The BIG3 is no longer playing the basketball that you're used to, co-founder Ice Cube announced on Wednesday. With all of the rule changes, general innovations--the 14-second shot clock and four-point shot, for example--and league policies that have been introduced over its first three seasons, the league will be referring to its sport as FIREBALL3.

"There are a lot of sports out there that require similar skill sets, like MMA and boxing, football and rugby, baseball and cricket. Our fans let us know that we were playing something extremely unique, FIREBALL3, which is nothing like the typical 3-on-3 FIBA game coming to the Olympics," said Ice Cube in a league press release.

The announcement came with a host of other changes that BIG3 would be making for this upcoming season. Among the most notable are: 

  • Players as young as 22 years old, down from 27, will now be allowed to enter the league
  • The ball will now be red (known as a FIREBALL). 
  • Teams will be allowed to challenge foul calls with a single-possession game of one-on-one once per half, with the winner getting the call going their way.

Ice Cube told ESPN that part of the reasoning behind the change in age restriction was to eliminate the stigma of BIG3 being a retirement league. But age isn't the only barrier that's being changed for this upcoming year. The league will also be offering open tryouts for any athlete to qualify for the BIG3 combine, with professional basketball experience no longer being a requirement. Make of it what you will, but with the press release specifically mentioning NFL tight ends as an example of the kind of player who might choose to play FIREBALL3 over other sports, it's hard not to immediately think of someone like Rob Gronkowski, a charismatic former tight end who only just stopped playing football at a professional level that, but is presumably in good enough shape to still be a competitive athlete. Even if it isn't the former Patriot, this leaves the door open for the FIREBALL3 to put the former-hoopers-becoming-tight-ends trope to the test with names like Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Daniel Fells. 

But Ice Cube wants to make things clear: this isn't just for show. Even if big names want to try out, only people who are determined to be the best of the best could make it. 

"This is not a publicity stunt. It's not a charity thing. It's if you're good enough, and the coaches, player-captains, co-captains are the one that will be the judge if someone can get to the combine, so you're going to have to show what you can do," he said to ESPN.

Players who have played in the BIG3 in the past include Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Josh Smith, Nate Robinson, Mike Bibby, Greg Oden, Gilbert Arenas and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.