Ice Cube’s Beef With the NBA: Accusations of Gatekeeping, Targeting Big3 Basketball League

The rapper says the national association is “encouraging people to not sponsor us, encouraging networks not to play us” 

ice cube
Ice Cube (Getty Images)

Ice Cube is accusing the National Basketball Association of gatekeeping sponsorship and network deals from his Big3 basketball league.

“What I want [the NBA] to do when I say ‘work with us’ is to stop working against us,” the rapper and businessman said in a Twitter video this week. “Stop doing that bulls—t behind the scenes that we know you doing.”

The Big3 league is a three-on-three basketball league that runs during the offseason of the NBA, and is made up of many retired or fringe NBA players. The league was founded in 2017 by Cube and his longtime business partner Jeff Kwatinetz.

In the video, Cube promised to embark on a “f–k the gatekeepers” podcast tour, in which he would spread the word about the proposed gatekeeping being done by the NBA. Cube didn’t go into specifics about which sponsors or networks the NBA has allegedly been gatekeeping from the up-and-coming league.

Cube’s first stop on his tour was the most listened-to podcast in the world: Spotify’s “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

“We’re not trying to compete in any way shape or form with the NBA,” Cube said of the Big3 league. “We are very complementary. So, I don’t understand why they would do some of the things that’s being done behind the scenes.”

“Encouraging people to not do it?” Rogan asked.

“Encouraging people to not sponsor us, encouraging networks not to play us… We’ve been able to survive but at a certain point it’s just redundant and ridiculous,” Cube continued. “We got to fight back in some way, shape or form.” 

Cube may have just announced his podcast tour, but he has been explaining his rift with the NBA for months on the audio medium. In December, Cube went on the “Bootleg Kev Podcast” and detailed why the NBA viewing the Big3 as competition stunts his league’s growth.

“Labeling us competition prevents other NBA owners from investing, and if you even think you want to own an NBA team, you won’t invest [in the Big3] because this would disqualify you… before you bought your NBA team. So it eliminates a lot of potential investors. They also are going to sponsors that they work with and telling them, ‘Don’t work with the Big3.’ So it’s a major issue.”

The Big3 currently airs on CBS. The league touts that its viewership increased 14% year-over-year last year, according to a press release from October.

The NBA didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.