NBA: The Association Is Back But There’s More Places Where Players Can Play

By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)

With the NBA preseason underway, the league in general is looking forward to another exciting season featuring newer talents, like the likes of Zion Williamson and the hyped-up rookie class he’s leading.

As new stars force their way into the spotlight, there are some players who we’ve come to know for years that still waiting for a call to be part of some team’s 2019-2020 roster, although a harsh reality is that a list of players including Jamal Crawford, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Joakim Noah may have received their last calls from any NBA team.

If that’s the case, that would be a shame, these are all players that still have a lot in the tank and can contribute to any playoff or title contender. However, if it is the end of the NBA line for this class of NBA players, none of them have a shortage of options, particularly Anthony and Crawford.

These players should consider playing in alternative leagues, including Ice Cube’s BIG3 and The Basketball Tournament (TBT), and those leagues should welcome those talents with open arms due to potentially beneficial mutual relationships between the leagues and the unclaimed, soon-to-be former NBA stars.

Newer professional leagues such as TBT and BIG3 were created to provide opportunities for players to continue playing the game they on one of the highest competitive stages against quality talent while making an honest living for themselves.

Adding big-time professional players like Anthony, Crawford and Smith to their leagues would boost their platforms and exposure all across the world, ultimately creating additional revenue to keep the league afloat and paying the players and coaches committed wages while elevating the competiveness on a  nightly basis throughout the league. 

The BIG3 has grown substantially in its three-year existence. Many former NBA players like Corey Maggette, Nate Robinson and Stephen Jackson, to name a few, have all used this platform to continue playing the game they love while make a consistent honest living check from it, even if it was clear that the majority of them lost a step on the floor. But the league was boosted to a higher level thanks to the success story of 2019 BIG3 MVP Joe Johnson.

Johnson was a former NBA player that could not get a contract last off-season, which led him to commit to the BIG3. Johnson was cold-blooded throughout the course of the season, taking his “Iso Joe” persona to new heights as he led the league in just about every offensive category. After winning MVP, he regained access back into the league after signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Detroit Pistons. 

Although the TBT is mainly a showcase for university alumni, the league manages to provide opportunities for professionals who may have had a cup or coffee in the NBA or may have spent the majority of their post-college career in the G League or overseas.

Professional players who don’t even have ties to a particular alumni base can even participate in the TBT as hired help. One such player in the 2019 TBT was Demetri McCamey, former University of Illinois Fighting-Illini guard/forward. McCamey served as an honorary player for Ohio State’s Carmen’s Crew partly due to his friendship with current Atlanta Hawks forward and Chicago (St. Joseph High School) native Evan Turner.

McCamey believes that the TBT can eventually be an alternative league for professional athletes to play for instead of going overseas. 

“You can [play in TBT] and compete at the highest level and if you win the money you won’t have to go overseas,” McCamey told me after the TBT championship game. “You can stay home and get better or still go overseas and get double. It all depends on the plan but it definitely gives you that flexibility to decide what you want to do.” 

Beyond Johnson, Crawford and Anthony are the best bets to get themselves back in the NBA within a year’s time if they merely take a high-profile detour.

We know that although Crawford has been in the league for 20 years, the three-time Sixth Man of the Year award winner still has value to bring to any title contender that require his services. Crawford’s year-long devotion to the game also shows in his “Crawsover” Summer League, which counts future, current and former NBA players among its ranks.

The 39-yr-old averaged eight points and four assists a game last season with the Phoenix Suns. Within the final four games of the past season, Crawford averaged 31 points a game and six assists a game, which included a historical 51-point outburst against the Dallas Mavericks that made him the oldest player to score 50-plus points in a game.

Anthony, 17-year veteran, is a bonafide scorer as well, among the very best of his generation and arguably considered one of the top scorers in league history. Anthony has a career average of 24 points a game and averaged 16 points during his season as a third option behind Paul George and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and in the 10 games he played with the Rockets averaged 13 points. 

Both players have skill-sets similar to Johnson’s regarding their abilities to breakdown their defenders in isolation situations and exploit their abilities to create their own shots while shooting the ball relatively efficiently and with the ability to take over any given game with ease.

With the kind of high scoring ability Melo and Crawford can provide, either man could challenge the records Johnson put up in the BIG3 and deepen the argument the league is providing more each year that it is a major player as far as providing excitement and entertainment to crossover audiences just as the NBA does.  

Johnson’s 2019 in the BIG3 has paved the way for former NBA players to consider other options besides begging for one of the final spots on a given NBA roster. In the TBT or the BIG3 they can do what they do best — ball — and let their on-court efforts be all the proof they need to provide unsure front offices.

Crawford and Anthony are more than worthy of getting another shot in the NBA, especially for the many title contenders in both wide-open conferences. But the idea of Crawford or Anthony along with other high quality professionals in the BIG3 or TBT are partnerships that can benefit all parties and may be the missing piece to revitalizing quite a few fading professional basketball careers.  

 Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media 

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