It’s the worst time of the year if you’re a sports fan. The NBA and NHL are off. The NFL is playing meaningless games with guys you’ve never heard of, and baseball hasn’t quite left its meandering midseason to enter the exciting final stretch. (Or, if you’re a Brewers fan, at least hopefully exciting.)
Don’t worry, sports fans: Ice Cube is here to save you from the summertime sports blues.
Tipping off at 3 p.m. at Fiserv Forum is Ice Cube’s BIG3, a relatively new league founded in 2017 that brings three-on-three basketball into the spotlight. Touring the country, the game offers some unique twists on the regular full-court game you’re likely used to – it’s a half-court game, each matchup ends based on points rather than a clock and there’s a four-point shot marker – as well as a chance to see some familiar faces who still know how to throw down on a basketball court.
In Sunday’s case, that includes three matchups featuring former Bucks players Jason Terry, Larry Sanders, Drew Gooden and Gary Payton, who’s moved from the court to the sideline as a coach. His team, the 3 Headed Monsters, will play the league-leading Triplets as the day’s second game, while the first game will pit the Aliens (including Bucks fan favorite Ryan Hollins!) against 3’s Company and the day’s final spat will see The Jet and the Trilogy take on the yet-winless Ball Hogs.
Before they all take the court, however, OnMiliwaukee got a chance to talk to the iconic rapper, actor and league co-founder to find out more about the league, its origins and its future – and if he’s gotten to snack on a State Fair cream puff while he’s been touring around town.
OnMilwaukee: Why do you think it took so long to get a pro 3-on-3 basketball league into the spotlight in America?
Ice Cube: I have no idea. It seems like it’s a no-brainer if you’re into basketball or if you’re into professional sports. So I don’t know. It seems like the NBA would’ve thought of this 30 years ago – because their players, from what I understand, have always asked them or went to them for things to do after they retired. And they’re used to giving them ambassador roles and not really thinking about them being able to still play.
Is there a player, living or dead, that you wish you could’ve seen in the BIG3?
Michael Jordan, Olajuwon, Kareem, Magic, Wilt. I could go on and on. Everybody grew up playing three-on-three. If you go to any school yard in America during school and you look at the basketball court, three-on-three is going down. Not full-court, because there’s not enough room and there’s too many people. Everybody’s playing three-on-three – especially around the world. Three-on-three is a lot bigger than five-on-five just because of space, and they’re not used to building all these gyms that America has everywhere. It was a no-brainer to me.
Was the school yard your first exposure to this, or did it happen elsewhere?
My backyard. We used to call it "The Forum" (laughs) because my house was painted sort of yellowish gold. We would play back there all night, until the neighbors told us to stop dribbling that ball. We would have epic battles back there. Very physical games. I had to actually get old enough to play, it was so rough. My brother and his friends are nine years older than me, so when they really got going, it was rough. So I had to get strong enough. It took me years to be able to play with those dudes. So I’ve always appreciated the physical game.
Do you look to the BIG3 moving into getting younger guys out of school, or do you like the niche you have now with guys that maybe the NBA has left behind or passed on but can still play at a high level?
I like where we are for a few reasons. Since 27 is the minimum age, I love dealing with players who are in their prime or their basketball IQ is through the roof. In three-on-three especially, it makes it a more pleasing game to watch when guys know what they’re doing when it comes to cutting and setting picks and running the pick-and-rolls right and all the things that make basketball flow and look great.
And then I like the aspect of going to see players that you know, players that you’ve invested time and energy into, guys who have been around – or haven’t been around. There are some guys who are still trying to get the shot or looking for a shot overseas to play.
Also I wouldn’t want to disrupt any player who really could go to the NBA, who plays in our league and falls in love with our league and never goes to the NBA. I don’t want that to happen. We love the NBA, so we don’t want to step on any toes.
Speaking of the NBA, what do you think of the Bucks, and do you think they’re the favorites to win the Finals? Or do you think it’s coming out to Los Angeles – or somewhere else?
I think the Bucks can definitely make it to the Finals. And when you get there, you never know. So I’m never going to say who’s gonna win the Finals until I see who’s there. But I definitely think the team has improved. They’re fun to watch. I was watching this playoffs and watched Giannis; I know why he’s the MVP – incredible player. I know the city’s on fire, which is cool. And I think you’re biggest opponent is the 76ers. They have a great team, and they’re gonna be hungry after losing to Toronto. So I think that you guys are gonna fight it out. So see you in the Finals – it’s gonna be Lakers/Milwaukee. (laughs) And may the best team win.
I know this question is going to be like picking your favorite child, but what matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend in Milwaukee?
There’s a lot of great ones and a lot of things at stake. I think ultimately the one to look at is the 3 Headed Monsters and the Triplets. The Triplets kind of got back to their winning ways and figured out what they need to do to win, but the 3 Headed Monsters are desperate. They’ve lost three games in a row. You lose four games, and you’re probably out of the playoffs, so they’re gonna fight and scrap. That’s the marquee matchup in Milwaukee.
You’ve been in Milwaukee this past week promoting BIG3, and the Wisconsin State Fair started, as well. The big thing there is a cream puff. Did you get to try one?
No, I haven’t. But I gotta get one.
You’re probably gonna have to.
Yeah, you got it on my mind now. I gotta get that when I get back.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.