The BIG3 has the chance to be one of the most innovative changes in basketball in a long time. A new 3-on-3 professional basketball league that’ll have a four-point shot, hand checking, and other added rules, is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the fact that they have a star-studded cast of former NBA players like Chauncey Billups, Stephen Jackson, Allen Iverson, Ricky Davis, Corey Maggette, Kenyon Martin, and others.
If that isn’t enough, look at the incredible list of coaches and you’ll be drooling for the action once these blowout-heavy playoffs are over.
While the league is set to tip-off next month, we figured we’d sit down with none other than the co-founder himself, Ice Cube. The well-known hip-hop icon, actor, and record producer spoke to DIME to discuss the BIG3, Big Baller Brand, his L.A. Lakers, and much more.
How did this whole idea (of the Big3) come about? Take me through the process and how it came to be.
It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. It’s been something that’s always been in the back of my mind but never really came up. I always wondered why 3-on-3 wasn’t done on the professional level, but I wasn’t really ready to do nothing about it. At the same time, Jeff (Kwatinetz) and Roger (Mason Jr.) had talked about maybe doing some one-on-one or even 3-on-3 stuff with current players. But, that just never came to be.
Then, I saw Kobe score 60 points in his last game and I’m like ‘ain’t no way in the world somebody scoring 60 points should be retiring from the game.’ But, that’s how this all came to be. I started thinking about the wear and tear on players bodies and that’s when that 3-on-3 came back up to mind. So I ran it by Jeff and we started just building on what it could be, what the rules could be, and how we could pull it off. Then, once we got to a certain spot, we brought in Roger Mason Jr. and when he said he was down to be our commissioner that’s when we knew we had something, a great idea.
Now, I spoke to Jeff and he mentioned you guys spent tons of hours on just chatting about the rules, organization, and layout of this league. Were there a few times that you could recall where the decision-making process became difficult?
It took a few months to get everything right. I actually remember being on vacation in Maui [laughs] arguing about certain rules. I think we were talking about clearing the ball and where we should have the teams clear the ball to, when, and whether it should be cleared to the free throw line or three-point line. See most 3-on-3 goes 15 feet, which is the free throw line, but because we had pros and possibly seven footers out there that it was better to go past the three-point line. That was just one of the times I can remember us going back-and-forth on certain things. Man, I remember my wife was [chuckles] rolling her eyes in Maui cause I was on the phone arguing with Jeff about the rules.
It was passionate man, we just wanted to get it right. Me being a big fan of 3-on-3 and me playing as a youth, I remember the good things about it. I just wanted to make sure we kept the things we enjoyed most about it.
You know, the four-point shot was something we implemented. We ended up doing a circle but we thought about doing a line outside the three-point. We thought the circle would be better for the game and it’d be easier to defend if it was in three spots and not just a line. It was things like that where we really tried to put our minds to work and made sure we had the best game for the fans and the players to play.
In your eyes, what is the goal of this league?
One, I want to make the Big3 a viable option for guys who want to prolong their basketball careers past the NBA, guys who don’t want to go overseas and want to stay at home, and guys who don’t want the wear and tear. So we just want to create a viable option for those guys.
But, we also want a sport in the summer for fans to look forward to. If you’re not a hardcore baseball fan, the summer becomes a desert and we want to fill that void and continue basketball in this form that we think is fun and exciting. You know, 3-on-3 is very young so we just feel like we can grow this league like any other league. We’ll attract better and better players as the years go by and people come to realize we’re a viable option after they leave the NBA.
What rules like the four-point shot were considered but ultimately abandoned?
Basketball is basketball. You can only do so much to adjust the game. Obviously, we did things like after a score, the losing team takes the ball but they don’t have to pass the ball in. Once the ref gives it to them, they can go. This way, it keeps the ball flowing and we think that’s great. We’ve also eliminated unnecessary free throws so if you’re getting fouled for a two-pointer, you go to the line once for two points, and if you get fouled on a three-pointer, you shoot one shot from the three-point line worth three points. But that’s some of the little things that we think will speed up the game. We feel like we got a fun product.
Another thing was on hand checking and whether or not we should allow it. We decided that we really wanted to bring great defense back, not fouls, defense. So that’s how we decided that it would be great to have hand checking in there.
Were there any specific players you wanted that you couldn’t get?
There was nobody that we were that close to getting that we didn’t get. But, we would’ve loved to have seen guys like Rip Hamilton, Baron Davis, and Gilbert Arenas, and some of the other players out there. But we knew that some players, no matter what, were just going to watch this year to see how this did.
What player or players do you think will surprise the most people this season in the Big3?
Wow man, it’s hard to say because a lot of these guys have already played on the big stage. But, I think Stephen Jackson is going to shine in this league, Rashad McCants is gonna do his thing, there’s a lot of guys that’ll definitely shine.
You recently challenged LaVar Ball to make a four-point shot and if he did, you’d buy ten pairs of his Big Baller Brand shoes. What’s your impression of him and his son?
I think it’s great. There’s nothing wrong with one man banking on himself or his children, nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with breaking the mold and I commend him for trying to break the mold of bowing down to the shoe companies and creating something himself. As a father, I definitely respect him for believing in his son and trying to get exposure for him and for the most part, I agree with what he’s doing. Of course, just like anybody, I’d probably have a different approach here and there. But, for the most part, there’s no other college kid being talked about. So, he’s done his job. Now, it’s up to his kid to put it on the court and do his job.
You still keep up with the NBA, right? You have a favorite in the NBA Finals? Who are you pulling for?
Yeah, I do. Honestly, I just want good basketball. I mean, obviously I’m a Lakers fan. But, I think people just want to see a great series. I really hope it go to seven (games) and I hope it’s knock down, drag out the whole way. But, what’s cool is the people who don’t get what they need or didn’t get what they needed from the NBA season, they can look forward to the Big3.
When do you think the Lakers will be a playoff team again?
Well, it’s hard to say. I think obviously it depends on the draft. I also think a trade is coming down the pike. So, it’s really tough to see right now.
Who wins in a game of H-O-R-S-E, you or Michael Rapaport?
Who wins in a game of what [laughs]? I think I would win. Rap don’t look like he picked up too many basketballs.
Have you ever been approached about doing a Fast and Furious movie?
No. I never have.
Who’s your favorite player of all time and why?
Magic Johnson. Not only is he the greatest point guard to ever play the game but he held up a whole league. Him and Larry Bird didn’t just hold up their own team, they held up the league. So I just think he’s the greatest basketball player of all time because he’s won on every level and he won a high-school championship, college championship, and pro championship within about three years. I just think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s done.