Mar 30, 2020 - Sports

BIG3 to create a hybrid reality show about quarantine basketball

Illustration of a basketball on a movie reel

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sports are on pause, and there's no timetable for their return. In the interim, leagues, teams and athletes are getting creative with ways to keep fans engaged.

The latest: A "quarantined reality show basketball tournament," courtesy of the BIG3, the upstart 3-on-3 basketball league founded by Ice Cube and his longtime business partner Jeff Kwatinetz.

Driving the news: The BIG3 has joined forces with Endemol — producers of popular reality shows like "Big Brother" and "Biggest Loser" — to create a hybrid reality show and preseason tournament, starring 16 quarantined players.

  • The show is tentatively titled "Big Brother: BIG3" and is expected to debut the first week of May. If things go well, it could become an annual event for the league, which still plans to open its fourth season on June 20 in Memphis.

How it will work: After receiving a negative test result, 16 players and a set number of referees will be quarantined in a Los Angeles-area home where they will live together and compete in a three-week tournament.

  • The daily lives of the players and officials will be captured on camera and used to create drama and build narratives around the on-court action.
  • But the BIG3 "won't do anything that takes away from the credibility of the games themselves," Kwatinetz says. "It will be real competition. You will see it live."

The big picture: While leagues all around the world wait until it's safe to return to sports, the BIG3 is creating the safe conditions themselves. Whether that's admirable, smart, opportunistic or irresponsible — or some combination of the four — is a question worth asking. Here's Kwatinetz's answer:

"Ice Cube and I, we entertain. That's what we do. It's certainly not as important as what doctors or others do, but that's our contribution to society. So, if we can keep people healthy and safe and also give them things that make them happy — like sports and entertainment — we're going to do it."
— Jeff Kwatinetz, BIG3 co-founder

What to watch ... As the NBA weighs how to resume play in a safe and timely manner, it's considering its own version of quarantine basketball.

  • One of the ideas that has been floated is to use a "sprawling casino property in Las Vegas, where everything could be held under one roof," per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
  • "Others have suggested playing in the Bahamas, where a ballroom could be converted into a playing court specifically for broadcast. There has even been talk of taking over a college campus in the Midwest, where reported cases of COVID-19 are lower for the moment."

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