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Ice Cube took a huge risk with BIG3 and now it’s finally paying off

Founded in 2017 by Ice Cube and his business partner, Jeff Kwainetz, the professional league showcases former NBA stars and talent alike. Thus far, the BIG3 league has made drastic jumps in the three short years it’s been around.

In addition to juggernaut names like Lamar Odom, Gilbert Arenas, and Greg Oden the BIG3 will be broadcast on CBS and the CBS Sports Network. Plus it has expanded to two cities each weekend starting June 22 and will run for 11 weeks.

It seems like it was only yesterday when Ice Cube announced he was starting his own basketball league. There was casual interest but not much excitement despite featuring the Stephen Jacksons and Allen Iversons of the world.

I’m not quite sure what it was at the time, but a three-on-three halfcourt basketball game with a four-point line didn’t strike me as something that was serious, especially with team names like 3 Headed Monsters and the Ball Hogs as official mascots.

Not to mention the product wasn’t that great starting off.

Games took six hours to complete because players were out of shape and not as good. There was a point in the inaugural game in Brooklyn two years ago when Williams, aka White Chocolate, drove hard against Bibby. He came to a jump-stop and appeared to tear his ACL, screaming in pain as he fell to the floor.

Fast forward, and now they’re witnessing record viewership. The championship game last year on FOX/FS1 averaged 444,000 viewers. This was one hell of a gain, up an impressive +108 percent over last season’s viewership of 213,000.

A big part of the growing popularity is due to how competitive the games got over time. The players started fighting hard and are taking the game seriously.

Yeah, Jermaine O’Neal might not be like the guy we remember in Indiana, but I’d still like to see him bang with Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson on the post or Baron Davis and Gilbert Arenas battle it out on the wing.

The BIG3 draft Wednesday night may not have made major headlines or deemed breaking news, but it held a significance that lies beneath the surface.

The mere fact that Ice Cube, as a Black man, owns and is commissioner of a professional sports league and has seen it out three seasons is not only a major feat for sports media but for people of color everywhere.

That’s why not matter how far the league goes from here on out, the BIG3 is already Ice Cube’s greatest work. “Today Was a Good Day” is a bonified classic and we can’t thank him enough for the Friday series. Plus, what would the NWA be without Cube, but going for a stake in the system is different echelon of boss shit.

Earlier this month Cube even tried acquiring 21 regional sports networks from the Walt Disney Company for the 3-on-3 basketball league and that former Laker GM, Magic Johnson was helping him with the bid.

Cube’s idea was to expand the Fox networks with 24-hour national programming geared toward young people with the hopes of leveraging sports and celebrity contacts to put together culturally diverse programming.

However, he lost the bid to Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest U.S. broadcast station owner, who reached a deal valued at more than $10 billion.

The BIG3 is what Nipsey has been preaching, what Dame Dash was ranting about, and Hov’s new subject matter all in one. Despite not winning the bid, the activity and BIG3’s occupancy of the sports and media space, represented by someone that looks like him, is a start.

Yeah, BIG3 may seem like a bunch of old heads playing 3-on-3, but it’s a piece to a larger puzzle in Black entrepreneurship, ownership, and influence.