After a 14-year NBA career in which Al Jefferson called five different cities home, Big Al thought he was done playing the game. However, Jefferson has found a new league, the BIG3, that has brought Jefferson back to some of his old NBA stomping grounds as he competes against some of his old rivals.
Big Al returned to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of the Indiana Pacers, with the Triplets this past weekend, where they defeated the Aliens in their BIG3 debut.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse is where Jefferson played the final two seasons of his NBA career. If it weren’t for Big Al deciding to opt out of the final year of his deal with the Pacers, he would have been on their active roster this past season as well, but Big Al wanted to pursue other options.
“I wanted to play at a high level,” Jefferson said. “I knew coming back to the NBA, not just the Pacers, I wasn’t going to have minutes again, so I wanted to get it out of my system.”
Jefferson’s next move was to go play in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. In 10 games, Jefferson averaged over 15 points and seven rebounds per game in a brief stint in China. However, that came to an end when he was asked to once again take a backseat to another player, this time with it coming after knocking off one of the CBA’s best teams.
“When I left Indiana to go to China, I kind of knew that was going to be my last run,” Jefferson said. “I just wanted to get that out of my system and play at a high level. Even though China sucks and didn’t work out for me, when I came home, I decided to just hang it up and be good.”
Jefferson later clarified that China the country doesn’t suck, but rather his experience with the team left him unhappy, so he returned to the United States.
Shortly after his stint in China had ended, Big Al thought he was happily retired from the game of basketball, but he was presented with an opportunity he couldn’t pass up – competitive half-court basketball in the BIG3.
“When somebody told me I could play half-court basketball at a high level, that was my game,” said Jefferson. “Sign me up.”
After 11 points in last week’s debut win with the Triplets, Big Al and his team are heading to Charlotte, another one of Jefferson’s former cities, and they will take on the Trilogy, led by former NBA champion Jason Terry.
Jefferson played three seasons in Charlotte and helped usher in the “Hornets” nickname again after playing one season as a member of the Bobcats. Big Al helped rejuvenate the franchise, which was coming off two seasons in which the team totaled 28 wins when Jefferson joined the team via free agency in 2013.
With Big Al in the post, Charlotte made the playoffs in two out of his three seasons, and Jefferson was recognized as the 10th best player of all-time for the franchise as part of their 30th anniversary celebration.
Tip-off for the BIG3 next weekend starts on Saturday at noon ET, and coverage can be seen on CBS from 12-2 p.m. ET and on CBS Sports Network from 2-3 p.m. ET.