Legends Spotlight: Ruben Patterson

June 23, 2017

How did you get involved with the Big3 League? I got a phone call from Keyon [Martin] and Stephen Jackson and a couple guys letting me know that Ice Cube was doing this three-on-three basketball league. This is a wonderful opportunity for us guys to get back out there and compete and play against each other. It was an honor when I went to Vegas and saw Cuttino [Mobley], Rashard [Lewis], Mike Bibby; I can go on and on and on with the guys I used to compete with throughout my NBA career. Just to see guys still in good shape, guys still love the game and guys still ready to play. It’s a blessing for Ice Cube to come up with this league for us to go out there and our fans can see us and see we’re still in great shape, see that we can still play the game and just compete! So I’m looking forward to June 25th.

You mentioned a lot of former plays who were in shape and ready at the Big3 Combine that was held in April. Which players were you most impressed by at the combine? A lot of them! I mean there were so many guys down there, like forty-two or forty-three guys. But everybody looked great. I mean there were so many [laughter], I can’t go name by name; everybody looked great.

Were there any players who didn’t get drafted that you were surprised by based on how they performed in the combine? My guy, Earl Boykins. A good friend of mine; we’re from Cleveland, Ohio and we grew up together in AAU basketball. I think he was one of the guys that should have got drafted, but you know three-on-three, I think it’s just you’ve got to guard. You’ve got to be physical. I think his size was the only thing that might have kept him from getting drafted. But Earl Boykins was a heck of a player. That’s my guy, he’s the only one I wish that would’ve got drafted.

How do you think that a three-on-three basketball league will be received by NBA fans? Especially coming off the NBA Finals where people will be craving more basketball. You know what, it’s going to be wonderful. Let me tell you one thing: watching my hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, he just get me hyped for this three-on-three! It’s going to be good for the fans and everybody else because after the Finals there’s nothing to watch on TV. You know, we don’t want to watch that baseball all summer. So coming up with this situation with the three-on-three, it’s going to be good for the fans and everybody out there with a chance to see basketball for the next two months.

What will it mean to you personally to get to play team basketball on national television again? It’s a blessing. God get all the glory. If it weren’t for Him, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation and Cube probably wouldn’t have thought about this. It’s going to be great for everyone! My kids were babies when I was playing in the NBA, so now they can see their daddy compete and play against the best again.

There’s going to be plenty of legendary players who are going to be the coaches for these teams. Allen Iverson is going to be your coach. Are there any of those coaches that you grew up idolizing? Yeah! Clyde Drexler. I played with Gary Payton in Seattle from 1999-2000. You know Charles Oakley is from Cleveland, Ohio. Rick Mahorn, the Bad Boy. [Julius] Erving, I grew up as a kid watching him. The “Iceman” [George Gervin]. Rick Barry. I mean there are straight legends that are going to be coaches, and from watching those guys when I was little, I’m like wow! To have those guys on the sidelines is going to be great too.

Are there anything of those guys you haven’t met before that you can’t wait to meet? No I’ve met them all before throughout my career. They’ve been to a lot of games, so I’ve met them all. I mean it’s cool [laughter].

You were drafted by Team 3’s Company. What’s the team dynamic at this point? Have you all started practicing or organizing anything yet? Not really. Our job right now is to work out and stay in shape. We’re all professionals, we all played in the league and we know how to play the game. You go there, you defend, you help, you bang, you sweat and you do all the dirty work. But we will have some time to get together and practice with each other. Probably have some little plays for each other, and once we do that we’ll be fine.

You were drafted 21st out of 24 total picks. Do you feel like you have something to prove, like a “chip” on your shoulder? [laughter] Nah not really because when I got drafted in the NBA, I was the second pick in the second round and I made a name for myself on competing. So I’m just going out there and playing hard and doing what I have to do. Like I said, I’m going to have fun playing with these guys again and just competing. I love basketball, we all love basketball.

You started your career with the Lakers and finished with the Clippers, and in Week 8 of the season, the Big3 League is coming to the Staples Center. What will it mean to get to play in front of that LA crown again? Uhh well, hopefully Kobe [Bryant] will be there [laughter]. I’m worldwide with this “Kobe Stopper” stuff. But I still get some love from L.A., and hopefully a lot of the NBA guys come out and support us because this is something special for us to be able to go out there and compete and play. And a lot of general managers and everybody can still see that these guys can still play the game. I mean it’s just a blessing.

We’re going to shift gears now from the Big3 League to the Retire Players Association. The last time we interviewed you in 2015, you were going back to school to finish you degree. Where are you at with that part of your post-NBA journey? I’m still working on that, I haven’t gotten that far yet. That’s still my goal; to finish school. But since I’ve been here in Jacksonville, Florida it’s been basically training, helping my kids at the Potter’s House Christian Academy School and just trying to stay focused. But I’ve finally gotten a chance to look at some schools, if not here, I’m going back to Cincinnati.

You mentioned earlier that you were doing some coaching as well. How has that been going? It’s been going really well. This is my second year coaching now. Watching these high school kids now is just unbelievable. I’ll be like, “What are they feeding these kids?” They’re all like 6’8” or 6’9”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the big fella Udoka [Azubuike], he was with Kansas this year. I coached him last year; seeing him at Kansas, even though he broke his hand, he’s ready to compete. A lot of our kids are going to college and graduating, so I’m just proud of everyone.

How has the NBRPA helped you with that transition into getting your degree and coaching? It’s helped me tremendously because that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach the game, teach these young kids and help these kids who are trying to get where I’m at, or trying to be a Kobe Bryant or [Allen] Iverson or LeBron James. I just tell them what it takes and how important school really is. Without grades, without doing the right things, you won’t be successful. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t take care of school, you’ll just be another guy on the street. It was a blessing for me to be around my high school kids here in Jacksonville, Florida for the last two years and they look up to me. They see my highlights and I tell them, “For you to be successful, you’ve got to take care of school,” and they’re really doing that too.

So based on your experiences, why do you think former players should join the NBRPA? Because it will definitely help them out. It will help them get the next gig to be successful because there’s so much going on in our world today. We just want to make sure our kids are going to school, living right, doing the right things and following their dreams. That really helped me out because when [the NBRPA] called and left a message, I reached out to Excell [Hardy] and said this is something I wanted to do. And it was an honor for me to do it and continue to do it.