Ice Cube made his diehard sports fandom a reality when he co-created the BIG3 basketball league with Jeff Kwatinetz earlier this year, and now that dream comes to fruition with the league’s inaugural championship game on Saturday.
“It was my dream, but of course I would love more,” the rapper/actor and director told TheWrap of the 3-on-3 basketball league’s rookie season.
“We are definitely off to a great start, but for a league to survive it has to continue to grow. We’re looking forward to the championship game, having a little champagne, and then getting better next year.”
There’s been plenty of highlights since Cube and Kwatinetz made a starry announcement last January in New York City that they were recruiting some of the best former NBA players ever for a new half-court basketball league. There’s also been a few lowlights too, most notably the suspension of 76ers star Allen Iverson for skipping a game.
“We had to make that statement,” Cube stressed to TheWrap. “Not only because that is the policy of the league if any player missed without proper notification. We didn’t make too much of a big deal out of it, but we didn’t minimize it either. We did exactly what we said we would do if any player did that.
“It wasn’t a hard decision but it was a decision that gained a lot of credibility for the league, and that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “We’ve got to fight for credibility so it was a good move.”
As to whether the 11-time NBA All-Star will ever take to the BIG3 court again, Cube says he doesn’t know yet. “After we finish the season, we are going to approach all the players and ask if they want to re-sign … see if they want to do it again next summer,” he said. “We have to see if [Iverson] wants to come back, and we hope he will. You still have to be a professional … you still have to make that decision. As a league, all we can do is control what we can control.”
The BIG3 already has a roster of players and coaches that sends any self-respecting basketball fan giddy with excitement. It includes Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Charles Oakley and Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
But that doesn’t mean Ice Cube doesn’t have a lofty wish list for next season.
“It’s a big list!” he said. “Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Keyshawn Prince, Gilbert Arenas, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom … if he’s ready to go. I would love to have Kobe, if he wants to play. There are a lot of guys out there that I think have still got it.”
Yep, Odom — who was spotted court side at the BIG3 game in Los Angeles two weeks ago — is on that list, despite being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel in 2015. Is he now ready to go from spectator to player?
“I can’t say whether Lamar will be fit to play or not, it’ll show when he gets on the court,” Cube said. “Everybody who has tried to walk off the street and play in our league has gotten a rude awakening — you have to prepare yourself like when you were in the NBA and get ready,” he explained. “It’s play-off level intensity. I advise him not to come out if he’s not ready.
“If you look at our guys, by half time most of them are covered in sweat. They are really working hard, to keep up not only with the physically of the game, but with the pace. With a 14-second shot clock, you really have to play defense,” Cube added. “The game is not easy, we didn’t want it to be easy — we wanted it to feel like a full NBA game on this level. It’s right where we wanted it to be.”
The BIG3 championship is bound to lure some serious VIPs courtside in Las Vegas tomorrow, especially with countless A-listers in town for that other historic sporting event happening in Sin City.
But don’t expect to spot Cube at the Mayweather-McGregor fight later in the night, as he “plans to be drunk on champagne and might be passed” by the time the boxing legend and the MMA champion take to the ring.
The BIG3 league’s inaugural championship game airs live on Fox at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.