(CBS Local Sports)– Ice Cube has done a lot of things in his career, but starting a sports league has been one of the toughest to pull off.
The legendary rap artist and business mogul used his clout and connections to organize a competitive three on three half court basketball league for retired NBA players to play in. The Big 3, which airs on CBS Sports Network, makes stops in Rhode Island and Brooklyn this weekend and Cube is pleased that things are moving in the right direction.
“It’s been a journey. It’s not easy to make a league last,” said Cube in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “It’s been 20 years since a league has come out of nowhere and stuck, which is the UFC. We’re proud to be in our third year and we know the odds were against us to get here.”
The Big 3 is filled with NBA legends on the sidelines like Julius “Dr. J” Irving and George Gervin, and former NBA All-Stars like Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire.
“A lot of people had misconceptions that this was like a celebrity game or pickup,” said Cube. “That’s never what we envisioned. We knew that the first year would be rough because guys were not in shape and didn’t know what it was. The league has grown and now it’s really about exposing it to a number of people and making it popular.”
Cube is best known for his work on the stage as an artist and on the screen as an actor. The lead singer of NWA was playing fullback and outside linebacker for his high school football team before he met Dr. Dre and his life changed forever.
“I played fullback and linebacker. I was an outside linebacker and I liked outside better than inside,” said Cube. “I was pretty good… I started. Then I met Dr. Dre and stopped going to practice. I was 15 when we met. He was making records already and I trusted him. I mean he could rock a party as a DJ and he could DJ good. Back then you actually had to have skill and technique and he had no weaknesses on the turn table. His parties were always louder. He always was light years ahead of everyone else and that was contagious to work with.”
While Ice Cube has inspired a lot of people across the culture, one of his biggest influences was the late John Singleton. The director was a mentor to Cube and helped him jump into the movie business.
“In doing Boys n The Hood with John Singleton, he pursued me for a couple of years to do the movie,” said Cube. “The whole experience was great and it went to the Cannes Film Festival. That’s your first movie and you’re in the south of France. I had to get bit by the bug and pursue this. It was the best thing I had experienced up to that point. He [John] was true. He wanted to deliver the pure black experience to the viewer, not a watered down version or a caricature, but how we really are. He was a champion for that. He was a champion for great cinema, black cinema and he was my mentor.”
Watch the Big 3 Saturday and Sunday on CBS.