basketball league and not just something where retired players go to play. This is something a little bit more than that. They’ve got camaraderie, all the players enjoy each other, and it’s just very different from your normal NBA atmosphere.”

12:10-13:57: “The players love it because that’s the 1990s way. [In] 1980s, 1990s NBA basketball, hand-checking wasn’t allowed and there was more physical play allowed, and now you get to this day and age where players are paid $200 million-plus over five or six years, and teams want to keep their guys healthy, so the only way to kind of eliminate injuries is by just making it a non-contact sport, which it’s almost essentially become…This league, it’s completely the opposite…They’ve tried to take it back a little bit. They’ve tried to make it more physical, and I think you can tell on the floor. When you’re standing there or at the game, you can tell. It’s just so much more physical. It’s a cross between kind of like a boxing match and an NBA game from the 1990s, just because players are really going at it, they’re yelling at each other, the arguing’s there. The competitive nature of these players is still all intact, and they don’t hold back.”

17:06-18:02: “The team game or the team aspect of this is much more vocal than it is movement-based I think. A lot of this is communication, because these players need to know that if they are going to go 1-on-1, how are they going to set their teammates up for the best offensive possession. You need to set picks at the right moment. It’s very precise. You watch Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and you see kind of like how he plays the game. It is very precise. He’s watching everybody on the court at one time essentially…I was talking with Marcus Banks about this, who was playing against him this weekend. He just said, ‘That guy has basketball IQ that’s unlike any other.’ And I think you can definitely tell that on the floor and players know that much more when you’re playing 3-on-3 versus 5-on-5 because they’re held accountable defensively and offensively.”

20:30-21:29: “Obviously, some of them, they came off not playing basketball for a season or two, so do they have to get their bodies back to where it was? Sure. But when you look at a guy like Ricky Davis, he’s been working out ever since he got out of the NBA and hasn’t stopped. They still continue to grind. I don’t think people understand [this]: When you’re in the NBA or when you’re in any professional sport for that matter, you love the game, and you have a passion for it more than just about anybody else that you know, and if you don’t do that anymore, it feels weird. Most of these players, they talk about it. Being retired is strange. What do you do with your time? How do you deal with yourself? So they go back to what they know, which is working out, playing basketball. Most of these guys play pick-up basketball. Most guys work out multiple times a day. That is part of their daily routine. The injuries, while they’re there and they’re going to be there no matter what, I don’t think the probability is that much higher that these guys get injured over anyone else.”

27:24-28:07: “Allen Iverson was never expected to play. He actually came in and said he’s gonna be a player-coach. And he came in and played a couple games and was not exactly up to shape…I think the level of play and the competitiveness of the games shocked him to a point where he said, ‘I’m not good enough to play. I’m gonna allow Andre Owens to play, because quite frankly Andre Owens is a much better player at this point in his career.’ So I think he did what was best for his team. Now, was it best for the fans? Probably not, but I think you look at that situation, and you tell yourself, ‘If you want this league to stay competitive and you want this league to not be about celebrities, I think Allen Iverson was smart in the sense that he decided to take a backseat to other players.’”

34:23-34:46: “You look at 3-Headed Monsters, and I think that’s probably the biggest competition for them [Trilogy]. They have Kwame Brown, a big man down low who’s pretty versatile and has done a lot for that team. And then Rashard Lewis can bang in the post at any point, and in this league, you’ve seen him just dominate. He’s probably the frontrunner for MVP right now just because of the way he’s been able to manhandle people down low and still hit the outside shot.”

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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod