The opportunity to create and oversee the look of an entirely new professional sports league is a rare thing indeed.
Big3, America’s new 3-on-3 professional basketball league, came calling in the fall of 2016. Working with the league’s co-founders—legendary rapper and actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, along with their talented team, every single visual detail, starting with the league’s primary identity as well as the design of the Big3’s signature half court—was attended to with precision and care. The league was officially launched at a press conference in New York City on January 11, 2017.
Big3’s inaugural lineup of eight teams needed and deserved unique and marketable complete identity systems, built with flexibility and varied usage in mind. There were multiple challenges here, among them the fact that the teams are not linked to any specific location. Ice Cube and I hunkered down and collaborated on the look of each team in a fast-moving and immersive process. (Here’s an ESPN article that details the partnership and some of the thinking behind that process.)
Each team identity needed to be robust and extendable. The underpinnings of a league-wide licensing program were a constant consideration, with a series of assets that spun off of the primary logo of each team. Each asset serves to support the core team brand, an especially important thing when introducing teams with no history, no home region, and no individual fan base.
Killer 3’s is all about bold horizontal motion and a spare, effectively deployed color palette. Every uniform component is intentionally horizontal, including player names. The uniform numbers are a little wider than usually seen as they are decidedly unembellished, with no outlines.
Tri-State was a team name that defied easy depiction, so I came up with a theme that reflected the familiar graphics of the American interstate—red, white, and blue, with a healthy dollop of stars and stripes. After we completed the identity Julius Erving was named as the team’s coach—a happy visual coincidence considering the optics of the uniforms he wore as a New York Net and a Philadelphia 76er.
3’s Company is centered around NBA Hall of Famer and team coach Alan Iverson. I explored several options here, including a military corps theme, but it ultimately became a factory—a basketball company with an old school vibe, as reflected in the spare and traditional uniforms.
Ghost Ballers was inspired by a sketch that Ice Cube drew and then texted to me—a baller ghost, on the move. The accompanying typography echoes the ghost’s movement, a wispy and slightly mysterious flow, backed up by a spirited purple color.
The identity for Power had to be centered around the team name, a typographic approach. I selected a vibrant blue color that would translate especially well to the uniforms, knowing that it’d look great on broadcast.
Trilogy is a fun take on a b-movie theme, with a dripping basketball/eyeball that is foreboding, but not too scary. The front uniform numbers are off-center, a small touch of visual chaos that dovetails with the theme which helps contribute to a proprietary and distinct look.
The Three Headed Monsters identity is a study in symmetry that’s both fun and dynamic. A strong customized wordmark serves as the foundation for the whole package, easily peeled off of the primary logo and applied to a series of solid, memorable uniforms.
Ball Hogs was the last of the inaugural eight teams to get an identity, Ice Cube gave me a simple edict, communicated via email: “Have fun.” The punchy green and gold color palette provides great personality, as does the determined, all-business pig that I created as the focal point of the whole deal. He has a headband, he is resolute, and there’s no way you are prying the ball away from his cloven hooves.
I created custom numbers for each team and designed the on-court look of all teams; uniforms and shooting shirts. I also selected an outfitter, OT Sports in Burlington, North Carolina, and oversaw the manufacturing process, which commenced in May, 2017.
The historic inaugural season of Big3 basketball kicked off on June 25, 2017, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I, along with more than 15,000 other spectators, witnessed hoops history that day, as a league was officially born.