Ice Cube BIG3 Jul 31, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Music artist and owner Ice Cube performs during week four of the Big3 3-on-3 basketball league at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Aric Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ice Cube has been quite open about what he feels is national disrespect for his BIG3 basketball league, despite a media deal with CBS.

This past weekend, with BIG3 games taking place in Boston, Ice Cube talked with the Boston Globe about the league, saying he felt the NBA was hindering the league’s growth because it was leaning on sponsors and networks to ignore BIG3.

The league, however, faces obstacles because Ice Cube believes the NBA views the BIG3 as a rival and has encouraged sponsors and major networks such as ESPN to disregard the league, making it more difficult to flourish.

[…]

Ice Cube said the lack of media coverage and sponsorship “ is our biggest obstacle, this is the biggest thing that is holding the league from reaching higher success.”

“They can’t stop us but they can hinder us, slow our growth down, they could poison our sponsors or scare sponsors,” he said. “Tell other media outlets to not cover us if they want to cover the NBA. Advising networks not to play us if they’re NBA networks. These kind of things hinder the growth of the league but it hasn’t stopped the growth of the league because people want it. And at the end of the day, when people want something, [there’s] nothing the mainstream can really do to stop it. It’s going to happen.”’

Ice Cube has been beating this drum for a while. In June, he lamented the lack of interest from sports media outlets in BIG3. In July, Cube said that an NBA announcer was told he wasn’t allowed to mention BIG3 on the air.

Cube called out “gatekeepers” that are keeping BIG3 from “reaching its full potential.”

“Without a doubt, this reminds me of first breaking out with N.W.A.,” he said. “The mainstream really didn’t want the record to get traction and they couldn’t do nothing to stop it because the people wanted it. There’s a lot of parallels between what I’m doing with the sports and the BIG3 and the gatekeepers who are trying to keep it from reaching its full potential.”

Ice Cube specifically mentioned ESPN in his criticisms, wondering why the network doesn’t talk about BIG3 while touting the league’s viewership.

“I just know when things don’t make sense, there’s a reason why it’s not making sense,” he said. “And it’s usually something a person behind the scenario that’s making it not make sense. I don’t know what goes on at ESPN, why they will not acknowledge the league in any way, shape or form. But it’s happening.

“Our ratings are better than MLS, and some Major League Baseball games. People want the league. People are interested in the league. Our ratings are better than NHL and those leagues are covered. The WNBA is covered but not the BIG3. We have star power that can really, I would say, match most leagues that’s out there. It’s not like we’ve got chopped liver out there.

[ESPN] got drone races. They do everything but the BIG3. I just know it’s not happening. It’s not a coincidence.”

BIG3 games have been airing on CBS since 2019. Beginning in 2021, all of the league’s games have aired on the CBS broadcast network.

The BIG3 event on Sunday, July 30 averaged 559,000 viewers on CBS, per Sports Media Watch. That ranked eighth among live sporting events on the day, behind NASCAR, the PGA Tour, the Senior PGA Tour, MLB, Formula 1, the World Swimming Championships, and Pro Bull Riding. It wasn’t even in the top ten on Sunday, July 23, with 503,000 viewers on average, and also fell behind its WNBA lead-in. On Saturday, July 15, the BIG3 averaged 600,000 viewers, ranking behind the American Century Championship, a NASCAR Xfinity race, and an encore of the Wimbledon Ladies’ Championship in the same timeslot. On Sunday, July 9, BIG3 averaged 525,000 viewers, also not in the top ten live sporting events on the day. On Saturday, July 1, BIG3’s average viewership was 501,000, again not in the top ten live sporting events for the day.

Highlight and recap videos on YouTube of the current BIG3 season also aren’t lighting the world on fire, topping out at 26,000 views over a month of action.

By now, you probably get the picture. The BIG3 isn’t a sports media phenomenon that is being unjustly held down by ESPN, the NBA, and various sponsors. It’s a mostly niche product that has settled into its own groove. There’s nothing wrong with that! Plenty of sports live in their own little worlds and are able to continue existing without ESPN going out of its way to layer praise onto them.

Summer basketball leagues remind me a lot of spring football leagues. There’s a perceived need and desire for the sport to take place in its offseason, but fan interest has never taken off the way the decision-makers have assumed it would. Just because ESPN isn’t showcasing BIG3 (or any other sport or league) on SportsCenter or its social channels, that doesn’t mean the company is being leaned on by the NBA or its sponsors. ESPN has spent plenty of time this summer airing The Basketball Tournament and SlamBall, two leagues also not affiliated with the NBA, so let’s not pretend that the NBA is afraid of competition (especially during its offseason).

[Boston Globe]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.