The connection of love and respect between hip-hop and professional basketball has always been apparent. However, few were more renowned for his love of the Los Angeles Lakers as Ice Cube. Now, Cube is teaming up with longtime business partner and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, and has hired former NBAPA deputy executive director Roger Mason, Jr. as the Big3 3-on-3 basketball league's President and Commissioner.
"We came up with a big idea, which was to bring the style of basketball I grew up playing, watching and loving, which is 3-on-3 basketball," said Cube. "(It is) probably the most played form of competitive basketball in the world. This concept is a great business opportunity, but as a fan I'm just excited to see the guys that I know who could still strap it up, play at a competitive high level, and I'm glad I have the right partners to provide a stage for that."
"We grew up watching these guys," he mused. "Some of them from high school, college, through the pros. We've seen them win games, we've seen them lose games, they become a part of our everyday life in a lot of ways. And then, we look won day and they're gone. They're nowhere to be seen, you can barely catch them here or there. It's like losing a family friend, or loved one, or best friend, just some that you admired. I got my heroes too. And a lot of them played professional basketball."
"A lot of them have retired and I want to see them again," he continued. "We hope it's not just a dream of ours, but a dream of yours as well. It's a dream of the fans, a dream of the press. I know you guys hate the summer, the summer is boring as shit. There's nothing on. There's nothing to watch. There's baseball, but they're still halfway through their season. So it's not good yet. Football, it's cool to see Drew Brees throwing footballs in practice, but who cares. We need something that we can really get behind in the summer and be excited about it. We're thinking Big3 will be just what the doctor ordered. This is a very proud moment for me. My man Jeff Kwatinetz, we've been working together since '97. We've done a lot here in this business."
Names circulating around the league, which is scheduled to kick off on June 24, include an array of former upper echelon retired NBA players like Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Bonzi Wells, and others are signing up everyday.
"With everything we came up with, as far as the rules and the structure, we believe served the game and was out of a love for the game" said Kwatinetz. "The game is halfcourt, 3-on-3 to 60 points. Halftime is when the first team gets to 30. We will have a seven-minute halftime. Players don't go back to the locker rooms. But this format allows players to excel. This is not a stunt. This about great basketball. Fans and players want true competition. One thing I've heard repeatedly from players when signing them up is they want it to be competitive. The credibility of the game is super important to us. Halfcourt 3-on-3 allows players to use their accumulated knowledge on the court."
"Players get smarter over time," Kwatinetz continued. "We all see it on the basketball court as they begin to perfect their technical skills. Well, it becomes hard to run up and down the court, 82 times a year, minimum, with 20-year-olds fresh out of college. The Big3 allows those who still have world class abilities to shoot, guard and defend at a high level to do what they still can. We want to see them compete with their peers at the highest level. They just needed a different set of rules. We wanted to give our heroes another shot. Why not? They deserve it. But establishing the Big3, players now can extend their careers for years, and it's in a structure that maximizes the skill that they have. So, make no mistake, this format is not only viable but could succeed wildly."
"More people play 3-on-3 basketball than any sport in the world. So, from Brooklyn to Beijing, South Africa to the south side of Chicago, people grow up playing 3-on-3. In suburban New Jersey, I can tell you, they played 3-on-3. Now it will be an official sport in the 2018 Asian Games, and most likely will be an official sport in the 2020 Olympics. This is the first real professional league for it. Team structure is eight teams, five players on a team, plus a coach. All will be ex-professional players over the age of 30. No team owners. Instead, a player captain puts his team together and runs it."
"The cut-off for players to get into the draft is March 15. We would play on Saturdays in order to give players a week to rest. All four games are played in the same city, and the same arena on the same Saturday."
The Big3 will have an upcoming player combine and a draft. Stay tuned.