Is Michael Jordan headed to the Big 3? Ice Cube answers in our Chat Room
Ice Cube’s Big 3 basketball league features some of the biggest names in NBA and WNBA history, but the businessman and entertainment mogul says that was never the goal.
Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league features some of the biggest names in NBA and WNBA history, but the businessman and entertainment mogul says that was never the goal.
He set out to create a competitive basketball league where retired players could continue playing. Don’t be mistaken, Ice Cube is not afraid to cut ties with big names to maintain the highest level of competition. Just this season, the Big3 said goodbye to NBA champion Lamar Odom.
“It is a pro league,” Ice Cube said. “It’s not a celebrity game, or a pick-up game, or an all-star game.”
The Big3, a three-on-three, half-court summer basketball league, is in its third year, a huge accomplishment for a start-up sports league. The idea was born out of Ice Cube’s love for basketball. Sick of seeing his favorite NBA players retire after 10 or 15 years in the league, he thought he’d give them a place to continue competing.
“In gyms and rec rooms all over the country, [you] got these great athletes playing basketball who, for whatever reason, there’s no more room for them in the NBA,” Ice Cube said. “So I was like, ‘Why can’t we still see these guys play?’ ”
In 2017, after a year of brainstorming, Ice Cube and co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz established the league.
The inaugural season featured Allen Iverson and coaches Clyde Drexler and Julius Erving.
Ice Cube, who is in Chicago this week for the Big3’s games Saturday afternoon at Allstate Arena, spoke to the Sun-Times about the future of the league, how difficult it is to cut players and whether Michael Jordan is someone he’s trying to sign, all during his visit to the Chat Room.
What have you learned in Year 3 vs. Year 1?
Ice Cube: Until you get over the hump, it’s just hard to introduce a new sport to America, to the world. We expected some bumps in the road. You can’t anticipate everything that comes at you. Things are hard until they’re not. It’s been 20 years since the last league was invented from scratch and has taken off, which was UFC. It really took them nine years to turn a profit. We plan to do it in less than half the time.
How do you battle being a league based on nostalgia and a league based on competitiveness?
IC: I think there’s a world where both can exist. I think just the nature of who our coaches are, you know we have Hall of Fame coaches from Dr. J to George “The Iceman” Gervin to Rick Barry, Lisa Leslie and Nancy Lieberman. So that’s going to be there. It’s really up to us to make sure that we’re promoting high competition played at a high level. If we see players who can’t play at a high level, it’s really up to us to tell them that they probably need to watch.
Has that part been difficult? Cutting ties with some players who are also friends?
IC: It’s a business, though. So in that sense, it’s not that hard. You feel for these guys and all of them can come back. All they have to do is show they’re ready to play at this level. Guys may have thought that it was going to be easy because it’s half court, but it’s actually a lot harder in ways. You have to be ready. We want your game, not just your name.
Does Dr. J ever get out there on the court?
IC: Never. Strictly a coach. Those dudes have hung up their basketball shoes, but they have tons and tons of knowledge. Tons and tons of basketball IQ. They can teach guys about how to win so I’m proud to have some of the gods of basketball part of our league.
Let’s say I’m a retired NBA player, how would you sell me on playing for your league?
IC: It would be more or less like, ‘What size uniform you wear because we got a uniform ready for you in the Big 3. What you need? I know you like it, I know you love it, I know you ain’t got nothing better to do, come play.’
Is there anybody out there right now you’re homed in on? Have you had a conversation with Carmelo Anthony?
IC: No conversations with Carmelo. I feel like guys like that are really trying to get back in the NBA. They’ll call me when they’re ready. It’s more or less the other way around. I think at this point the league speaks for itself. If they really want to play they’ll call me. If I have to call them too much, they really don’t want to play.
Have you been in contact with Kobe Bryant? Are those rumors true?
IC: Yeah, I’ve been in contact with Kobe, but not about playing in the Big 3. He’s told me he’s not going to play, so I’m going to take him for his word until he shows me otherwise.
Michael Jordan, if you called him up to be part of the Big 3, would it be to play or would it be to coach?
IC: It would probably be as part owner, not as a coach or a player. Since he owns the Hornets, he can’t play. I think if he didn’t, he probably would try. He probably would play.
Nancy Lieberman was the first female coach of a men’s professional sports team, you also hired Lisa Leslie shortly after that as well as the women in your front office, why is inclusivity important to you guys? And is that what you set out to do from Day 1?
IC: Always. With all the businesses that we have anything to do with inclusiveness is part of it. Growing up black you understand what discrimination is. To be in a position of power and to discriminate is against my nature. I just want the best people for the job. Cuttino Mobley put it perfectly. He said, ‘If women can teach us how to speak and walk they can teach us how to dribble and shoot.’
What’s your go to spot for dinner in Chicago?
IC: I like Gibsons.
Are you headed to Lollapalooza this weekend while you’re in town?
IC: I’m a little busy this weekend. I got my head in basketball, so I’m gonna let other people deal with music.
You’re a business man, music mogul, producer, actor, director, what hat are you most proud of wearing?
IC: Father. That’s probably my most proud hat. I love the entertainment industry getting into it first through music and then movies and now sports. Entertainer is a cool title.