The dream of Kobe Bryant making an appearance in the BIG3 was sadly short-lived.
After league co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz hinted on a conference call that the NBA's No. 3 all-time leading scorer was planning to play next season in Ice Cube's summer three-on-three league for retired pros, a spokeswoman for Kobe Inc. shot the rumors down.
Bryant joining the BIG3 would bring an unprecedented amount of attention to the league, which will play its championship game Friday. But even if doesn't happen, there's no shortage of high-profile former NBA players who have yet to make an appearance and could add some fresh star power in the third season.
Here are a few of them.
Sheed is such a perfect BIG3 player that it's genuinely shocking he hasn't made an appearance in the league. The cantankerous but fun-loving personality is there, and his ability to play in the paint and on the perimeter should make it easy to build a roster around him.
Three of his former Jail Blazers teammates—Jermaine O'Neal, Bonzi Wells and Qyntel Woods—were in the league this year, so he'd have plenty of company.
Wallace, a noted hip-hop fanatic, would likely jump at the chance to hang out with Ice Cube on a regular basis.
Marion's former Phoenix Suns teammate Amar'e Stoudemire made his BIG3 debut this season. Marion didn't have much left at the NBA level during his final campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15, but he should still be able to hold his own in this league, providing tough perimeter defense and that funky shot of his that somehow manages to go in.
He's a big enough name to attract some buzz, as evidenced by his four All-Star Game appearances between 2003 and 2007. The Matrix will always have fans.
He also has the kind of all-around game to help a three-on-three team. After acting as an important glue guy on so many NBA teams, he'd offer the same qualities in the BIG3.
Carter recently signed a one-year minimum deal with the Atlanta Hawks, and he has hinted this will be his last season in the NBA. Over the past few years with Memphis and Sacramento, Carter proved he still has something left in the tank, including a surprising amount of hops for a 41-year-old.
Assuming he does retire after the coming season, he'll be a prime candidate to enter the BIG3 pool and stay in the game.
As one of the most popular and recognizable players of the past two decades, he'd instantly become a headline attraction for the BIG3. The league aims to create a summer showcase for diehard basketball fans, and bringing a dose of Vinsanity to the dog days of July and August is an ideal way to do so.
The Professor retired from the NBA in 2016 and has mostly kept a low profile since then. He carved out a 17-year NBA career playing the kind of low-athleticism, fundamentals-based game that will make him a dominant rec-league player for the rest of his life, making him a perfect fit for a league like the BIG3.
He'd be a natural fit to drop dimes to the likes of Nate Robinson and Al Harrington in the BIG3.
Crawford has not officially retired from the NBA yet, but he remains unsigned. Even if he catches on with a team this season, the 38-year-old's NBA career is nearing its end.
At the same time, we can assume he's still going to find ways to hoop when his time in the NBA is up. He constantly plays pickup games in his hometown of Seattle during the offseason, so getting buckets against other retired NBA players in the BIG3 is the most natural transition imaginable for the next stage of his life.
Although he's fallen out of favor a bit in the NBA as an inefficient gunner who doesn't play defense, those will not be issues for him in the BIG3. With the rest of his competition in varying degrees of playing shape, his unmatched crossover will be effective for years to come.