When the Big 3 Basketball League was initially announced, nobody could have predicted that it would see as much success as it did in its first season. The league was founded by well-known rapper and actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz. The league consists of eight teams, and each game is played on a half-court, in three-on-three fashion.
In just its first season, the league drew familiar and popular faces. Notable names in the successful first year of the league included former NBA players Chauncey Billups, Mike Bibby and Rashard Lewis.
And Florida State All-American Al Thornton.
Thornton completed his career in 2007 as one of the greatest players in school history. He earned All-America Third-Team honors by the Associated Press, was an All-ACC First-Team selection and voted as the ACC Player of the Year runner-up as he enjoyed one of the top senior years in school and ACC history. He became only the second player in school history to earn mention on the first, second or third team All-America teams by the Associated Press and the first Seminole since the 1989 season to earn All-America honors of third-team or better. Thornton was just the second NBA Draft Lottery pick in school history when he was picked in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2007.
As a senior, he was runner-up to Boston College’s Jared Dudley for ACC Player of the Year. His senior year success helped him become the 14th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He played for five seasons in the NBA as a member of the Wizards and the Golden State Warriors.
“I found out about the Big 3 League from a friend of mine, Joe Connelly, who is from the DC area,” said Thornton about his introduction to the league. “Joe works for the Washington Wizards in the NBA. At the time, I was in Venezuela. My season was getting ready to end and the Big 3 was getting ready to start in late June. It was perfect for me. I was one of the guys who didn’t get drafted, but once Joe reached out to me, of course I was interested. Once he [contacted] me, I was able to connect with Allen Iverson.”
Yes, that Allen Iverson. NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson who is the player-coach of 3‘s Company.
Thornton, the youngest player on 3’s Company at 33 years old, enjoyed a resurgent season after spending the last five years playing professionally outside of the United States.
In 2012, Thornton signed with the Guayama Wizards of the Puerto Rican basketball league. He spent the next five years playing in other leagues around the globe, spending most of his time in China and the Philippines.
“I have found that leagues I have played in are more physical and more demanding than others might be,” said Thornton. “I’ve never played in Europe but I’ve heard it’s a different type of game. But I have had the chance to play in the Philippines and China. I think it’s definitely more demanding and physical in the leagues I have played. They expect a lot because there aren’t that many games.
Thornton is back in the United States, hoping to show NBA teams that he still has the necessary tools to play at the highest level.
Thornton averaged 12.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during Big 3 play this summer. He was very happy with his numbers, compiled while playing against others who have earned success in the NBA. He hopes his success in the Big 3 can land him a spot on an NBA roster as a veteran presence on the court.
Although this is the first time in over five years that Thornton has played in a league within the United States, he continues to display the ability to play at a high level.
Thornton was the recipient of the Big 3 Fourth Man of the Year award at the conclusion of the season. The award goes to the league’s best player coming off the bench as a substitute. It’s the NBA equivalent of the NBA’s “Sixth Man of the Year award.
“I think of the Big 3 League as a showcase to allow people to see that I still can play a little bit,” said Thornton. “If teams are interested in me, I am certainly willing to become part of a good situation for me and my family. “Basketball is where my passion is. I love playing the game and that (the NBA) is where I enjoy playing the most, so I would definitely be open to that.”
Don’t be surprised to see Thornton in an NBA jersey in the near future.