Ice Cube Details How The NBA Is Blocking The BIG3

Ice Cube’s three-on-three basketball league, the BIG3 has been around for over six seasons. It has offered additional life to the professional basketball careers of former NBA stars Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, and others. The league has scored television contracts, and continues to thrive—even through the pandemic.

However, Ice Cube says that the NBA is blocking moves for the BIG3. Appearing on The Breakfast Club, Cube spoke of the relationship between the two leagues. At 10:50, he speaks to Charlamagne Tha God about the possibility of some legally questionable behavior by the National Basketball Association. “It is,” Cube agrees. “It’s [an] antitrust that they’re participating in. When you try to keep a monopoly running by going behind the scenes and scaring either companies that you work with, or companies that want to work with you—yeah, they are very close to—if they haven’t already—crossed the line with that.”

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The Hip-Hop star continues, explaining some of the challenges he has faced. “I think it should be looked into, what they’re doing to The BIG3, ’cause they’ve scared off some big companies who deal in basketball. Now you’ve gotta understand the basketball pool of companies that use [the sport] to promote is not big; it’s a small pool of companies. Even networks—if you think about all the networks that play basketball, there’s ABC, ESPN, there’s TNT, and right now, CBS…them the major networks. You start running out of people to go to—if they’re blocking. Now we’ve got half of our games on CBS, but we got a whole ‘nother half of games right now on We’re on MASN, if you got that—Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. But you know, we should be on another network with the second half of our games, and we’ve known that they’ve squashed one deal. The same thing with a few other major companies that deal in basketball, so we just gotta get them to stop that part.”

Cube is asked what these conversations look like. “I don’t know what they say; I ain’t in the room. But I know we’re usually close to the finish line with a deal, and then there’s a call or a conversation about, ‘we need to work something out with the NBA, or we’re not gonna [be able] to do this deal.’ So that’s happened several times, and it’s just starting to get to a point where something’s gotta give.” Cube alluded to more legalities though. “So we’re gonna keep pushin’. It might be something the [Department Of Justice] might wanna look into because it’s not right what they’re doin’.”

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DJ Envy asks his guest how the NBA’s alleged meddling has worsened. “It’s hard to calibrate. Haters hate, so I don’t know if it’s more hate or less. That part don’t really matter to me. At a certain point, you’ve gotta go on the offensive no matter what the consequences are; you can’t just sit back and take it and not try to defend yourself and fight for your rights. So I don’t really care what they doin’ behind the scenes, ’cause they haven’t been able to kill us; we’re still alive.” He points to a recent BIG3 event including a concert at Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center—part of Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary. “Nine thousand people on a Sunday afternoon that sat for six hours to watch BIG3 basketball, and they had a party. We had KRS-One performing, and Ja Rule, and it was a great time—M.O.P. came through and performed [and] Scar Lip—salute to those folks, and all the O.G.’s that came and made the celebration great.”

Notably, Ice Cube elaborates that some NBA franchise owners have expressed interest in BIG3 teams—only to get blocked. “Some owners wanna invest in the BIG3; we’ve heard from them. They’re not allowed to. So I say it’s the top brass, ’cause the players like us—they love us, of course, ’cause we’re providing opportunities for their heroes and could be [an] opportunity for them in the future.” Cube believes that there is synergy between BIG3 and NBA. “Coaches like us. [General managers] have been to our games [and] scouts [and] owners—everybody you can name. And so it’s the top brass is the only ones [against the BIG3] because [league commissioner] Adam [Silver] could say, ‘BIG3 is exempt from this bylaw because they’re not a competing league.’ Now, it’s not just the NBA owners that get tainted—it’s anybody with money that has a dream to own an NBA team. So if I dream to own the [Denver] Nuggets one day, I can’t invest in the BIG3 because it squashed my dream right there.” He finishes his point with a quip. “You don’t wake up saying, ‘I wanna own a BIG3 team.’ Not yet. You will; give me 10 years.”

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The conversation also reveals that Ice Cube and the BIG3 made the NBA an offer at the onset. Cube reveals that he had several meetings with commissioner Adam Silver before 2017. “I haven’t had a conversation since we launched the league,” he notes. “We went to him. We actually offered the NBA 10% of the [BIG3] league for free because we’re using a lot of their former players. We wanted some kind of working relationship. So…they didn’t want it, and we told ’em we was gonna do [the BIG3] anyway, and that they wasn’t gonna stop us because we kinda know how they operate from previous encounters.”

Cube reveals a bigger threat to the NBA, the revival of a league that’s been defunct since 1976. “What they should be worried about—to be honest—is instead of the BIG3—there’s some foreign investors talkin’ about starting the ABA again. Now that’s true competition—five-on-five professional basketball, and these dudes can pay. They can pay big money—bigger money than the NBA. So they should stop worrying about the BIG3 and doin’ what they’re doin’ to us; they should work with us so they can have a bigger footprint in basketball, and then they should worry about this ABA that’s comin’.”

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Cube also points to BIG3’s support of the NBA, perhaps illustrating how things ought to go. “Anybody that’s called up to the NBA from the BIG3, we let ’em go—from our players, sometimes they become coaches in the NBA. We let ’em go, because of course, that’s the dream of any basketball player is to be in the NBA.” Cube says that including G league acquisitions and 10-day contracts, at least 10 BIG3 players have gone to the NBA. This list includes Xavier Silas and Josh Childress. “They watch us; they obviously pick our players. And we don’t stop that.”

Last week, Cube appeared on Bill Maher’s Club Random podcast to discuss a litany of topics, including the relationship between music executives and the private prison industry.

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#BonusBeat: New music from Ice Cube—some Mount Westmore work alongside Snoop Dogg, E-40, and Too Short—as well as songs from M.O.P. and Scar Lip, are currently on the Ambrosia For Heads playlist: