About two months ago, before the inaugural BIG3 season even began, 3-Headed Monsters captain Rashard Lewis got a phone call from Ray Allen. The retired NBA superstar had been in Portland and was driving up to Seattle.
“Man, I just had to call you,” Allen said to Lewis. “I’m pulling into Seattle right now. It’s bringing back so many memories. I just had to call you.”
Allen and Lewis were teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics from 2003-07 (and again with the Miami Heat from 2012-14).
Lewis was so glad to hear from his old friend. “And I told him that was crazy,” Lewis recalled, “because I knew I was going to be out there in just a couple of months.”
Two months later, Lewis is in Seattle getting ready to lead his 3-Headed Monsters into the BIG3 playoffs, which will take place Sunday at Seattle’s Key Arena.
Lewis said he understood Allen’s excitement about being back in Seattle.
“I’m excited to go back there, too,” he said. “Just to look around and see everything. I kinda grew into a man in Seattle – I was a teenager when I got there.”
Lewis came straight out of high school when he was drafted by the Sonics. He fell in love with the city – it’s where he met his wife, who went to the University of Washington – and he learned from the veteran players there.
One of those veteran players is currently his coach with the 3-Headed Monsters – Hall of Famer Gary Payton.
Lewis said that seeing how competitive and fiery Payton was as a player helped his own development. “You take pieces from everybody,” Lewis said. “I took pieces from Gary, pieces from Ray Allen. I learned different things from different players along the way that helped me get to the next level.”
In addfition to Lewis and Payton, Reggie Evans of the Killer 3s also played for the Sonics.
Coming back to Seattle is extra special for Lewis and the rest of the BIG3 players since that city lost its NBA franchise in 2008. The Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder that year, so Sunday’s playoffs will be the official return of men’s professional basketball there. (The city still has the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.)
When BIG3 co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz set out to create the 2017 schedule, Seattle was always in the plans. They knew what a passionate basketball city Seattle is, so they saw it as a great way for Seattle basketball fans to enjoy the game.
As Andrew Sharp noted in a 2010 story on SBNation.com, the city has a rich basketball history – one that goes well beyond the loss of the SuperSonics.
“Almost like a reminder of the NBA's absurd oversight, Seattle's basketball culture continues to thrive,” Sharp wrote. “More than ever, we're talking about one of the three or four best basketball cities in the country, with grassroots programs and intense high school rivalries, Seattle U's burgeoning program, UW's perennially contending Huskies, the Seattle Storm, and a pipeline to the NBA that's unmatched by just about any city in the country.”
That pipeline includes current Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and 2017 first-round draft pick Markelle Fultz.
According to CBS Seattle, here is a list of the top NBA players who hail from the Seattle area:
- Brandon Roy
- Jamal Crawford
- Jason Terry
- Doug Christie
- James Edwards
- Marvin Williams
- Isaiah Thomas
- Spencer Hawes
- Michael Dickerson
- Rodney Stuckey