It has been 16 years since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf last played on the national stage in the NBA.
Thanks to Ice Cube’s new touring league, the American Professional 3-on-3 Basketball League, dubbed the “BIG3,” Gulfport’s own is getting another shot to show his stuff stateside.
The league is comprised of former NBA standouts such as Allen Iverson and Al Harrington and is only played at half-court. The eight-team BIG3 has an eight-week regular season, which runs on Sundays through Aug. 13 and rotates through cities such as Brooklyn, Charlotte and Dallas, among others.
The league’s playoffs are Aug. 20, with the league’s first championship Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
Abdul-Rauf, 48, is the oldest player in the league and was the last selection in the inaugural BIG3 draft. He’s joined on the 3-Headed Monsters by Rashard Lewis, Jason Williams, Kwame Brown, Eddie Basden, Hakim Warrick and coach Gary Payton.
“He was my favorite player,” Ice Cube told the New York Daily News of Abdul-Rauf’s playing days.
‘It’s in my DNA’
After graduating from Gulfport and putting on scoring clinics at LSU, Abdul-Rauf, formerly known as Chris Jackson, played in the NBA from 1990-2001, suiting up for the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies. He later prolonged his career by playing overseas. Although his playing days ended in 2011, the player many consider to be among the best to ever come from Mississippi continues to train daily, which is likely what led to his invitation to the new start-up summer league.
“It’s in my DNA,” Abdul-Rauf told the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton in May. “It’s therapeutic.”
Abdul-Rauf didn’t play like the league’s oldest player three weeks ago in the BIG3’s debut, scoring eight points with two rebounds and two assists in the 3-Headed Monsters’ 62-60 win over the Ghost Ballers.
“It felt great, kind of like the preseason,” Abdul-Rauf said on the Jim Rome Show. “You spend a lot of time training in the summer, and then when you get back, you got to work the kinks and the rust off, but I think as the season progresses, we will get into our groove a little bit more. I feel wonderful.”
Abdul-Rauf’s name resurfaced in the national consciousness less than a year ago when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem. It was a stand that was similar to Abdul-Rauf’s in 1996, when he protested the national anthem because he said it clashed with his religious beliefs.
Abdul-Rauf told the Sun Herald in 2015 his career was never the same after ’96, but he was at peace with the drastic change in his career’s trajectory.
“Those things I went through really helped mold and shape who I am today,” he said in 2015 while back on the Coast for a Boys and Girls Club speaking engagement at Gulfport’s Cafe Climb. “I learned a lot from it all and everything happens for a reason.”
He told Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader in May that nothing has changed. During the national anthem prior to BIG3 games, Abdul-Rauf has continued his protest.
“If I stand, I’m going to pray,” he said. “If I decide to sit, I’m going to sit.”