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Ice Cube on BIG3’s growth, what’s next and rap beef: ‘We know there’s a spot for us in major sports’

No one knew what to expect when the BIG3 held its first scrimmage back in 2017.

Hip-hop legend Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz founded and organized the league, but their idea was still an unproven concept at the time. They had yet to see a professional 3-on-3 game played with their unique set of rules. It was hard to predict what it would actually look like on the court, what kind of effort players would bring.

This initial run, held months before the league’s inaugural season, would be an eye-opener for everyone involved. Stephen Jackson, a 14-year NBA veteran and one of the BIG3’s founding players, made sure to set the tone.

“Stephen Jackson just started to yell at everybody,” Ice Cube told the Daily News. “‘I’m going to tell y’all motherf–kers right now I have no friends out here. Not one. Don’t come with this punk sh–t that they be doing in the All-Star game. Yall better come to play because I’m going to come and y’all and I expect y’all to come at me.’”

Jackson stood on business. Others matched his energy. And any doubts Ice Cube and Kwatinetz may have had about the competitiveness of their league were quickly addressed.

“Stephen Jackson damn near wanted to fight and Charles Oakley was holding back Stephen Jackson,” Ice Cube said. “So, when you got Charles Oakley trying to break up a fight, I looked at Jeff and Jeff looked at me and he said, ‘Hey, man. We got a league right here, something’s about to happen,’ and they played hard from that day on. There’s never been no letup in the BIG3.

“We make sure it isn’t prison ball, but we don’t want that soft stuff either.”


The BIG3, now in its seventh season, has come a long way since. It is now widely recognized as the most competitive 3-on-3 basketball league in the world with some of the winningest athletes in basketball history gracing its rosters. The pool of talent appears to get younger and more competitive each season.

New players this season included Jeff Teague, Greg Monroe and Paul Milsap — all with plenty of NBA experience under their belts. If fans cannot make it to games in person, they can also watch live on CBS, Paramount +, and X.

“Teams are pretty evenly matched for the most part,” Ice Cube said. “Anybody can win, and you can lose to any team in the BIG3. To me there’s not a clear dominant team… so it’s really who comes in ready to play, who comes in as the more cohesive unit, and fans are loving it. Our television numbers and impressions on X are very impressive.”

The league played its games at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on Sunday. It had already been to Oakland, Calif., Tampa, Fla. and Baltimore, Md. entering the weekend, and it will finish up this season with trips to Portland, Ore., Cincinnati, Ohio, San Antonio, Texas, Nashville, Tenn. and Boston, Mass.

However, instead of continuing to host games on the road, all BIG3 teams will transition to represent home markets in 2025. Teams have already been sold in the Los Angeles, Miami and Houston markets, with additional teams expected to be based in Toronto and London.

“I understand what it does for the players, coaches, staff, and what it does for fans,” Ice Cube said. “For the coaches and players, it’s about putting them back in the arena where they belong, or giving younger players another option of they don’t make it to the NBA. And we see in the future current NBA players may have it in their contracts that they can play in the BIG3, too.

“We know there’s a spot for us in major sports. There was a void in the industry, and we filled that void. We’ll continue to do that and grow, and we have a league that can go worldwide. So, there’s a lot going for the league, but I think we can grow further.”


Ice Cube does not mind the public beef between fellow Californian Kendrick Lamar and Drake as long as it does not get violent. No matter who ultimately comes out on top, hip-hop wins either way.

“This is the essence of hip-hop,” Ice Cube said. “This is the essence of the game. You love it…. It always energizes the game as long as it doesn’t get physical. When it gets physical and violent, that’s when it isn’t hip-hop, it’s straight up street sh–t. It’s not even hip-hop at that point.”

Lamar released the music video for his hit single, “Not Like Us”, last week, which many viewed as his most aggressive shot at Drake yet. Ice Cube thought the music video was funny. He and called Lamar a “real artist” who knows how to express himself through audio and video.

Ice Cube also encouraged Lamar to stay on his toes, because Drake is obviously no slouch either.

“Drake can come back,” Ice Cube said. “It’s not like he’s chopped liver. The dude makes some great songs, so you never know how it’s going to go. And what’s cool is I’m not beefing with nobody, and I can just sit back and watch the sh–t as a fan like everyone else and just see how it goes.”


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