Rapper, actor, and producer Ice Cube sees the tangible progress in the BIG3 but he wants the league to garner more attention, more respect, and more regard among professional sports.
The 3-on-3 basketball league just spent a successful weekend in Boston, drawing a season-high 11,255 fans to TD Garden. But he’s left wanting more, wanting the opportunity to showcase the basketball league, filled with former NBA players, that it can be a premier summer sport.
“It’s definitely prideful because people like the league and people are invested into the league and really started to invest in teams and players,” Ice Cube told the Globe. “That’s what’s great. It’s not for me. If this was just for me, I would have had these guys in the gym and it would be a lot cheaper for me to do it.
“This is something I want to do for sports. And for basketball fans to see it connecting, that’s the dream come true, that people are enjoying the league and the competition and it’s something cool for the summer until football seasons starts again.”
The league, however, faces obstacles because Ice Cube believes the NBA views the BIG3 as a rival and has encouraged sponsors and major networks such as ESPN to disregard the league, making it more difficult to flourish.
It’s difficult to find BIG3 highlights or scores on television, as if the league doesn’t exist. Ice Cube has an issue with the lack of acknowledgement in a league with Julius Erving, Lisa Leslie, Gary Payton, and Rick Barry as coaches, and players such as Joe Johnson, Jason Richardson, and Michael Beasley.
Ice Cube said the lack of media coverage and sponsorship “ is our biggest obstacle, this is the biggest thing that is holding the league from reaching higher success.”
“They can’t stop us but they can hinder us, slow our growth down, they could poison our sponsors or scare sponsors,” he said. “Tell other media outlets to not cover us if they want to cover the NBA. Advising networks not to play us if they’re NBA networks. These kind of things hinder the growth of the league but it hasn’t stopped the growth of the league because people want it. And at the end of the day, when people want something, [there’s] nothing the mainstream can really do to stop it. It’s going to happen.”'
Ice Cube said the lack of respect and recognition is reminiscent of his days in the controversial rap group N.W.A., which achieved superstardom with their contentious lyrics and subject matter. Ice Cube eventually turned into a platinum-selling solo artist in addition to being an accomplished actor and director.
“Without a doubt, this reminds me of first breaking out with N.W.A.,” he said. “The mainstream really didn’t want the record to get traction and they couldn’t do nothing to stop it because the people wanted it. There’s a lot of parallels between what I’m doing with the sports and the BIG3 and the gatekeepers who are trying to keep it from reaching its full potential.”
Ice Cube has discussed “gatekeepers” often recently and believes there are powers trying to curtail the league’s success and also have issue with his outspokenness on social issues.
“I just know when things don’t make sense, there’s a reason why it’s not making sense,” he said. “And it’s usually something a person behind the scenario that’s making it not make sense. I don’t know what goes on at ESPN, why they will not acknowledge the league in any way, shape or form. But it’s happening.
“Our ratings are better than MLS, and some Major League Baseball games. People want the league. People are interested in the league. Our ratings are better than NHL and those leagues are covered. The WNBA is covered but not the BIG3. We have star power that can really, I would say, match most leagues that’s out there. It’s not like we’ve got chopped liver out there.
[ESPN] got drone races. They do everything but the BIG3. I just know it’s not happening. It’s not a coincidence.”
In 2020, Ice Cube developed a “Contract for Black America” and approached both major political parties to discuss their eventual plans for Black America. He was criticized for meeting with then presidential candidate Donald Trump about his plan. He said Joe Biden’s campaign told him they’d meet after the 2020 election. That meeting never occurred.
Ice Cube also has received recent criticism after granting an interview to controversial right wing talk show host Tucker Carlson, and giving him a tour of the neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. Cube said he is open to meeting with various voices to discuss the Black agenda. He said his quest is to help improve conditions in the Black community.
“Criticism shouldn’t stop you from doing the right thing if you feel that it’s right,” he said. “I understand that when you don’t do what people want you to do, they attack you. And I’m fine with that. That’s really their problem. That’s not my problem.
“If you’ve got a problem with me and what I do, it’s not my problem. I just stick with what I know I can be effective doing. I’m not trying to be a politician in any way, shape or form. I just want to help. I want to help people that I believe I can. Influence people that I have privy to. If I can talk to somebody and get them to do something for people then why shouldn’t I? Just because some people are going to criticize it?
“We have to get thicker skin and not worry so much about what our critics have to say. And do what we feel in our heart. Sometimes they’ll see the light months afterward, years afterward. They see what you was really trying to do. But just because they can’t see what you’re trying to do and they don’t understand it and they criticize it, that definitely don’t mean you should stop. I’m just trying to do whatever I can, as fast as I can, as long as I can. That’s it.”
As for the BIG3, Ice Cube said he has several players targeted that could boost the league’s popularity. He even has plans for a team in London.
“I’d love Boogie Cousins, Dwight Howard, Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, these are people that I would love to see in the league,” he said. “We’ll see if they’ll play. LaMarcus Aldridge is out there but you’ve got to be ready to play. It’s not as easy as the NBA. I’m not saying the NBA is easy because they’ve got to play 82 games or more. I’m saying you’re not going to get those ticky-tack calls you would get in the NBA. You’ve got to be ready to play physical.
“It’s called the BIG3, not the Little3. We want that name to mean something. You’ve got to be ready to come in and play physical.”
Former No. 2 pick Beasley overcoming challenges
Beasley is a former second overall pick who still has hopes of returning to the NBA. The swingman is 34 but has been through an arduous professional journey over the past 15 years.
Beasley was considered a franchise cornerstone when he was drafted by the Heat in 2008, but personal issues, struggles with mental health and unenviable playing situations turned him into a journeyman with a cloudy reputation.
Beasley said he has found peace mentally, using a popular phone app to offer more structure and support as he continues his quest for an NBA comeback.
“I don’t want to be too straight forward or anything but I just enjoy busting [opponents on the court],” he said. “Just as simple as that. I enjoy you not being able to stop me from doing what you want me to do or you not being able to stop what I want to do. I enjoy the control. I just enjoy getting better. I enjoy teaching my son. I’m just enjoying being better and you simply not being as good as me.”
Beasley flourished offensively during his time in the league. During a Dec. 2017 game against the Celtics, he scored 32 points in 25 minutes for the Knicks. He was unstoppable. Just two years later, however, Beasley was out of the league.
“If I had to answer that question [why I’m not in the league], I would have solved it a long time ago,” he said. “But I don’t know. For me it’s just staying in shape and being ready if it comes.”
The NBA as well as corporate America takes mental health more seriously than 15 years ago. Beasley struggled with confidence, the pressure of being a franchise player and admittedly was a teenager in a grown man’s body trying to deal with the professional lifestyle.
“When I came into the NBA, it was the back end of Stephon Marbury’s little ordeal and it was like, literally, if you showed anything but perfect, you were crazy,” he said. “A lot of guys didn’t want to be crazy. A lot of guys were just scared of the stigma that came with it. I know I was. It was literally just what they say, ‘shut up and dribble.’ ‘No we don’t care how you feel, just dribble the ball.’ I’m glad to see it in a better place because I would hate for the next young guy, the next No. 2 pick to go through what I had to go through mentally.”
Beasley said he finally had to admit mental health was an issue and it took him years to acknowledge he wasn’t perfect and he needed to pay as much attention to his mental approach as his physical game.
“That’s a personal journey,” he said. “Everyone has their own maturation process. And the process starts with yourself, and me personally I had to get over a lot of things, embarrassment. If this person is going to look at me like that. What if they look at me like this? What are my kids going to think? It’s really everybody’s own process so I just take it a day at a time. So my message to everyone, take it a day at a time, be better to yourself, better than you were yesterday and don’t compare yourself to nobody but the person in the mirror.
“It’s OK to build on a strong mind. We have to build perseverance and resiliency also. Mental health isn’t just a negative thing and that’s what the Aura [app] brings to the table or brings a fun way to look at it, a different perspective on mental health. But as far as the next generation, I just want y’all to be vulnerable, show that no matter what you go through, the highs, the lows, you still have to have a strong mind. I don’t care if you’ve never made a dollar in your life or you made a billion dollars a day, you still need a strong mind to handle what comes at you daily. That’s literally what it is.”
There are regrets. Beasley said he was too young, immature and unassertive to speak out for himself, to challenge the critics and general managers and pundits who called him a washout.
“I wish I was able to speak out against people with their own nerve,” he said. “I wish I was strong enough mentally to have enough confidence in my own voice as opposing to listening to what everybody else wanted me to be or what everybody else thought I was. If I could do anything differently, I wish that I could literally be strong enough mentally to stand up for myself. How tough was it for you at 19 years old? Everybody looked at me when I was 19 and my game was a lot more mature than my age.
“And nobody wanted to admit that, and so people treated me like my game and I was just a 19-year-old kid in the world with a bunch of people that wanted to be me — or wanted to take my spot. If I could change anything, it would literally just be the fact that I wasn’t strong enough mentally to decipher my feelings from anger to anxiety to stress, to still be able to speak with confidence on how I feel rather than let everybody else speak for me.
“The last few years I’ve been able to speak up for myself because I’ve been cleared mentally. That’s one thing that I have been able to do is get me a safe place to divide my thoughts and multiply the ones that need to be multiplied, and subtract the ones that need to be subtracted. And love to the ones that need it. I didn’t have that when I was younger. That’s the difference between now and then.”
The Celtics created a roster spot by waiving guard Justin Champagnie, who would have earned $50,000 if he was on the roster after Aug. 1. Boston now has flexibility to sign a minimum salary player and clear space in the backcourt. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens said the club is seeking wing help and there are several free agents who may accept the Celtics’ veteran minimum salary offer for the opportunity to compete for a championship. Champagnie, whose brother signed a guaranteed deal with the Spurs, had an uneven Las Vegas Summer League and would have been competing for one of the final roster spots. A possibility is veteran Blake Griffin, who was a strong locker room presence and offered production in spurts. The Celtics will have to make a decision on center Luke Kornet, another player who enters this season on a nonguaranteed contract … There is no hurry for the Trail Blazers to make a deal involving Damian Lillard until they begin to get competitive offers. The NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams warning players and agents about publicly asking for trades to specific teams, which puts the Trail Blazers in an unenviable position. According to league sources, the NBA is displeased with Lillard making such a public trade demand to Miami and has urged general manager Joe Cronin to make the best deal possible for Portland, even if that means no deal. The NBA fines players who make public trade demands but both Lillard and James Harden have asked to be dealt to particular teams. Harden, now with the 76ers, wanted to be traded to the Clippers. But like the Trail Blazers, there’s no reason for the Clippers to make a competitive offer against themselves. The market for Harden is tough to read because of his recent history and his impending free agency. Harden opted into the final year of his contract with Philadelphia with the private agreement that he would eventually be traded to a preferred team. The Clippers are interested in Harden but don’t want to give up a load of young prospects, such as former Lowell resident Terance Mann and draft picks, for a one-year rental. And it’s uncertain how Harden would blend with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in what is a critical season for the Clippers, who want to generate as much momentum as possible before opening a new arena in 2024-25.