Ice Cube’s Big3 must prove relevance and interest level regardless of the NBA

OPINION: Ice Cube thinks “gatekeepers” like the NBA have the Big3 in a chokehold. But the NBA isn’t in business to befriend another men’s league, especially one that could battle the WNBA for attention during the summer months.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

You have to give it up for Ice Cube and what he’s accomplished since rapping and acting his way into the social fabric. His lengthy catalog includes colossal cultural hits in music and movies, from gangsta rap to family flicks. Much respect to the now 54-year-old who began his career as a teen from South Central L.A. 

His current ventures include pro sports, namely the Big3 basketball league he co-founded with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz in 2017. From all outward appearances, the 3-on-3 league is doing pretty well in its sixth season, broadcast to hundreds of thousands of viewers via CBS and streamed to more eyeballs via Paramount+.

In this July 6, 2018 photo at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California, actor/rapper/BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube looks on during a Week Three game during the BIG3 three-on-three basketball league season. (Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/BIG3/Getty Images)

But Ice Cube thinks “gatekeepers” like the NBA have the Big3 in a chokehold. While appearing on theGrio Black Podcast Network’s “Dear Culture,” he told theGrio’s Panama Jackson that “they’re trying to crush Ice Cube and my league.”

I think Ice Cube is confused. 

The NBA isn’t in business to befriend another men’s league, especially one that could battle the WNBA — half of which is owned by the NBA — for attention during the summer months. The NBA also isn’t in business to call the shots in journalism, especially as that industry faces an ever-shrinking workforce.

“We don’t have a lot of sports media covering the league like it should,” Ice Cube said. “And that’s probably because of NBA pressure.”

I’m sorry, but I can’t see NBA commissioner Adam Silver threatening to revoke an organization’s credentials if it assigns a reporter to the Big3. Silver absolutely would encourage outlets to cover the WNBA, but he’s far too busy to play sports editor. 

On second thought, maybe Ice Cube really isn’t confused. Maybe he’s simply hitting all the notes in a David-vs.-Goliath tune, with a chorus of the man holding me down. Maybe he realizes that 3×3 basketball rises or falls on its own merit and according to the appetite of sports fans who might relish a summer break.

If so, accusing the powers-that-be of opposing the Big3 is a brilliant strategy. The league likely has enjoyed record exposure since Ice Cube began his “Fuck the Gatekeepers Podcast Tour” last month by chatting with Joe Rogan

“I don’t understand why [the NBA] would do some of the things that’s being done behind the scenes,” he told Rogan. “Encouraging people to not sponsor us, encouraging networks not to play us.”

The part about media coverage doesn’t make sense or make CBS feel great. But the business community’s alleged response is clearer. 

Ice Cube told Jackson that CEOs of major companies and brands claim their hands are tied when the Big3 comes calling. “They tell you straight up, ‘If you guys work it out with the NBA, we can do something with you.’”

Sounds like an excuse to me, like “We’ll gladly spend on you if there’s an NBA tie.”  They’re not interested in the Big3 without the Big3’s possible partner. Shocking!

When it comes to name recognition, Ice Cube is atop the league’s marquee. Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler serves as commissioner and former NBA players like Joe Johnson and Jason Richardson are leading hoopers. Former stars such as Julius “Dr. J.” Irving, George Gervin and Gary Payton are among the coaches, including Lisa Leslie. A dozen teams play an eight-week barnstorming schedule at NBA arenas around the country before settling the championship, set for London in August.

Sound good? CBS is broadcasting more than 20 hours of live games and some of y’all are watching; more than a million viewers checked out the 2022 title game. Ice Cube said CBS “believes in the league and uses its unprecedented reach to bring the Big3 to new heights on the worldwide stage of sports.” 

That’s an awfully crowded stage, with barely enough time for all.

In hoops alone, there’s the Basketball Tournament, the Basketball League, and the East Coast Basketball League among several other organizations. Ice Cube’s enterprise enjoys the most shine and is poised to gain more since halfcourt hoops became an Olympic sport in 2020. But he’s convinced the NBA is out to get him and kill the Big3’s vibe.

“It’s like they got Black Lives Matter on the court … but what’s in your heart?” he told Jackson. “Stop all the symbolism when you’re showing blatant disregard for what we’ve built. … They’re going to respect what we’re doing or we’re just going to continue to move furniture.”

By all means, he should fight for his league. But if the NBA is truly trying to crush it, that’s the opposite of disregard and disrespect. And it has more to do with green than black. He admitted it a couple of years ago. “Nobody wants a new league to come in flourish,” he said. “None of the big boys. We take attention away, sponsors away.”

Who wants that if you’re the NBA/WNBA? 

As far as complaining about media coverage, Ice Cube needs to get in line behind other minor leagues that are thirsty for attention, men and women alike.

The media “are treating [Big3] athletes like they was nobody,” Ice Cube said. “That ain’t cool. You cheered for them. You pretended like you loved them when they were part of the NBA. When they get in a different league, you’re acting like they don’t exist? What kind of [stuff] is that?”

That’s life, bruh. No one is denying the former players’ existence. It’s their relevance and interest level that are questionable. 

Proving otherwise is the Big3’s problem and mission.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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