Jason Terry is joining the BIG3, aiming to break the 4-point record and proud of his influence on Giannis, Harden
Jason Terry can’t stay away from the game. He spent 19 seasons in the NBA, and, as recently as December, said he would be willing to come out of retirement if the Mavericks, Warriors or Lakers called him. The 41-year-old has been running and coaching a Dallas-based girls AAU team — named the Lady Jets, for obvious reasons — for more than a decade. He spent the last few years of his career getting what he called “on-the-job training as a basketball head coach,” conducting film sessions and sitting in every meeting with Jason Kidd’s staff in Milwaukee. Recently, you’ve probably seen him on TV, doing Players Only broadcasts for Turner, studio work for ESPN and color commentary for the Pac-12 Network.
“It’s all a part of my passion,” Terry told CBS Sports. “I’m a basketball lifer. Once I put that NBA uniform on, I knew I’d be part of this game forever.”
This summer, Terry will be back on the court with the BIG3, the 3-on-3 league co-founded by Ice Cube. He is already talking about winning the championship, which is fitting for someone who, eight months before getting a ring with the Dallas Mavericks, tattooed the Larry O’Brien trophy on his right bicep.
Joining the BIG3 is “all about giving the fans excitement and another lasting memory of the JET,” Terry said. He has fond memories of 3-on-3 basketball spanning a lifetime: playing outside in Seattle as a kid, participating in the massive Hoopfest tournament, checking the ball to fellow pros after they were done with 5-on-5 runs in the offseason. He said he has made a “smooth transition” into the next phase of his life — broadcasting and coaching — but spending the summer with “legendary friends” sounded too fun to pass up.
In an interview over the phone, Terry discussed his desire to break a specific BIG3 record, the joy of yelling, “Players Only, baby!” and the pride he feels watching former teammates Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden battle for MVP. This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
CBS Sports: Why are you joining the BIG3?
Jason Terry: The biggest reason, the No. 1 reason, is my love for the game and for the fans. Watching the BIG3 the last two years — the first year I was able to attend the championship game in Vegas, last year I was at one of the home games in Dallas — sitting courtside, I promised Cube, the very first year that I retire, that I will play in the BIG3. One, it’s an entertaining league. Two, a lot of the guys playing — you’re talking about Jermaine O’Neal, Nate Robinson, Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson — these are all guys that either were on my team or I played against while I was in the league, so we’re a tight brotherhood. That relationship alone, and then having fun, going out and playing the game that you love in front of the fans, touring around the United States with fans that haven’t gotten seen you play in a while, is ultra-fun. And then, when you’ve got Hall of Famers like Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton — who I idolized when I grew up, who mentors me — as a part of a league like this, why wouldn’t you come out and play and have fun. And compete. Don’t get me wrong, now, we’re going to have a lot of fun, but I won at every level and I don’t see it stopping now. And being able to compete for a championship in the BIG3 will be definitely historic and another legendary mark for myself.
CBS: When you were watching courtside, did part of you want to get out there and go hit a 4-point shot?
JT: Yeah, you’re talking about a 4-point shot, I’m talking about breaking the 4-point shot record. That is going to be one of my weapons in this game. Being a guy that, in the NBA, is fifth all-time in 3-point shooting, this is right up my alley. And so I love it. I love that dynamic of the game. I think it’s a part of the game that, guys in today’s NBA, they shoot it from long range but they only get three points for it. Now we’re out here in the BIG3, I’m going to get four points for something that I ordinarily did. An extra point goes a long way for me.
CBS: What have your former teammates and friends in the BIG3 told you about it?
JT: Well, the biggest thing they said was it’s cool, it’s another opportunity for us to get together and hang out and then play in a competitive environment in front of the fans. I mean, they just said it’s a laid-back environment. They said Cube is hands-on, but he’s a fan of the game.
CBS: Brian Scalabrine told me you need guys in the BIG3 that can go get buckets one-on-one. From a strategic perspective, what are you looking forward to here?
JT: I’m going to give you two dynamics that really, really drew me into the BIG3. One of them is from the management-player perspective. When you’re in the position of captain-coach, you not only have the responsibility of playing, but you have the responsibility of assembling a team. Being able to take ownership in the GM perspective, something that I aspire to be one day — and coach as well — getting to do some of those things in the BIG3 in that capacity I think is very advantageous for guys that are aspiring to have those roles in the future. So that was fun, that was intriguing for me. The other part is from a strategic standpoint, of going out and playing 3-on-3 basketball. If you watch the NBA and how it’s played, it’s 5-on-5, but in the halfcourt, there’s times when you’re going to play two-man basketball. Playing two-man basketball, and then drawing the defense, and then involving that third guy when the help comes, those are situations that you’ve been in time and time again your whole career. You just didn’t realize it.
CBS: What’s it like to see Giannis and the Bucks do what they’re doing this season?
JT: You’re a proud coach, a proud mentor, so to speak, because you know the preparation, the work that was put into the process of them getting to where they’re at now. And to speak directly toward Giannis and his growth and development, it’s just a joy to watch. Because you knew when you were putting those hard hours in the night before the game, early-morning sessions, film sessions, individual sessions, you knew that the work he was doing was going to pay off. Now, the fact that we’re not there to touch it and feel it but we can see it, still you get the same feeling of satisfaction to see where they’re going now. Because, again, we made it to the playoffs two years in a row, got defeated, and we knew eventually this team would break through.
CBS: You’re one of the few guys that has played with both Giannis and James Harden. What’s it like to watch those two guys competing for MVP?
JT: When I got to Houston, James was starting to come into his own as an elite scorer-facilitator. But the thing about James was he was reluctant to take more shots and, you know, not be as efficient. Now what you see is the fearlessness. It doesn’t matter. He will shoot to win. If he has to take 30 shots, he’ll do it. And these are some of the conversations we were having in the locker room, at practice on the practice court and even in games. I would be in timeouts and I would pull James aside and just kind of direct him and tell him what I’ve seen out there on the floor and how he could attack and approach certain situations. So to see him now and his progression, it makes me feel proud, man. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job as an NBA player and, when I left this game, I left it in a better place. And two of the guys that are having a lot of success right now on an elite level, I physically touched them and gave them something that has fueled them in their growth and development.
CBS: During his crazy scoring streak, some people thought he was being selfish. If you’re that talented and willing to sacrifice efficiency and put the team on your back, can that sometimes be the most selfless thing to do?
JT: No doubt about it. And for me, I can specifically go back to certain instances when I would tell him before the game. We had a code. It was, “Man, I need David Robinson tonight. I need it.” David Robinson was a code for 50 points. ‘Cause I felt on that night, that’s what we needed for him to do for us to win. And now I can see it. I mean, that streak he had, from December to February, multiple games of 40 points, multiple games of 30 points, that record, chasing Wilt Chamberlain, that was directly from me thinking of the conversations that we had. And I don’t want to take complete credit for it, ’cause obviously, he has to do the work, but it wasn’t that he didn’t have the ability. It was the mindset. The mindset for him to do whatever it takes for him to win.
CBS: Is the best part of a Players Only broadcast the fact that you get to yell, “Players Only, Baby?”
JT: [Laughs] That’s funny you say that. And it’s definitely a catchy phrase. We all understand where we’re going with it. But giving the players a platform to broadcast and talk about the game they love from our perspective, only a player can do that, right? Only a guy that experienced this game at the level at which we have. Truly an honor to be a part of the franchise, and I think the coolest part for me is being at the games, being on the court and then after the games, being able to call the guys over, interview them and ask them questions that I know I hated people to ask me. It just kills me ’cause I know they hate it. But when they see Jason the JET coming up to ’em, a guy they respect and love, they’re never reluctant to answer a question.