The inaugural season of the BIG3 is in the books. What started with a press conference in January ended with a Las Vegas championship game in August, as the Ice Cube-founded, three-on-three basketball league went from concept to fully-formed sport over the course of a 10-week summer tour.
The league certainly had its highs (Bringing basketball to Seattle, Stephen Jackson jacking threes) and lows (Allen Iverson missing a game). To recap the BIG3’s eventful initial season, The Crossover caught up with Ice Cube and BIG3 CEO Amy Trask to conduct an exit interview.
Rohan Nadkarni: What surprised you the most during the first season?
Ice Cube: People were super skeptical. You should expect that, I guess. To me, it’s like, I saw it so clearly. When it’s your project you can get caught up in it. I’m so surprised it took until we got to Brooklyn for people to feel what we were trying to do. Not just fans, players, even people on our internal team—to me that was surprising. It was good to be better than what people expected. Being underestimated is not always a bad thing.
Amy Trask: I love being underestimated. Go ahead and do it to me at your own peril. So I would use the word encouraged. I was thrilled, encouraged, delighted by the international enthusiasm. In addition to terrific reception here—15,000 in Brooklyn and Dallas, 12,000 in Los Angeles. Really excited, enthused crowds. I loved how our players, coaches embraced them.
But the international interest in the game. When Cube referenced Brooklyn, when we tipped off, immediate requests came pouring in from every part of the globe, asking for broadcast rights, asking how they can stream it, putting it on social. It was hard to keep up. We were able to process three dozen of those requests. We couldn’t even get through the entire list of requests. It’s a vision now being embraced all over the planet. It circles back to something that extends boundaries. It’s done all around the world, how do we transcend our differences?
RN: What’s one thing you guys would change moving forward?
Trask: [Laughs] Does not sleeping count?
Cube: Add more hours in the day. Starting in January, we realized how much we were behind the 8-ball when we tried to make deals. We wanted to start earlier but it took us time to lock in key players that we needed. It was a situation where we ended up starting late, which put us behind on so many different things. If we had a chance to do it all over again, we would have launched no matter what, but we would have started earlier.
Trask: Our only enemy was time. We had a lot to do in very little time. There’s nothing you can do about that. We announced in January. Tipoff was in June. There was no BIG3 at this time last year. And now we have a successful season under our belt. We can refine and make things better, and we will. But that’s the nature of a startup enterprise.
RN: What was the most exciting part of this process for you?
Cube: Every Monday, seeing the broadcast. For me, that was the coolest thing ever. Seeing what we created on TV. And done in a cool, unique way. FOX delivered our game in a great, fun fashion. That to me was the best time. Going to the games live was fun, but being able to sit back and enjoy the show was great.
Trask: Seeing the level of competition that the players brought to the court. We had a practice game in late May so we could work with Fox on broadcast issues. A number of our players and coaches came in. And in a practice game, designed to work out broadcast issues, the ferociousness of the competition, and I mean that in the best sense. I thought, “Wow, Wow, we really have a good game here.” At the end of the day, fans are going to love this league because of the quality of play. These men are there to play, to win, and to compete. And the quality kept improving over the course of the season. And it’s only going to get better next year.
RN: What was your reaction when the Mayweather-McGregor fight was announced as the same night as your championship game? [The BIG3 would eventually give up the T-Mobile Arena for the fight]
Cube: Pissed off. I was pissed because I felt like I don’t want to share that date with anybody. I want all the focus to be on the championship. That was our only game live on Fox. Something I wish could have happened on another date. Ain’t nothing going on the next weekend.
Trask: My first thought was, “Lookie there, we have T-Mobile under contract.” Cube got angry, I rubbed my hands together, because we got the arena under contract. We absolutely turned it into our advantage. Jeff and Cube handled that discussion, Jeff did a great job in working it out for our league. My eyes lit up. It ended up working out fine. Our fans still did a good job filling up MGM for the championship. Without going into too much detail, it all worked out well.
RN: Was there a player you were particularly excited to watch play?
Cube: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Found myself rooting for him. Just because I like how he played. There was no other reason. I wasn’t a huge fan of his in the league, especially before his controversy. I became more of a fan after his controversy. To see him make a team, I believe he was the last player picked, to see him deliver and go out there score 20 points. He made it look easy. It was a real treat for me. To see him make it to the championship game was a great way for the world to see this man, other than just as a guy who was Colin Kaepernick before Colin Kaepernick. It was cool to see him have success on the basketball court, and not about anything he was doing off the court.
Trask: I was delighted to see all of our players perform. But something that really thrilled me was watching our coaches. Every single one, Gary Payton or Rick Barry or Rick Mahorn or George Gervin or Charles Oakley, I don’t want to forget anyone so let’s say all of them. Think about who these men are and what they’ve accomplished. To see them courtside, so emotionally and intellectually invested, to watch them coaching just thrilled me. To watch them interact with their players and grow invested over the course of the summer, I was delighted.
RN: What are your expectations for next season?
Cube: Everything is going to be better and get better. Our team, as a league, is going to be way better than we were next year. Our players are going to be way more prepared to play by the first game. The name players, the caché, it’s going to be much better. There are some good players on the sidelines waiting to get a piece of this. And our coverage is going to be better. With the time we need and all the All-Stars we have in place, I think we’re going to be great.
Trask: I got nothing to add to that. That’s perfectly said.