Ice Cube Envisions BIG3 Basketball League Going Global

Few have done it better than Ice Cube when it comes to rappers creating a successful brand that connects across multiple mediums and platforms.

Coming into the rap game as a member of N.W.A. in the late 80s, Ice Cube's solo work in the early 90s established him as a top tier rapper. He would eventually cross over into the mainstream upon the release of the film Friday in 1995, which he both wrote and starred in.

Spanning a long career covering rapping, writing, endorsements, directing and fashion-- Ice Cube's latest BIG3 basketball league venture may the biggest one of all.

Taking advantage of fans' growing appetite for professional basketball the BIG3 basketball league leverages the NBA offseason to showcase talent that is still very much relevant although no longer playing in the NBA. It only makes sense that Ice Cube's BIG3 league would leverage the relationship between hip hop and sports.

" Ever since I was young playing 3-on-3, we would always play better with the radio on. So we're playing and listening to music at the same time. To me it goes together naturally," said Ice Cube to of the relationship between music and basketball. "Snoop Dogg said 'Sports without music is just a game.' And we didn't want just a game. We wanted to change the game. We wanted to try and marry the two without disrupting the game-- still paying respect to the essence of basketball but being as independent as we can because of music."

"Basketball has so much rhythm in it-- the rhythm of the ball bouncing, the rhythm of the people moving in concert to create a great opportunity for themselves, like a great shot. Music has that same agreement with different elements coming together to create something greater than itself," said Ice Cube. "So it's a lot of good energy back and forth between music and basketball. The music makes the basketball more exciting and the basketball makes the music more exciting."

BIG3 live events feature Tattoo the in-arena MC. To give fans a more thorough experience, BIG3 has also teamed with Dash Radio to create the "BIG3 Radio" online station which further cements the league's brand through the pairing of music, sports and more.

"It has a lot to do with DJ Skee. He has been helping us frame the BIG3 musically. He's been there every game. We've been refining what the BIG3 should sound like in the arena and on TV," said Ice Cube of the Dash Radio personality and founder. "For Skee and Tattoo to put that much energy into the station, to make sure that it catches on and catches fire, to me, that's a big part of the bigger picture of the BIG3 and what we need to do to connect with our grassroots audience."

A major breakthrough for BIG3 came when it established its partnership with Fox who televises the game nationally on its FS1 cable network while also streaming games via Fox Sports Go.

"I was looking for a true partner. What's great about Fox and the production team over there, headed by Geordie Wimmer, is that even though they've done tons of sports-- they were just coming off the Super Bowl where Tom Brady had come back and beat Atlanta-- they're still open to our suggestions and open to how we were wanting to frame the BIG3. It was just remarkable," said Ice Cube of the collaboration. "Some guys would've been like, 'Ok-- you are the rap guy. Don't tell us how to shoot sports.' But they listened and we tried things and they were willing to go outside the box and frame sports differently than they had with anything they already broadcast."

Now, halfway through season two, many of the unforeseen obstacles have been tackled. Having recently visited both China and Brazil, Ice Cube sees a major opportunity for BIG3 with 3-on-3 basketball set to make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

"It's really all about us presenting the professional version of that. The Olympics is the amateur version. FIBA is the amateur version of 3-on-3. So we want to present the professional version of it," explained Ice Cube. "So what we would like to do is create a BIG3 China where some of our players could go play in those leagues and a champion could possibly come and play in our summer league. And then we do that in Brazil or South America. If we do that in Europe, then we're creating somewhat of a World Cup of 3-on-3 basketball every year in the summer. We'll have the whole world interested."

" At the end of the day, I think you have to be a fan of what you do. I'm a big fan of music. Always have. I never thought I was ever gonna do a record. I was just a fan who ended up living down the street from Dr. Dre," explained Ice Cube of his rap success. "Same with sports-- big fan: Lakers fan, Raiders fan, Dodgers fan-- but never thought I 'd be in sports. And here I am. I just think you've got ta be a fan of what you're gonna do."



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