BIG3 Co-Founder and music and film legend Ice Cube sat down with Brian Sozzi to discuss the BIG3, his 3v3 basketball league that is re-starting it’s season in July, as well as his thoughts on social justice and diversity as the one year anniversary of his Contract with Black America approaches.
BRIAN SOZZI: Joining “Yahoo! Finance” now is Ice Cube. Cube, good to finally talk with you here. So you just launched the fourth season of your basketball league. Tell us a little bit about it.
ICE CUBE: It’s called the Big3. And we’ve taken, I guess, [? what ?] [? would ?] be called your traditional three-on-three basketball. And we just, you know, took it to hyperspace because, you know, the Big3 is professional three on three. And, you know, our rosters are filled with a lot of former NBA players.
Our coaches are a lot of Hall of Famers from the NBA like Dr. J and George Gervin. So, you know, we have a league that’s one of a kind, you know? It’s really an amazing league where you can see professional three on three.
BRIAN SOZZI: And really, it is innovative stuff. I mean, you’re saying can challenge fouls. There are one-on-one matchups. Why isn’t this stuff in the NBA? It’s time.
ICE CUBE: I think, you know, the NBA is a different flow. You know, with our game, I think it’s built for, you know, a one-on-one matchup that’s more like a penalty shot or, you know, set up like a penalty kick in soccer. But, you know, it’s called “Bring the Fire.”
And each half, the coach challenge one foul by having the guys go one-on-one for the call. If he make it, the call is good, the foul is good. If he misses, then the foul comes off the board, and they take it out, and start over again, and play regular game.
So it’s a great innovation to our league. And I think people are gonna love that aspect of Big3 games. And look, I can’t wait to see it myself. So I’m excited.
BRIAN SOZZI: You’re a busy guy, still making music, still making movies. What made you launch your own basketball league?
ICE CUBE: As a fan, watching somebody like Kobe Bryant score 60 points in his last game and know that there was not a place I could go see him, pay to see him play again, I felt like, hey, why can’t I see these guys play? I know they play somewhere. You know, I had always thought about three on three and why it hasn’t been elevated to the professional level. So these ideas kind of collided at the same time.
I have a crazy partner by the name of Jeff Kwatinetz. And me and him brainstormed for a year on what the Big3 could be. And then we launched in 2017 and never looked back.
BRIAN SOZZI: How has it been trying to relaunch the league coming out the other side of the pandemic? Have you kept all your sponsors?
ICE CUBE: Well, it wasn’t easy. We kept a lot of our sponsors, a lot of people that supported. But a lot of sponsors, they were going through their own trouble and their own issues.
So we weren’t able to keep Adidas. But it had nothing to do with our league. It has something to do with, you know, their financial situation during the pandemic.
So it wasn’t easy to stay alive. But, you know, we did the things and took the steps we needed. We postponed our 2020 season, which was hard to do, but the most responsible thing to do, because we have to make our decisions in March and April. And March, April 2020, nobody knew what the sun was gonna hold.
You know, would the country be locked down for two years, three years? We didn’t know. So that was hard. But what’s great is it’s 2021. California just opened up on my birthday, which was yesterday.
BRIAN SOZZI: Happy belated birthday.
ICE CUBE: Thank you. So it’s great. You know, we start our season July 10 in Las Vegas, full capacity, at the Orleans Hotel– Arena. I mean, Orleans Arena. So it’s just a great time to get back into it.
BRIAN SOZZI: What have you learned as a business person throughout the, let’s say, 18 months of the pandemic.
ICE CUBE: That you can never really stop, you know, figuring out ways to survive in business. Even when you think things are kind of on autopilot, you can never let your guards down on figuring out ways to, you know, cut costs, to be leaner, to be meaner, to not get to, I guess, you know, to not stretch yourself too thin, you know, and just make sure that you’re ready for that rainy day because it’s coming. So I knew that as a business man just growing up. But seeing it in effect at this point just made me, you know, remember what I already know.
BRIAN SOZZI: You know, I do want to switch gears a little bit. Around– you know, I was thinking back coming into this interview– around this time last year, I had talked with LL Cool J around the murder of George Floyd. And his comments were very powerful.
And then a week and a half later, you came out– I think it was July 1– with the Contract With Black America. You’re coming up on that one-year anniversary of that. Have you been pleased with the progress, you know, in society off of those things that you outlined in there?
ICE CUBE: Well, you know, what I’m pleased is that the reception of the Contract With Black America was, you know, welcoming. I think I educated a lot of people on just the broad issues and where they– you know, I guess, where, you know, the restraints on our communities’ progress, where they really lay, and where they are, you know, being held. So that feels good. You know, of course I want things to move faster.
But I feel, you know, we are engaging with a few companies behind the scenes to try to make things better. And, you know, that’s all you can really hope for, is to educate people, inspire people, and then look for the people that are willing to make things better, and engage with them, and try to figure it out. You know, so I’m very happy with the progress. And I’m looking forward to celebrating a year of the Contract With Black America.
BRIAN SOZZI: Cube, have you been able to meet with President Biden again? I encourage everyone watching this to go check this out on the site. I mean, this is a very– I mean, this is powerful– this is something very powerful that you outlined bullet by bullet. It is a very extensive, is very well thought out. Have you been able to talk to someone in the administration about making some of these things happen?
ICE CUBE: I haven’t met with President Biden. But I have been talking to Congressman Richmond, Cedric. And, you know, of course I want things to move a lot faster. But, you know, I understand. You know, and hopefully we can set up some meetings that I asked for in the future with not just the administration, but with their connection to big business, because I think this is a private and a public sector issue.
So, you know, if they can help me in the private sector in a lot of ways to get to the decision makers to change some policies and try to funnel money where it’s supposed to go, you know, I’m waiting to be able to do that. And we have been engaging. And, you know, I’m just patiently waiting to take the next step.
BRIAN SOZZI: You know, one thing you did mention– and I guess this ties back to our world of finance here at “Yahoo! Finance”– you mentioned SPACs in the CWBA. Listen, we have covered a lot of SPACs here. We’ve talked to a lot of executives. I see next to no Black representation on boards and definitely not in leadership positions. Why does this continue?
ICE CUBE: You know, tradition. You know, people, I guess they are comfortable with working with people they see every day, and went to school with, and things like that. So it’s just really opening people’s minds to be more inclusive.
Things would be better if they were more inclusive. And until people realize that and come to that conclusion, we’ll continue to have no representation or little representation in these areas. But it’s not really about just the face you put in place, what it’s about– or the color the skin of the person you put in place– it’s about what you do for the broader community and what can be done for the less fortunate. Because if somebody get a job like that or a position, they’re in a pretty fortunate position. So we want to think about what we could do for the less fortunate.
BRIAN SOZZI: Almost coming up on the one year of the CWBA. Do you see healing in society compared to where we were last year?
ICE CUBE: I see, you know, progress here and there. But I also see us taking steps back. You know, it’s that old scenario, you know, one step forward, two steps back sometimes. So it’s an ebb and flow in this country of things that if they wasn’t here, it’d be a better place. So, you know, I just think the good people just gotta continue to fight the good fight, and point out what’s wrong, and try to fix it.
BRIAN SOZZI: Well, I know a lot of folks certainly appreciate your thoughts, and your views on this, and what you have done to stand up and make a difference. So we appreciate that. And good luck with the new league.
I know a lot of folks are going to be watching. Much success with that. Ice Cube, we look forward to staying in touch.
ICE CUBE: Appreciate it, man. Thanks for the interview.