NBA Champion Jason Terry Comes to BIG3 With ‘More to Give’ to Basketball
The BIG3 will soon be back for its third season, with more teams, more cities and a new broadcast partner (CBS Sports Network). To celebrate the impending return of Ice Cube's three-on-three basketball league, CloseUp360 spoke with five notable hoops luminaries involved in the league, who will be serving as players or coaches on the circuit this summer. On Monday, we featured NBA veteran-turned-BIG3 MVP and champion Corey Maggette. On Tuesday, it was Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, the reigning BIG3 Coach of the Year. On Wednesday, Ricky Davis, a 12-year NBA veteran and the BIG3’s last scoring leader, took center stage.
Today, we talk with NBA champion and BIG3 rookie Jason Terry.
If the NBA seemed awfully quiet this season, it was probably because Jason Terry wasn’t on the court. After 19 campaigns in the Association, the notoriously loquacious guard spent the year coaching his Lady Jets youth basketball team and broadcasting for Turner Sports, ESPN and the Pac-12 Network.
The man known to many as “The Jet,” though, evidently still had something to give the game as a player. So rather than spend the summer primarily traversing Nike’s EYBL circuit or relaxing on vacation, he’ll be suiting up in the BIG3 as rookie captain of Trilogy.
During the BIG3’s recent media day in Las Vegas, Jason spoke with CloseUp360 about why he joined Ice Cube’s league, his coaching aspirations, which NBA legends he did (and didn’t) try to recruit, and more.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Jason Terry won an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. (BIG3/Chapman Baehler)
CloseUp360: How's the introduction to the BIG3?
Jason Terry: It's been fun, man. Come out, see faces you haven't seen before. You also see athletes that you're very familiar with that have worked very hard to get in shape, to make one of these teams and to be able to go out this summer and showcase the BIG3 and put on a great show for all the basketball fans around the country.
CU360: What kind of shape are you in?
JT: Extraordinary. One thing about me: I always stay ready. Basketball is a lifestyle for me, so being in shape just comes with it.
CU360: You've been super busy obviously this year, even though you haven't been in the NBA. You've been broadcasting, you've been coaching your girls' teams. What's this year away from the NBA been like for you overall?
JT: Well, it's been a transition. Obviously I've not been out on the floor playing, but taking on my other passions as far as broadcast and coaching, being able to spend a little bit more time with the family. Honestly, it's been good. It's been a good change of pace for me and it's something that I had prepared for during the last four to five years of my career. So I'm very excited about what the future holds.
CU360: What had you been doing over the last several years to prepare yourself for that transition?
JT: On the coaching front, I served primarily as a player-coach in Houston under Kevin McHale and J.B. Bickerstaff. And then going to Milwaukee the last two years, a very similar role, being allowed to be involved in all the coaches' meetings, game film, game planning, other types of situations—and even player development on the court was my role. And so I think that's helped me as I chase and pursue my dream of being a coach at some level.
CU360: How important do you think it is for NBA players to prepare for that next step before they've left the league?
JT: I think it's very important. Obviously you're blessed with the opportunity to play the game you love for a certain amount or period of time. But after that time is over with, there's a light that goes off. So I can't tell you what your path is or what your purpose is that you're trying to achieve. But for me, I knew what it was. I'm passionate about it, and I have to do everything in my power to stay prepared and be ready.
CU360: And you've been coaching a girls' AAU team for about the last decade or so.
JT: Yes. I've ran my own basketball organization, [the Lady Jets], for about 12 years in the city of Dallas. This past year, we joined Jermaine O'Neal's organization, which is Drive Nation Sports, who is also part of the BIG3. I serve as a co-president, and I run the girls’ side and we're on the Nike EYBL circuit. So along with those duties, I also coach the top team. And again, this is something that I've been involved with for over 12 years now. To be able to join with Jermaine and continue to impact the lives of youth is something that I'm truly passionate about, and something that I'll do for the rest of my life.
CU360: Are your daughters involved at all with your teams?
JT: You know what? For years, my daughters played. My oldest is a junior now in college. My second oldest will be attending college next year at Arizona State, but they do not play. I have an eighth-grade daughter that plays, and my other two younger daughters, 10 and four, are not quite ready yet, so they do not play currently. But I treat all these kids like they're my own. You spend as much time as I do with these young women and young men, you pretty much take them in and treat them as if they were your own.
CU360: Now considering that experience—coaching girls’ teams, coaching a little bit in Houston and Milwaukee—do you see coaching as the focus of your post-playing life now?
JT: 100 percent. While I am still pursuing in my broadcasting career, I can tell you right now I'm very comfortable in that role. If the opportunity presents itself in a coaching capacity, it would be something that I'd have to look at and weigh. But right now, I stay prepared. I watch guys at practice, so I'm still getting those coaching reps as I'm waiting for that opportunity to present itself. Every day is a new experience for me, and I just make sure I stay prepared.
CU360: Broadcasting seemed like a natural fit for someone like you who's as gregarious and affable as you were throughout your NBA career. What's that transition been like and what have you enjoyed most about being a part of the broadcasting world?
JT: It's been another smooth transition for me. I always talk about preparation. You're going to continue to hear me say this, but the NBPA did a wonderful job of providing a broadcasting opportunity for me that I partook in, along with some of my other NBA counterparts. It gave you all the ins and outs about TV, and it taught you how to conduct yourself in front of the camera, how to articulate yourself, how to prepare yourself as you're beginning to go on set. And so I think that experience alone is what has made this transition seamless as I embarked on my broadcasting career.
CU360: What is it that you're looking forward to most about playing in the BIG3?
JT: Obviously it's entertainment. I want to entertain the fans that have gave so much to me throughout my career. And then at the same time, I'm here to win, I'm here to win a championship. I've won at every level. This should be no different because again, if you look at it, this three-on-three [league], you've got guys that are super ultra competitive that have played the game of basketball at the highest of levels. So we're going to have fun, but we're going to compete at the end of the day and we are trying to win.
CU360: What's it been like for you to connect or reconnect with a lot of guys who you played with or played against throughout your pro career?
JT: It's been fun. I mean, it's a brotherhood and obviously we've crossed paths throughout the years. Whenever we're in each guy's city where they may reside, we may get together for dinner or something like that. So these are relationships that you've fostered over your entire career, whether competed against or played with, and it's a relationship, a bond that lasts forever. NBA players, we stay close. It's a tight-knit group.
CU360: Did you or have you recruited any players to come play in the BIG3?
JT: One player I recruited was Tre Simmons out of Seattle, starred at the University of Washington, played over in Asia for the last two years. He's a guy that tried to make his way to the NBA. But now that he's in the BIG3, he can at least compete and prove to some of the guys that he's competing against that he belongs. That's why I love it for a guy like that to get that opportunity. He's the best shooter in the BIG3, and he hasn't played one game yet.
Jason has five daughters and runs a girls' AAU program. (BIG3/Chapman Baehler)
CU360: You're from Seattle, too. There's a number of guys in the BIG3 at different levels with Seattle ties. What does that tell you about the longevity of the Seattle basketball scene even without the Sonics around?
JT: It's strong, and it's a bond that we'll relish for a lifetime because of that solid support and foundation. Everybody that is a part of your city supported you. I'm talking about Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Dale Ellis. All the old Sonic guys came, they were visible, and that showed us that some guys, if you look like us, you aspire to be something, we can play some great basketball. The odds of being a professional athlete are already small, but to have so many guys come out of one area, it's just phenomenal. It just goes to show you about the brotherhood we have. Doug Christie, Jamal Crawford, all those guys, after they made it, [they] did their job and made sure the next generation had it easier than we did.
CU360: You, in particular, are close with Jason Kidd. Have you made or did you make any effort to try to get him to play in the BIG3 this year?
JT: You know what? J-Kidd is busy and focused on his family. And he already told me, once he was done playing, he was done playing. I left him alone, but I did reach out to KG [Kevin Garnett]. That's my guy. And if he wanted to ever lace them up, I'd love to see him do it.
CU360: Do you think he would?
JT: I doubt it. It was a good thought for me because I'm just, like, three-on-three basketball, the way he played the game, he would just dominate.
CU360: Why do you think it is that he wouldn't want to play?
JT: KG? You've got to understand, guys that have played as long as they did in their careers and now are retired, they are searching out other passions in their life. For them, they would rather watch and cheer us on because they gave all they could give to the game. When I retired, I still thought I had a little bit more to give, so this will be my opportunity to do so.
CU360: How is it that you came to be involved with the BIG3 to begin with?
JT: I took my daughters to the game in Dallas, sat courtside. [Ice] Cube comes in. Cube says, “I've got a jersey for you.” I said, “You know what, Cube? I've been a fan of yours since Day 1. I promise the day I hang 'em up, I'm coming right to see you.” I said, “I'm a man of my word.” So now that I said so, I'm out here.
CU360: What does it say to you about someone like Cube, who never played at a professional level but obviously has had success in other areas, could come in and be such a force for change and creative good in the basketball world by way of the BIG3?
JT: Ice Cube is a cultural icon. What he's done for kids like myself growing up in the inner city, the impact that he's had on my career on and off the court, people aspire to be who Ice Cube is. And so it's just an honor to be able to align myself with him in the business, and to go out and entertain with someone of his stature. I think the impact of Ice Cube throughout this country is just phenomenal, throughout the world. I mean, he is a cultural icon. I can truly say that.
CU360: It's a pretty good thing that he's putting that cultural icon of his to work in the service of a game that you love so much, too.
JT: It's amazing because, again, you're talking about a guy that grew up idolizing Cube—not only for the music or the entertainment, but the way he's conducted himself as a businessman, the character that he's had. This is a dream come true for us, so for him to feel the way he does about our game, I just think it’s his give-back to be able to give up a platform to still go out here and entertain. I'm humbled by the opportunity and I'm excited about what the future brings.
Check back on Friday for the final installment of our BIG3 series with WNBA legend and Triplets coach Lisa Leslie.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.