Ice Cube pushing for sports fans to ride along with Big3

Jul 28, 2021, 2:18 PM | Updated: Jul 29, 2021, 3:02 am
FILE - In this June 25, 2017, file photo, Big3 Basketball League founder Ice Cube applauds the crow...

FILE - In this June 25, 2017, file photo, Big3 Basketball League founder Ice Cube applauds the crowd during a timeout in the first half of Game 2 in the league's debut at the Barclays Center in New York. Ice Cube is still looking to take his 3-on-3 basketball league to greater heights in its fourth season of play. The Big3 took the summer of 2020 off because of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Ice Cube tweeted a Big3 clip of famous faces — fighters, NFL and NBA players, and, yes, that was Kanye West in a ski mask — that pop up at Big3 games.

The brightest star of the 3-on-3 basketball league, of course, remains Ice Cube, the revolutionary rapper turned basketball businessman who returns to his roots when he performs Saturday during the Big3 slate of games in Dallas.

The A-listers seem to love Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 basketball league.

Can he get the rest of the sports world to respect the game?

“They’re treating these athletes like they was nobody,” Ice Cube told The Associated Press. “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? One day soon, you’ll respect the league.”

After Big3 skipped last summer because of the pandemic, Ice Cube resumed the supreme hustle to help the fourth-year league find its niche — with bigger live crowds, TV ratings that pop and media coverage that treats Big3 as more than a novelty — as it navigates a season where it’s not even the only 3-on-3 game in town. Yes, halfcourt hoops made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, where the U.S. women’s team won a gold medal.

“It definitely helps our effort,” Ice Cube said Wednesday. “FIBA has always controlled amateur sports and so by us having a professional version of 3-on-3, it aligns with the NBA having the professional version of 5-on-5. The stars are aligned in our favor.”

How about an Olympics/Big3 alliance?

“You can’t bring the Fireball to the Olympics,” he said, laughing. “Not yet. They’ll catch up.”

The Big3 league leaders are familiar to hoops fans: seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson leads the league in scoring for the Triplets; and fellow former first-rounders Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa are also among key statistical leaders.

Want equality? Lisa Leslie and Nancy Lieberman both coached teams to Big3 championships.

CBS and the Paramount+ service were set to broadcast 24 games this season, and the barnstorming league heads to Milwaukee, Chicago and Las Vegas before the Sept. 4 championship game scheduled for Atlantis Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

Ice Cube — who has collaborated with Dr. J and Dr. Dre — called running the Big3 “without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career.”

“There are so many doubters. There’s so much opposition,” he said. “Nobody wants a new league to come in and flourish. None of the big boys. We take attention away, sponsors away.”

In the wake of the pandemic, the Big3 lost its biggest sponsor in Adidas and the year off flattened the bottom line.

“The thought of not coming back only came to mind when you didn’t know how long the world was going to be locked down,” Ice Cube said. “Things we should have been getting done in December and January, we couldn’t get them done until March and April. It put the league in a situation where we’re still trying to turn a profit. We believe we’ll still turn a profit faster than any league in the history of sports. We’re going to take a very short time, within five years, and that’s pretty remarkable.”

With the Big3, there’s no summer vacation for Ice Cube.

“It’s nothing that we need to do better or bigger,” he said. “We’ve got the biggest stars in the world showing up at our games.”

That includes West, the Grammy-winning rapper who is living inside an Atlanta stadium while working on his new album. West took a break from recording his 10th studio album “Donda” and sat courtside with Ice Cube in Las Vegas.

“It’s always amazing to be with an artist like Kanye who is really just going off his inspiration and not anybody’s mission but his own,” Ice Cube said. “When you see a great painter and he’s painting a great piece of work, you want him to not be hampered with anybody’s influence. You want to see what he’s got. That’s how I look at Kanye. He’s a man that’s like an artist and you should just kick back and see what he wants to show you. Everybody shouldn’t be so judgmental. Accept it or not.”

Ice Cube just wrapped a role in a “War of the Worlds” remake and later this year will start filming on a comedy titled “Oh Hell No” with Jack Black. His supergroup Mt. Westmore — that includes Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Too Short — is scheduled to release an album later this year.

Ice Cube also told AP a new “Friday” movie appears dead.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think Warner Bros. is super-stubborn. They don’t care what the people say or think. They’re going to do what they’ve been doing the last 20 years, just be untruthful about doing this movie. They couldn’t care less.”

Just one more question for Ice Cube: Was he the mystery buyer of the unreleased Wu-Tang Clan album once owned by “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli?

“Nah, I ain’t that guy,” Ice Cube said, laughing. “Even though I’m dying to hear it, I didn’t buy it.”

But he wouldn’t mind selling you on the Big3.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Ice Cube pushing for sports fans to ride along with Big3