BIG3 basketball league co-founder and hip-hop mogul Ice Cube is throwing shots at the NBA. Cube accused the league and its broadcast partner, ESPN, of trying to “destroy” his 3-on-3 basketball league. What’s going on with Cube’s league?
— Ice Cube (@icecube) October 15, 2022
Stephen “Stak” Jackson shared a video on social media, telling fans to come out to support Cube and the BIG3 league. Stak, a 14-year NBA veteran, played in the BIG3 in 2017, and was named head coach of Trilogy in 2021, leading them to back-to-back league championships.
In the past, Cube has accused the NBA of stealing their all-star format to use in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. In an interview earlier this summer with “Basketball News,” Cube talked about the NBA, from his perspective, harming his league.
Cube: "The NBA hasn't been the nicest to the BIG3. Of course, publicly, they say all the right words. But we know privately, there's things done behind the scenes [with] sponsors, broadcasters, blah blah blah… It did tarnish my fandom a bit."
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 11, 2022
The BIG3 basketball league started by Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz in 2017, is a 3-on-3, half-court basketball league that is player centric. It features innovations like the 4-point shot, with three 4-point circles beyond the 3-point line. The goal was to have a summer basketball league with some of the greatest players ever, with an emphasis on entertainment.
After initial excitement in the summer of 2017, the league has failed to maintain consistent interest. One of the biggest issues is the lack of star power. Basketball legend Allen Iverson played in a handful of games that first year but never committed to a long-term run.
The biggest names playing this season are Michael Beasley, Joe Johnson, Rashard Lewis, Jason Richardson and Nick Young.
Most players that are Hall of Fame level/perennial all-stars have banked a ton of money in their careers, so the money wouldn’t be a reason to play in the BIG3. Also, players of that caliber played 12+ seasons and logged a ton of minutes. They’re unlikely to want to dial it up for competitive basketball, outside of some occasional pickup.
Earlier this year it was reported by The Athletic and Shams Charania that blackballed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to invest in the league. Kaepernick’s camp refuted the story shortly after.
It’s clear that the BIG3 needs a cash infusion and is trying to grow as a league but is having difficulties. It’s not easy to start a professional sports league. Domestically, the only appetite fans seem to have for additional leagues is football and even that hasn’t been very successful.
The NBA is the standard for basketball. Despite the BIG3 being 3-on-3 and played half-court with a four-point shot and different incentives, it hasn’t drawn huge interest.
As to whether the NBA is actively trying to bring the league down, we have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. But it’s hard to see what the NBA gains by actively sabotaging this league. They aren’t competing for players or resources. The BIG3 takes place during the NBA offseason and the game isn’t even the same.
Regardless, it’s evident that the BIG3 is struggling. Unless they receive a major cash infusion and can use that money to make the business model profitable, the league is unlikely to continue operations.