After the Big3 finished its second season, we caught up with some of the top executives that helped make the league into what it is today.
Ice Cube, who is the co-founder and co-CEO of the league, joined us on the call. So, too, did league commissioner and Basketball Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. The conference call also included their chairman of the board Amy Trask as well as well 2018 Coach of the Year and Big3 champion Nancy Lieberman – who is also in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
We spoke about their most recent season as well as what to look forward to in the future.
What were some of the biggest victories the Big3 had as a league and some of the most positive takeaways you had from the season?
Ice Cube: I think that being broadcasted live, which allowed fans to see our games as they’re happening, was a great victory for the league. The new players that came into the league made our league better. We got a better commissioner in Clyde Drexler. Our coaches got better. We had four games on Big Fox, that was a very good thing because it allowed us to show the data that this league belongs on a major network and on prime time. I just think the knowledge we gained this season is going to make us better as a league for next season. We’re building and growing our fan base.
Ice Cube spoke about breaking ceilings and barriers after Nancy Lieberman won Coach of the Year and the Big3 Championship. How does the league offer opportunities for players, coaches and executives to do exactly that?
Amy Trask: It is our great fortune to work for and to work with the men who have started this league, Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz, because they do what every business leader should do. They hire without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other individuality that has no barring whatsoever on whether someone can do a job. They’ve done that from day one. Businesses that don’t do this deserve to fail. I will tell you with one particular moment that resonated with me. When I sat with this group and we talked about Nancy joining us as a head coach, not one of them referenced her gender. It wasn’t even a subject. People ask me if I think it was a loud statement that we hired her. It was louder that gender was never an issue. It’s not an issue for Nancy and it’s not an issue to me. Nancy isn’t a woman head coach. She’s a head coach. And by the way, she won it all. To listen to men like Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette as well as Quentin Richardson and Glen Davis talk about Nancy without regard to gender is very special.
Ice Cube: If we don’t cut the s*** as a country and cut through all of this gender and race stuff, if we don’t let the cream of the crop reach the top, we would be on our way down. It’s been this way too long. The smartest people and the most qualified people need to step to the front or this country is going to fall behind. If we really want to reach our full potential, the best people got to be in the position.
I wonder if, based on these answers, we could see a WNBA player in the Big3 at some point. There are so many female sharpshooters, perhaps they’d have a chance to compete in here as well.
Ice Cube: Without a doubt, it’s a definite possibility. The league is extremely physical but you can never say never. If somebody can come and really prove themselves during the combine and get selected in the draft, you never know.
Nancy Lieberman: I was going to say that is always an option. It’s also really great that there is a WNBA where they can highlight their skills. I played in men’s leagues my whole life. I played for Pat Riley on the Los Angeles Lakers during summer league in 1980. I played two years in the United States Basketball League, which was a men’s league. No matter how good you are, you will never be able to show the true skill set of the guys are so big and so strong and so athletic. You’re playing on your IQ. It’s nice that women today have a league where they can show their greatness. But this league is open to all possibilities. Certainly on the business and coaching side as well. But on all sides, you have to earn the right to be here. This is not Skittles. Everybody doesn’t get one. You have to come with a resume and experience. If you want these high-level professional athletes to respect you, then you’ll have to be invested in this game because it matters. It’s not my birthright to coach in the Big3 , the NBA, the WNBA or the G League. I’ve had to grind and make relationships and friendships. Look at what Amy Trask has done. She’s done this since she started with former Raiders owner Al Davis. She had to show what qualities she has to change the franchise in Oakland. This was an opportunity for me to be different with our players and represent this league on an entirely different level.
That’s very helpful, thank you! Transitioning a little bit, I know that Clyde Drexler recently spoke about how the Big3 is made for players like Manu Ginobili. What is your reaction when people like him and David West retire and what is that recruiting process like?
Clyde Drexler: That’s a great question. I’ll give you a little bit about what it’s like. Obviously, the Big3 is only going to be as good as the talent in the league. We want the best talent. So when guys like David West and Manu Ginobili retire, we’re all over them like a cheap suit. Trust me. We’re going to let them know that we want them. We’re going to let them know that if they want to continue to play professional basketball that’s not as grueling and not as taxing. It’s three-on-three, it’s halfcourt. It’s for ten weeks in the summer, which means you have most of the year off. We say if you want to continue, we’d love to have you. We let them know in no uncertain terms.
What would your thoughts be on eventually partnering with the NBA, offering a more official retirement plan to players who have finished their careers but still want to try and compete? Or would you prefer to remain more independent?
Ice Cube: I think we can go a step further than that. I think there could be a situation where guys want to stay sharp and go back and forth and use our league as a way to stay sharp. Our big men can get a little tougher in the paint and there are a couple ways we could work together with the NBA to help them have a better product and help us have a better product as well.
Clyde Drexler: There are many, many ways we can complement each other. The synergy is incredible because basketball is basketball. No matter if you’re playing professionally or amateur, you’ve played more three-on-three than any other type of basketball. Our game is just very familiar to everyone around the world.
Anything that offers employment the basketball space for so many people would be something that I’m trying to support. Last thing: I’d love if you could each provide a goal you have for the league next year.
Ice Cube: My goal is to just have the sports world looking forward to season three. People get the itch when the NFL season is around the corner and when the NBA is coming back there is a fever. I want the same thing around the Big3 . Look for our offseason news, too, because we’re going to be dropping interesting things until next season.
Amy Trask: I’d like to continue our global expansion, not only playing internationally but continuing to expand our broadcast reach. We’re currently broadcasting in four dozen countries and I’d like to grow our international footprint because I’ve long had the view that sport can help unite the world. People can find commonality with one another and we need that right now.
Nancy Lieberman: My goal is to continue with this team and to grow it. We can continue to defend what we did this year. We can grow the game. Cereal is not cereal until you see it on Saturday morning cartoons. You have to be a major player on television and by having these games on FOX, we do that. I can tell you right now that I did an appearance at a charity event with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. When I came through the door, the first person who wanted to talk to me was Zeke. He said he watched the games, Dak wanted to talk about the Big3 . Earl Campbell, a great running back who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, sat down with me for 25 minutes and wanted to know the intricacies of the Big3. He watched the game and you’d think he was my assistant coach based on the way he was talking to me. People are excited. I was in groceries, I was pumping gas. People want to talk about Ice Cube, they want to talk about the league, they’re amazed at the level of talent in this league. That, to me, has been so exciting to see we’re making a difference in people’s lives.
Clyde Drexler: My goal is to continue to help grow the game to make sure the fan and player experience are second to none. When they come to an event, I want to make sure they’re having fun. When players are out there on our court, I want to make sure they’re given a chance to showcase their talent and they understand that the Big3 is off the hook in terms of professionalism and it’s the best. My goal is to continue to help foster that environment that environment where it’s fun and super family friendly and we get a chance to compete. These guys have been around each other for decades. Ice Cube and Jeff are some of the greatest guys. We’re providing opportunities and it’s fun.