Ice Cube’s Big 3 3-on-3 basketball league is coming to FS1 this summer, and the network has announced who’s going to be involved in calling the games. They’ll feature Gus Johnson on play-by-play, Jim Jackson on analysis and sideline reporter…Michael Rapaport (seen above). Here’s more information from Fox’s release:
Fresh off the 2017 BIG EAST Championship on FOX and FS1, play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson returns to the court alongside analyst Jim Jackson as BIG3’s lead broadcast team. Johnson, an eminent figure throughout the industry, pairs his infectious enthusiasm with Jackson’s extensive NBA experience and unparalleled knowledge of the game.
A frequent contributor to FS1’s daily studio shows, actor and comedian Michael Rapaport joins the veteran duo as a sideline reporter, offering in-game updates and interviews with his signature humor.
Gus Johnson calling this might help draw in some fans, and it’s some more basketball work for him. Johnson rose to prominence as a college basketball announcer with CBS, and while he’s done a lot since then, basketball’s still an area where he excels. He’s been calling Big East games for the last few years and is expected to call Big Ten games this fall under that new Fox rights deal, so this should be a nice ramp-up there for him.
The addition of Rapaport’s quite interesting. Yes, he’s heavily interested in sports and basketball in particular, with his podcast often focusing on that, and yes, he’s been a regular guest on Fox’s debate shows. But how will he do as an on-camera sideline reporter? Granted, they don’t necessarily need to be super serious in covering this league, and there might be an opportunity for more off-beat, humor-focused interviews, but still, throwing Rapaport in here rather than an experienced reporter is an unusual call. Let’s hope he doesn’t start feuding with Dan Le Batard again, and that his role here gets better reviews than his work as a Justified villain.
It’s nice that this will give Jackson some more FS1 work. He was one of their top basketball analysts back in the Fox Sports Live days, and was a regular guest even after that turned into Fox Sports Live with Jay and Dan, but since that show was cancelled in February, there hasn’t been as much of a role for him on the network. (Heck, his official bio still says “Jackson currently serves as a college basketball game and studio analyst and also makes appearances on FS1 signature nightly program FOX SPORTS LIVE to break down college and professional hoops.”)
Jackson has occasionally shown up on the debate shows, but they seem to prefer the hot takes of “NBA Insider” and known haver-of-sources Chris Broussard these days. He does call Big East games for Fox and FS1, and he does work for Westwood One as well, but it’s interesting to see him with a little more of a FS1 presence here. He even appeared on Undisputed to talk about this:
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 24, 2017
The Big 3 has some interesting star power on the court (in addition to the players mentioned above, others involved include Chauncey Billups, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, and Stephen Jackson) and off it (former Raiders’ executive and current CBS analyst Amy Trask is the CEO), and it’s now got some star power in the broadcast booth as well with Johnson in particular. That makes sense; as AA’s Matt Yoder wrote in March, Fox needs more live events for FS1, and quirky-but-potentially-popular things like The Big 3 might be perfect, coming without massive rights fees but with the potential to draw an audience.
The broadcasting announcements here make it seem like Fox is assigning solid talent to this league with Johnson and Jackson, although Rapaport as a sideline reporter is a bit more of a question mark. But if nothing else, his work in that role should be entertaining to watch. We’ll see how it goes.