The BIG3 will conclude its season today with the championship game between Joe Johnson’s Triplets and Stephen Jackson’s Killer 3s. Ahead of finishing the league’s third season, we spoke with BIG3 founder Ice Cube about the state of the league, the momentum of 3-on-3 basketball, and the success of female coaches within the BIG3.
3-on-3 hasn’t really had a big market in the US before – why do you think you’ve had this level of success?
I think it was kind of looked at as a version of basketball that you were forced to play in a way because you didn’t have either the space or you didn’t have enough people. So it was kind of relegated to the playgrounds, to the backyards, schoolyards, and it wasn’t really looked at as anything other than basically street basketball.
But certain companies would have these tournaments outside and have a lot of weekend warriors come with their crew and play. But what was happening around the world is because of the same issues, a lot of people are playing 3 on 3, and not a lot of people are playing 5 on 5, because of infrastructure in those countries and never really having the gyms and all the stuff that we have here. But that being said it was starting to pick up a lot of momentum and popularity around the world. And so looking at that, and seeing what we have here, it was just a matter of elevating it to the professional level because it’s so familiar to anybody that plays basketball’s brain and psyche that if you elevate it to the professional level, it’ll fall in place if you do it right. And so we were able to do a lot of things right. We still gotta do a lot of things better, but we got a lot of things right to spark interest, and it was really up to the players to determine: was this going to be a real league or was this going to be celebrity game on steroids.
What do you think are some of those things that you did right? It’s so hard to start a new professional league in this country.
I think the biggest thing was picking the right time of year after the Finals and before football really starts. It’s a lull, it’s a dead zone for people who are not into baseball or soccer or the summer sports, golf, whatever. So it’s a void in the industry there. Filling that void is one thing we got right, and having players you know playing the game you love. That right there is another thing we got right because it got us the attention we needed to present the sport. And creating a competitive atmosphere with guys who play for real and try to beat each other. Those are the three things that we got right.
What are some other challenges you think you still have to address in order to grow the league?
What we have to do is fan the flames and grow the popularity of the sport and get in front of as many people as we can to show how cool this version of basketball is when its’ elevated to the professional level, and so that’s our job.