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Ice Cube isn't satisfied with where the BIG3 stands at the moment, despite the league's immense uptick in popularity over the past few years. For a figure as successful as Ice Cube, who has reigned over Hollywood and the music industry for over 30 years, taking the BIG3 to the next level might be his biggest challenge yet.
While it's extremely doubtful that the sport could ever reach the same stratosphere of the NBA, Cube knows that he has something with this league. The sold-out arenas and new TV deal with CBS prove that there's an audience, and with continued star power coming to the BIG3, there's definite room for growth.
With the BIG3 about to wrap up their third season, we sat down with Cube to talk about the growth of the league, the odds that Carmelo Anthony signs up to play, his thoughts on Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers, the status of the next Friday movie, and much more.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
If you were to give a state of the union on the BIG3, how would you start that off?
I think that I would start that we've come a long way, but we've got a ways to go. That's pretty much where we are. It's in a great place, but we can go so much higher. It can get so much bigger. I think... it's really about keeping the momentum going. It's all about adding new athletes and trying to get the best talent out there, be a part of it. And to put pressure on the established sports media to give it some light. So we're doing good, but we're not patting ourselves on the back yet.
What do you think the biggest draw for fans is to the BIG3?
The love of the game, it's a unique basketball experience. You rarely get three games for the price of one ticket. It's unique, half-court, how are they going to pull it off kind of feel. Then the basketball is great. It's what you're used to. It's what you remember. That's really to me what locks it all in is that it's just as fun as any NBA game, but the basketball is real and it's unique. You get to see star-studded arenas. Some of the best players that ever play, that's including our coaches. It's just a great experience. And its affordable. You really don't have to break the bank to bring the family out to the game. I think all that contributes for people coming because you can see a friend on TV. When you come live and see it live, I believe you're hooked.
The BIG3 is breaking through on social media, especially this season. The Nate Robinson shot the other day went viral. Joe Johnson goes viral a lot. Have you seen an uptake more in social media chatter and highlights going viral?
Yeah, of course, and we want more, but just to know that some of our most exciting plays are starting to reach out there further than our push. We have a game-winner every single game. So it's kind of like that feeling in the park when you win the game. It's like that last point when you holler, "game. fuck out of here." All that is part of that feeling we bring. And I think too, mainstream basketball has adapted a few of our things, so we think that's cool too. It let us know we're ahead of the curve and not behind the curve.
What do you think the NBA has taken from the BIG3?
I think the 14-second shot clock reset. The NBA going a little quicker. The 14-second shot clock. We did it, and they did it. And having players pick the All-Star Game. We got players picking our teams, and when we did it, they did it. So we can point out a few other little things, but let us know we're ahead of the curve.
Are there any areas you guys need to work on going forward?
We can do everything better. We can do everything better. I think we can have a better... I don't want to put my staff on blast, but we can do better in the leadership group. We can do better promoting, getting people in building. And we had a lot to learn this year because we're playing two games instead of one. It's a learning curve, making sure that second day the building is still full. We can't look too harshly on our success because we feel like we can get the building even a little fuller.
For as much as you've done through your career, did you ever see yourself working in sports like this? Actually running a league?
No. I wanted to just be a fan. You know what I mean? I didn't even think about having a team cause I feel like, if I get a team, or if I'm involved with a team, it's going to take all the fun out of basketball. It's going to be a business, it's going to be a fanbase that we have to keep happy. And shit don't go right with the team, everybody going to be like, "Fuck you. Why the team ain't right?" Something that could be cool turns into a burden, so I just wanted to be a fan. But owning a whole league is a whole different thing. It's producing a whole movie instead of just playing a part. Playing a part is okay, but I like producing the whole movie. So a whole league is like producing a whole movie. And especially our teams are not connected to cities, it gives us the freedom to make everybody happy. Without pissing off Detroit, pissing of Cleveland, pissing of New York, or whatever. Go around, people pick their favorite players, their favorite teams, and roll with it. And the whole city ain't coming down on you, if it don't go right.
In January, you talked about Carmelo Anthony to the BIG3, but you said he's got a future in the NBA. It's now looking like he might not have a future in the NBA. Do you think Melo might become an option for the BIG3?
I don't know. It depends on him. If he want to ball out at this level, then yeah. But if he think it's a stigma behind it, you know what I'm saying like, "I'm playing in the BIG3, I'm done." If he thinks that, then he probably won't. And it's not a stigma. BIG3 ain't the end. It's the beginning. It's prolonging. The end is when the NBA said bye. You can have a whole another career in the BIG3 that might even be longer than your NBA career. If you keep your body in shape and you want to play, I love it. You can play at that level. Because it is a level. It ain't just a cakewalk. So players got to make up that in they own mind and in they own hearts. I know we got something that's dope, especially for the summer. And why wouldn't you want to get down?
I think Joe Johnson is really doing a lot of work to get rid of that stigma. People are seeing him play, and they're like, "This dude could still play in the NBA.” He's out here balling.
Without a doubt. And he getting busy. And it's not easy for no player out there. No player out there just having their way with the League. Even though he's doing very well, and he's always been hard to stop. But everybody has their games where it ain't falling for them. I think the competition is extremely high in the BIG3. And you got to be ready for it. If not, you see players like Jason Terry, he not coming in killing the League. He got to find himself. That's how it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be easy. Cause it's a different brand of basketball.
Any other big names on your radar that you're looking to add going into the future? Obviously Melo is going to be one that comes up a lot.
Of course, I mean we got Vince Carter out there. You got Dwyane Wade. You got Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, Monta Ellis.
Do you do the recruiting yourself? Or leave that to the teams?
I'll make those calls with no problem, if it comes to that point. I let our commissioner engage. Chauncey Billups does a lot of reaching out for us. I like for players to hear from their basketball peers to see if they really want to play or not. I talked to Joe Johnson at the very end. I sent him a text to say I heard you were thinking about playing. I've Been badgering people for a year or two, like Gilbert Arenas, and he finally played. I don't mind recruiting. I think I'm the best recruiter in the damn nation. I can get these dudes to sign. But I think the League should sell itself at a certain point. I don't think I need to be trying to persuade people to play because it's pro basketball, man. You got to be ready. You're not going to have a good time, if you're not ready.
Speaking of recruiting, should the Lakers have asked you to recruit for Kawhi?
They could have, I would have told them no. I'm not doing no recruiting, never. Except for the BIG3. Except for the BIG3. Because if he didn't come, I don't want it to be my fault. If he didn't come. Drake tried to recruit him, it didn't work. Put it on him somewhat. That ain't my job. I don't work for the Lakers. I'm just a fan, and I'm going to stay a fan.
At one point it seemed like the Lakers had Kawhi coming, and then it went radio silent. Then he went to the Clippers. Did you have a feel on what he might do?
I thought they would get him, but I wasn't mad they didn't. Because I'm always nervous when the Lakers get two superstars at the same time. Walking in door at the same time. We got Shaq and Kobe same time. It almost didn't work. Luckily, Kobe was a rookie. Because if Kobe was a two or three year vet, that shit wouldn't have worked at all. And then we got Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the same day damn near, and that was a disaster. Then we got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the same year and that was a disaster. So I was thinking we would, but I wasn't mad we didn't. I wasn't mad when Lebron didn't come in the door with another superstar. I'm glad he came in, just him, had a year on the team. Now we do a year with him and AD, see how close they can get. And then if they don't win it, you can bring another guy to get them over the hump. I'm not mad that we don't have him. I'm not worried that he's with the Clippers, I'll put it that way.
Is there real battle for LA?
Only people that's saying that is Clipper fans.
Would a Lakers fan say there's a battle for LA right now?
You won't catch a Laker fan even thinking that the Clippers could even. Here [in NYC] you got the Yankees and you got the Mets. The Mets don't have no illusions or delusions that they going to be No. 1 in New York. The Clippers are like the Mets.
Are you going to make it out to a lot of Lakers games this year after the addition of AD?
Oh I'm going to be there. I'm going to definitely come out, see what they got going. Can't wait till they get back on top.
You're a high profile Raiders fan. Got to ask you about Antonio Brown and this whole feet, helmet thing. What are your thoughts on that?
I feel good. I don't look into all this stuff. I look into real circumstance. That could have happened to anybody that gets into a cryotheraphy machine. That was an accident with his feet. It's not like he's a bad guy and his feet makes him worse. It was an accident that could've happened to players with less personality. It could have happened to anybody, fucking Tom Brady. And the helmet, it's a real issue. His helmet might fit perfect. He might be able to get his head around quick because of the material, how it's made, with him in the shoulder pads. So a helmet makes a big difference, man, in how you feel. If you got on a good helmet, you're going to play better. You got on the face mask you want, you going to play right. You got on a face mask you hate, you just not going to play right. It's really all about being comfortable in your equipment. So that grievance was real. It wasn't fake, it was real. So this thing where everybody thinks he's a bad guy cause of that. I don't see nothing in it. It's like shit, he wants to play with what he's always played with. So long as he gets over it and get his ass in the huddle, everything will be alright.
You got high hopes for the Raiders this year?
I got 8-8 hopes [laughs]. My thing is, I'm not going to start cussing until they lose nine games. That's when I'm going to start saying, "This is some bullshit." But I'm cool, 8-8. I don't have my expectations crazy. How could you expect more?
What are your thoughts on the Vegas move?
Had to be done. How many times can you beg Oakland to build a stadium? Goddamn man, build that shit. You got the Raiders, you want to keep them? Already left once. So the Raiders deserve a better stadium. I don't care where they put that shit. They deserve it, so they had to go. They had to go.
I saw you mention, I think, in June the status of the new Friday movie was in rewrites or something. Is there an update on that?
Yep, still polishing it, getting it right. Once we get it right, we get the green light. Then we can cast it.
Are you still looking for 2020 to go with the 25th anniversary?
It would be nice. It'd be nice to hit that day, but I'm not going to pressure and pigeonhole myself, or put myself in a box to try to make a date. But we are going to try to put out in 2020.
So I don't know if you saw this. This list went viral on social media, and it was a whole thing. Not saying anybody agreed with it. Top 50 greatest rappers of all-time. And it led people make their own lists. I just wanted to show it to you, and get your thoughts on it, and then maybe get your top five rappers. Cause the list is pretty ridiculous as you see.
It's the old saying, man. Opinions are like assholes, and they all stink. That's what I think. That's my opinion, man. It ain't law. Just cause they put it in a nice format. My top five are game changers. People who changed the trajectory of the game. It's like Melle Mel, Ice-T, KRS-One, Chuck D, Rakim, Slick Rick, they just changed the whole game. MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, they're the best cause they showed us what the game was. You got the Run DMC, even the Beastie Boys. Changed the shit up. Everybody else is following what they put down.
I think you're being modest because a lot of people would also put NWA and yourself in there.
I mean, I appreciate it. I ain't going to put myself in it. But that was mine. Because to me they did it, the game wasn't ever the same, took a new branch off the hip-hop tree. That was strong enough to hold its own branches. It's pretty incredible.