Ice Cube’s BIG3 league is not novelty or nostalgia MVPs, a protester, misfits — these ballers have something to prove and are playing to win

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is 48 years old and he’s in an LA Fitness about 15 miles west of Atlanta. He’s getting frustrated. Abdul-Rauf is not happy with the way his jumper is falling. So he’s pushing, relentlessly, with the same behind-the-back dribble. Then two more dribbles to the baseline. And then a jumper about 15 feet from the basket. Abdul-Rauf drills for an hour and a half, shooting from midrange, from the 3-point line, from the corner. Shooting from the wrong foot, shooting off balance.

He’s made 23 of 25 shots. But Abdul-Rauf does a special kind of math: “Nope! It doesn’t count! Don’t count my shots if they hit rim!”

When he’s done shooting, he battles Deaundrae Ballard, a four-star recruit headed to the University of Florida this season. Abdul-Rauf, who has been training Ballard and prepping him for his college career, squares up with the novice, who’s at least 6 inches taller. Three-pointer. Wet. Repeat. The sounds of other basketballs hitting the gym floor disappear. The other ballers getting in morning workouts have stopped to watch. Another 3. Swish. His gray sweatpants and royal blue shirt are drenched in sweat. It’s also dripping from his salt-and-pepper goatee.

Former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who will play in the BIG3 league, works on his handles while training for the start of the league.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

Abdul-Rauf shoots for two more hours. He’s done some variation of this routine every weekday since he was a Louisiana State University standout. But he’s going harder now than he has in a long time. The former Denver Nugget scoring machine, who was Colin Kaepernick before Colin Kaepernick was Colin Kaepernick, is gearing up for another chance at the national stage. He’s got a new team, the 3-Headed Monsters, with teammates Jason Williams, Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis and Eddie Basden. And he’s got a new league to conquer. Abdul-Rauf is getting ready for the BIG3.


The phrase “dog days of summer” originated more than 5,000 years ago as a way to describe the months when the Dog Star, Sirius, would make itself most visible. Some believed The Dog was the cause of July and August heat. For the past century, afternoon baseball games have been a hallmark of those hot and lazy summer days, as fans flock to fields across the country to pass time with the heroes of the diamond. Yet, over the past 20 years or so, baseball has had an ever-decreasing impact on American culture, especially for African-Americans, who as of 2013 make up only 9 percent of Major League Baseball fans, far behind the black fanship of professional basketball and football.

For black folks, the dog days of summer, the season between June’s end of the NBA and September’s beginning of the NFL, are even more dogged because of the lack of sports they care to watch. That’s where Ice Cube and his BIG3 come in.

“Summer is boring as s—,” Ice Cube said at a January news conference announcing the BIG3, billed as America’s 3-on-3 Professional Basketball League. The league features former NBA players, most notably Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, in half-court games. It’s set to tour over the summer and to culminate in a championship game at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 26. The league, which launches on June 25, comprises eight teams (with names such as “Power” and “3’s Company”) of five players each: three starters and two reserves. All are coached by legends such as Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler.

“I feel great going into opening night,” Ice Cube said recently via mobile phone. “Fan interest is there. We have the teams and the talent to pull this league off. It feels good.”

From a distance, the BIG3 may seem like a novelty gig, a chance for nostalgia ballers to hit a few crossovers for YouTube and Instagram before retreating back into retirement. But a closer look at the league reveals passionate players, a brain trust and an organization that aims to be America’s second major pro basketball association.

Actor/rapper Ice Cube addresses the crowd at the 2017 BIG3 basketball league draft at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on April 30 in Las Vegas.

Sam Wasson/Getty Images

“We want this to be a viable [career] option for players who feel like they still got game and don’t want to go overseas, or who don’t want to do all that damn running up and down the court,” said Cube. “We hope to have an exciting season, and a championship game, with teams who deserve to be there.”

“I haven’t played against a lot of these guys, and they’re in their early 30s. By the grace and mercy of God, I didn’t have any problems.”

BIG3 is a real league. The competition is real. And the results are as unpredictable as they are exciting. Concepts for the BIG3 started on opposite sides of the country. On the East Coast there was Roger Mason Jr., a 2002 second-round draft pick for the Chicago Bulls who played for 10 years as a journeyman with teams such as the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks. After his final stint with the league in 2014, Mason joined the National Basketball Players Association as deputy executive director. While there, he spearheaded efforts to ensure that retired players had access to adequate health care.

Mason also has a passion for entertainment and for evolving the NBA’s tech thumbprint. Mason was the mastermind behind the inaugural NBA Player Awards show in 2015. It aired on BET, was a huge success and is a precursor to next week’s Drake-hosted NBA Awards on TNT. The BET version was executive-produced by Jeff Kwatinetz (an interesting guy), founder of entertainment company The Firm. Kwatinetz is also COO of Ice Cube’s Cube Vision film production company.

Mason had an idea he wanted to run by Kwatinetz: The NBA was seemingly headed toward a 2017 lockout (that was avoided), and Mason wanted to give players and fans something during the downtime. “My vision was a 3-on-3 tournament with active players,” said Mason. “It would give them something to do and keep games going. Then I learned that Cube and Jeff had been working on a concept for an actual league for about a year.”

The BIG3 teams don’t represent particular cities. Instead, the league will travel from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles, eight cities in total before the Nevada championship. Each stop will feature four games so every player gets seen. Think And1 Tour meets NBA basketball meets Harlem Globetrotters.

“Obviously, Cube and Jeff had been in the entertainment world,” Mason said. “And the idea of a touring league, similar to a music tour, was brilliant. I was all in to jump in with them after that.”

It was up to Cube, Mason and Kwatinetz to make the league familiar to fans while embracing rules that would make the game different, and innovative. The first team to 60 points wins. Halftime starts after the first team scores 30 points. There’s a four-point shot spread out over different areas of the court beyond the 3-point line (Ice Cube’s idea). The BIG3 features the return of legalized hand-checking, taking the ball outside of the paint after defensive rebounds. Once the rules were set, the trio set out to find established names. Chief among them was Iverson.


Allen Iverson was BIG3’s golden goose. Secure him and the league had its transcendent star. The 2001 NBA MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer was a human cultural landmark at the turn of the 21st century. His cornrows, baggy shorts, tattoos and hip-hop swag made him an icon. His name still resonates with NBA fans who remember the time he stepped over (now Cleveland Cavaliers head coach) Tyronn Lue in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals and put Michael Jordan on skates in 1997. Even now, whenever Iverson shows up in public, whether it’s to retire his jersey in Philadelphia, or to conduct an interview, fans become enamored all over again. So grabbing The Answer was a major coup, even if he was reluctant to play at first. BIG3 is using his star power, producing a video series documenting his road back to basketball. Iverson obviously won’t be the same MVP he was in 2001, but any flashes of his previous greatness would make the BIG3 a must-watch spectacle.

“Iverson had some things going on overseas that didn’t go as well as he thought,” Mason said. “So I had to reassure him that this was as professional as it gets. And we let him know we’d work at his pace, so he can do what’s comfortable for him.”

Cube himself has been keeping tabs on Iverson’s preparedness. “I saw him in January and he looked good, but I saw him a few weeks ago and he looks more chiseled, and even more in shape,” he said. “His flavor and his style and what he brings to the league will be huge for us.”

Creating new pro leagues is hard. Vince McMahon’s XFL was set to be an offseason professional football league and flamed out after its first season. Donald Trump’s United States Football League was a disaster. The American Basketball Association, formed in 1967 and possibly the most renowned competitor to a major league, lasted nearly a decade, starred Dr. J, and helped revolutionize the way basketball was played. The ABA merged with the NBA in 1976.

Terry Pluto, columnist at The Cleveland Plain Dealer and author of 1990’s Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, believes the era of leagues competing with the NBA is over. “The goal of the ABA was always to merge, never to exist on its own,” Pluto said. “And it came along at the right time. There will never be another ABA because of the timing. In 1967, there were only 10 [NBA] teams … 11 men on most rosters … 110 pro basketball players. The international game was nothing back then. Now, there’s basketball all over the world, and the U.S. has 30 teams and the D-League. I don’t see much future in anything new.”

For black folks, the dog days of summer, the season between June’s end of the NBA and September’s beginning of the NFL, are even more dogged because of the lack of sports they care to watch.

One reason it’s so difficult to battle established leagues is the fan bases that have followed teams for decades. Starting new franchises and getting fans to buy in is a major hurdle. That’s where the BIG3 has an advantage: It’s using players such as Iverson and former Sacramento Kings guard Jason “White Chocolate” Williams, a fan favorite. These guys are franchises in their own right, with their own followings. It’s more about them than the team, which has been at the heart of the NBA’s recent success and can be a driving force in BIG3’s longevity.

NBA legend Allen Iverson signs autographs before the NBA All-Star Game as part of the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 19 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

That’s the secret to BIG3. Former NBA players bring a level of expertise that surpasses leagues looking to use minor league players or former college stars. So while the BIG3 may not revolutionize basketball in the way the ABA did, it’ll remind fans of the NBA they loved in the ’90s and early 2000s, which is just as valuable. “It’s a good product because the basketball IQ is off the hook,” said Ice Cube. “These guys just knowing how to play the game is the draw.”

There’s also another important incentive for players to perform at their best: money. Yes, BIG3 is a real league with real contracts. Each player has signed a $100,000 contract for the year. The Basketball-Related Income is 52 percent of the league’s revenue, to be split at the end of the season. The championship team gets the lion’s share of the money. Each subsequent team gets a smaller cut. So players have the incentive to take the game seriously.

But the biggest reason to expect the games to be competitive and intense is that the BIG3 is full of players who are out to prove doubters wrong. For every Chauncey Billups or Mike Bibby who wants to play versus his peers, there’s a Ricky Davis or Rashad McCants whose off-the-court reputations led to the premature demise of their pro careers. “I’m not in the league now because of executive reasons,” said McCants, who will be playing on Trilogy with Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington.

McCants was drafted 14th in 2005 by the Minnesota Timberwolves after leading North Carolina to an NCAA championship the year before. By the ’07-’08 season, McCants was averaging just shy of 15 points per game and shooting 45 percent from the field. He was, however, outspoken and, fairly or not, had earned a reputation for being difficult to coach. And he was also the first athlete to publicly date a Kardashian, appearing as a guest in 2009 on Keeping Up With The Kardashians while dating Khloe.

Rashad McCants of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up for a shot against Yao Ming (No. 11) and Chuck Hayes of the Houston Rockets during their game on Dec. 20, 2008, at Target Center in Minneapolis.

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

By 2009, just four years into his career, McCants was out of the NBA despite averaging 10 points a game. “Me being out of the league has nothing to do with my play. To not get calls for four years? Not even a meeting?” McCants also came under fire in 2014 for comments about the athletic program at UNC. He’s spent the last few years bouncing around international leagues and sees the BIG3 as a chance to show owners that they were wrong to pass on him — and to also give them a chance to rectify their mistake. There’s an outside chance that someone like McCants could put on a show good enough to land back in the NBA. It’s an outcome BIG3 leadership fully encourages.

“If players get looked at by an NBA GM,” Cube said, “our league isn’t going to do anything to stop anyone from going back to the NBA, or any other league for that matter. We want this to be for the players. Really, we just want them to have fun.”


“Let’s go! It’s great to be around you guys!”

For McCants and other former players interested in joining the league, the first step to a championship was a combine and draft that took place in Las Vegas in April. McCants took center stage by breaking the ice: “I’m out here killing!”

The combine was an invitational for former NBA players: to run a few scrimmages so that player-coaches for each team — Gary Payton (who is just coaching, unfortunately), the aforementioned Iverson, Billups among them — could get a glimpse of their options and draft accordingly. The combine started tentatively enough, with players engaging in some one-on-one games. But mostly they were just feeling each other out, trying to determine how hard they wanted to go. “[My comment] got everybody’s attention,” McCants recalled. “It stole the show of me being the head of the pack and ready to go.”

On the other side of the court, there was a graying, slim participant quietly nailing jumpers. He was also dominating his one-on-one matchups. As he played, players took notice. It’s really him? But …

People were surprised to see me out there,” said Abdul-Rauf. “More than anything, they were surprised to see how I look. My stamina is still up. I look like I can still go out there and do it.”

BIG3 is a real league. The competition is real. And the results are as unpredictable as they are exciting.

Abdul-Rauf’s story has become part of sports lore. He was drafted by the Nuggets in 1990 as the third overall pick and soon became known as one of the league’s most feared streak scorers, infamously dropping 51 points on John Stockton’s head on a frigid December Utah night. The Mississippi native’s scoring prowess was so legendary that Phil Jackson tweeted in February 2016 that Stephen Curry reminded him of a young Abdul-Rauf. Then in 1996, it all came crashing down.

Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stands with his teammates and prays during the national anthem before the game against the Chicago Bulls on March 15, 1996, in Chicago. Abdul-Rauf, saying that the U.S. flag was a symbol of “oppression and tyranny,” was suspended Tuesday for sitting down during the national anthem. Friday was Abdul-Rauf’s first game back.

AP Photo/Michael S. Green

That’s when the star point guard decided not to stand for the national anthem, citing that the flag and what it represents was in conflict with his Muslim faith. This prompted the NBA to suspend him for a game, costing him $32,000. The league eventually let him bow his head and pray during the anthem. By the end of that season, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings. He was out of the league by 2001, unable to even get meetings with other teams. There’s no question his protest caused his career to end — and that’s even more apparent by the fact he’s closing in on 50 and still giving buckets to players a generation younger than him.

“The [NBA] already knows the truth,” Abdul-Rauf said of his exile. “When I talk to people in the street, it’s common knowledge what was done to me. I can never get those contracts back. But God has blessed me to have my quickness and stamina.”

That quickness and stamina wowed his competition and coaches at the combine. “I was curious to see if I could get my shot off,” he recalled. “I haven’t played against a lot of these guys, and they’re in their early 30s. By the grace and mercy of God, I didn’t have any problems.” Abdul-Rauf is the oldest player in the BIG3.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf trains for the start of the BIG3 league at LA Fitness.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

While Abdul-Rauf was showcasing his skill and endurance on one side of the court, leading him to be drafted 17th (out of 24 players) by Payton’s 3 Headed Monsters, McCants was engaged in 3-on-3 scrimmages that were beginning to get heated. A referee made a questionable call in a game involving McCants, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and others. Players got in the ref’s face, players got in each other’s faces, and the scrimmage deteriorated into a full-on scrum. The physicality and competitiveness set a tone for how the games might be played: physical NBA-style basketball that encourages trash-talking and ruggedness.

“A lot of times in [NBA] practices, players would play 3-on-3s,” said Mason Jr. “Some of those battles were the best battles no one ever saw. We’re unlocking these battles. … They’re competitive, high basketball IQ. It’s tough because you’re on an island defensively, so you have to step it up.”

What people may not realize is the fact that even though games are half-court and involve six players instead of 10, the cardiovascular toll can be greater than in a traditional game. For one, there’s a 14-second shot clock, which means attempts are going up rapidly and players are scrambling for rebounds. Also, no one can hide on defense. Defenders have to square up and create stops without much help. And with just six players on the court, everything is more spread out, so players have to cover more ground. Just shooting around? It won’t be enough. Players will have to show up to games in the best shape they’ve been in since they were in the NBA.

There’s definite potential for viral crazes, as Twitter videos are perfect for a league where a legendary point guard might end up face-first on the gym floor after a slick crossover. This works to the BIG3’s advantage, as the threat of embarrassment is going to pressure players to show up on June 25 ready to do business. “I don’t expect anyone to take this lightly, because they’re gonna get clowned if they do,” said Ice Cube. “Nobody wants to leave their legacy on the BIG3 court. Dudes are going to come out there and play with pride because that’s what I want to see.”

It’s impossible to predict the long-term success of a league like the BIG3. For Cube and Mason, if players get a chance to show off their talent and fans are entertained, then the BIG3 will find a winning formula. For Abdul-Rauf, the sustainability of the BIG3 means a chance to do something altruistic for members of the exclusive NBA fraternity — en route to making those summer days less dogged for fans.

Former NBA player and current BIG3 player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf trains at LA Fitness.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

“For some people, pay is important,” he said via phone while on his way to yet another workout — and with a sureness he’s gained as a public speaker over the past decade. “You don’t know who this will help down the road. This could … last four or five years. Taking it seriously could help someone who’s struggling … now they can make a little money and get back on their feet. At the least, people might say, ‘We didn’t know he still had it.’ ”

All Day Podcast: 6/7/17 The Most Interesting Man In the World, ‘The Bachelorette’ and our national anthem

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So, when we mentioned some changes were coming to the podcast, the idea was to make things more than a personal, explorative look at things of my personal interest and go deeper on individual subjects. With that came the need for a new show intro. I hope you all enjoy what I put together.

To start things off, we talked to The Undefeated’s Tierra R. Wilkins about the latest episode of The Bachelorette. With one of the contestants effectively outed as a bigot, and it clearly being part of the intentional storylines, we’ve been a little let down by how this happened. Another black woman getting her chance in the spotlight ruined is not anything anyone wants. Wilkins also went into some detail about a personal experience with how dangerous it can be as a black woman dating certain people.

I also chatted with the man formerly known as The Most Interesting Man In The World from that Dos Equis ad campaign, Jonathan Goldsmith. He wasn’t an unknown actor when that role came along, but it was an awfully late career comeback for a guy who’d been working in Hollywood since the 1950s. His new book Stay Interesting comes out June 13, from Penguin Random House. He calls it a manifesto, but I’d call it a collection of extremely short stories that, if nothing else, paints an incredible picture of what America and show business used to be.

Lastly, on the heels of an appearance on Outside The Lines with Bob Ley in which I talked about the latest developments in the Colin Kaepernick saga, I decided to tackle the larger subject with that story: the national anthem. Some people consider the song absolutely sacrosanct, but I don’t. I explain why in the final segment.

Oh, and I got to wear a fun hat on TV.

Who should replace Jerry West on a new NBA logo? The choice is yours

Daily Dose: 5/24/17 Kaepernick is closer to becoming a Seahawk

Programming alert: I’ll be hosting The Right Time with Bomani Jones on Friday from 4-7 p.m. EST, so tune in to it on ESPN Radio if you want to hear your boy yell about all the random stuff I care about.

I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Billy Bush. He was a talented guy in this business who saw it all crater in 2016 when a 2005 video of him doing a whole lot more than towel-snapping with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during a taping of Access Hollywood surfaced. Now, he’s claiming he would have called the FBI if he thought Trump was serious — which, again, I’m not buying. He seemed pretty into the convo at the time, and he could just admit that now and it would all be way more believable. He sat with Good Morning America as part of his redemption tour.

Hip-hop is a legitimate form of scholarship. We saw this earlier in the year when a rapper/Ph.D. student at Clemson turned a full-length album into a doctorate. Now, some kid did it in the Ivy League — at Harvard, no less. This feels more like a Dartmouth move, tbh. For his senior thesis, Obasi R. Shaw submitted a rap album and got himself an A-minus. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoy this. Is he going to go on to some rap stardom life? Probably not, and who cares? Representing black people and telling our stories with our art is tremendous work.

A few hours before the season premiere of The Bachelorette, I sent out a warning. It said very plainly: This might be a good time to make sure that you have some *actual* black people covering this season, because otherwise, you might make a colossal mistake that you’ll regret. We all know how weak newsroom diversity is and, with a black woman leading the show, the racistly premised stories were bound to come. Newsweek was our first victim when they posted a story about the show, then ended up deleting. … I TRIED TO TELL Y’ALL.

My dream of Colin Kaepernick going to Seattle is closer to coming true. The quarterback is visiting the Seahawks Wednesday, and here’s why he needs to be on that roster. It’s three-pronged. One, there’s no question about whether he’ll be competing for the starting job. Second, he’s not walking into a locker room where he’s the most outspoken person there. He fits into the fabric of a team with Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, two very vocal stars. Lastly, that’s a franchise that knows how to handle any potential backlash. Perfect fit.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you’re not familiar with the story of Seth Rich, it’s a messy one. A guy was killed on the streets of D.C., and certain people have been pushing a gross conspiracy theory that it had something to do with Wikileaks, prompting his family to beg for the media to stop with this. It’s gotten really ugly, and his family is in pain.

Snack Time: Farming while black is not one of the usual categories we talk about when “doing things while black,” but as it turns out, the people calling the cops on black farmers are the white ladies in yoga pants.

Dessert: Tokyo loves its cars, and this is awesome.

New Beats By Dre ad features 4 NBA stars Pro athletes head to arena in latest ad

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If I only watched the commercials, I’d assume that Beats By Dre was worn only by professional athletes warming up for games or trying to ignore the public. The company, started by rap mogul Dr. Dre, became popular with players a while back, but the company does not seem to have branched out from that marketing tactic since it took hold.

Back in 2014, as part of the “Hear What You Want” campaign, we got ads with LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Colin Kaepernick doing just that. In the latest commercial, we get more of the same, to an extent. This time, to the tune of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” we get focused dudes headed to the arena, ready to show their support. But you’ll notice, they’re not actually wearing the headphones while driving — but they are when the power walk starts.

Good to see that Beats is promoting safety first, as distracted driving is a real threat. Ask Gregg Popovich.

Anthony Hemingway of WGN’s ‘Underground’ is creating some of the dopest — and wokest — culture on screens The director loves pingpong and ‘Good Times’ — and says Colin Kaepernick is his favorite athlete

Anthony Hemingway is here to teach. He’s a director, yes. But the work he’s been creating, on film and on television, informs us about history and pushes us to have complicated, and at times uncomfortable, conversations about contemporary headlines. Hemingway, from New York, has been working on WGN’s powerful Underground, a thriller about life on the Underground Railroad. He directed that impactful recent episode that featured a brilliant Aisha Hinds as former slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and he also recently directed an episode of Fox’s intensely socially conscious limited series Shots Fired. And he’s got more important, teachable work on the way.


Does championing the truth inform the decisions that you make as a director? You’re part of #WokeWednesdays with your TV projects.

Yes. As I look back on my life, and at the elevations I’ve made, the blessings I’ve had and what really connects and speaks to me in terms of material, it all has some social relevance to it, some social connection, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s something that I don’t seek out. It’s something that really finds me. That’s how I operate. I’m thankful that what I do and what I’m able to really champion as a director or a filmmaker is not in vain. It really is serving a purpose and being meaningful.

What’s your favorite throwback TV show?

Most of what I loved growing up had a pretty comedic drive to it … a lot of the [Norman Lear] sitcoms, so it was done in ways that [told] a great story and made a connection, or was relevant. Like Good Times or What’s Happening. These shows affected my life and were a part of what shaped my childhood. I love the early sitcoms — those shows that I saw myself in.

What made you want to be a director?

I was 16 or 17 when I really made the decision to make this my career. I was a production assistant, and … I continued on the production train and became an assistant director. And along the way of AD’ing, I was included in a lot of the creative circles and I was allowed to have a voice. It just started to slowly click … just happened organically.

“I didn’t go to college, so my favorite team is unconventional — it’s the University of Hard Knocks!”

What’s your favorite college team?

I didn’t go to college, so my favorite team is unconventional — it’s the University of Hard Knocks! That’s my favorite team because I’m a product of it. And I’m proud that someone like myself, as a young black man that can be successful and can make it, can be an example to others to realize that there’s more than one way to go about things. I’m not trying to persuade someone not to go to college, because school is very necessary and, I think, important. But it’s not for everyone. I stand strong in knowing that my destiny and divine order was in the way that it happened. And so because it happens for me, it could happen for someone else. So that’s my team!

Favorite pro team?

Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s been a natural, organic favorite of mine because my cousin played for them and won two Super Bowl rings with them. Willie Williams. He was a cornerback for the Steelers. The Jets and the Knicks are also going to be all the way on the list because I’m from New York.

Do you have a favorite athlete?

Colin Kaepernick right now is someone I support because I love what he stands for and what he’s done … not being afraid to voice his point of view. And regardless of the controversy that it caused, I support him.

“I love the early sitcoms — those shows that I saw myself in … I could relate to [them] and even use [them] as somewhat of an education.”

Is there a sports story out there that you’d love to tell?

I’m actually in development on a couple films right now. One is a story about James Harris, who was the first black quarterback in the NFL. He came out of Grambling State University and made it to the Buffalo Bills. The name of the film is called Man on the Field, and it’s the story of his life. The other one that has been a long passion project of mine … is Emile Griffith, who, God rest his soul, passed a couple years ago. But he was a boxer in the ’70s in New York, and the tagline for his story was basically, ‘I killed a man, and the world forgave me. And I loved a man, and the world wants to kill me.’ That touched my heart when I heard that. To see someone who’s just passionate at what they do and love what they do and is amazing at what they do, and because of who they love they get crucified. It’s just one of those things that I think really kind of has multiple connections to many walks of life.

What will you always be a champion of?

Table tennis, pingpong, whatever you want to call it. I’m the master at that. But in terms of life and my focus? I will always champion truth.

A power ranking of Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league With team names such as Trilogy, Power and 3’s Company, this league promises fun times

This past weekend, Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league held a combine and aired its first official draft live from Las Vegas. Teams are now set, and the league tips off on June 25. The draft day itself was broadcast live on Facebook and featured host Michael Rapaport cracking jokes, Ice Cube talking trash and players gearing up for returns to the spotlight. One thing was made clear: This league is going to be fun. So without further ado, here are three major storylines coming out of the draft and the preseason power rankings. Those never go wrong.

An Unexpected Top 5

There are a lot of big names in the Big3 — Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby, etc. — but most of those guys were linked up with teams already as co-captains. So the players drafted were familiar — but light on former NBA star power. The league held a combine over the weekend, and while we don’t know exactly what happened behind those closed doors, it seems like the top five picks put on great showings. Former UNC star and Minnesota Timberwolves wing Rashad McCants, 32, was the top pick. He joins Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (co-captain), James White and Dion Glover on team Trilogy. Andre Owens, Reggie Evans and Xavier Silas were the next three picks, with former No. 1 pick and Michael Jordan whipping boy Kwame Brown picked fifth.

Stringer Bell And Avon Barksdale Split

Remember how gut-wrenching it was at the end of season three of The Wire when Avon Barksdale and his right-hand man, Stringer Bell, double-crossed each other, leading to their demise? It was an on-screen partnership we never thought we’d see end. Well, that betrayal in the annals of black friendship breakups just got topped: Cuttino Mobley, co-captain of the team Power, actually allowed his team to pick former teammate Moochie Norris over former best friend and brother from another mother Steve Francis. Mobley and Francis were inseparable as a Rockets backcourt tandem, and seeing them have a chance to reunite was a prospective highlight for the Big3 league. And Francis’ redemption story as someone who has been through legal troubles since retiring was a tale we were rooting for. Unfortunately, Francis went undrafted — the band is definitely not back together under coach Clyde Drexler.

The Return Of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a legitimate college basketball star at LSU and a dynamic scorer with the Denver Nuggets in the early ’90s, but most people know him for sitting out the national anthem 20 years before then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did the same. As a result, Abdul-Rauf lost out on prime years of his career and was out of the media spotlight for most of the past two decades. It’ll be great to see him lace up again. Also, he’s sharing a backcourt with White Chocolate himself, Jason Williams. Pray for ankles. All of them.


And now the Big3 draft power rankings:

Rosters are in. Teams are set. That means it’s time to start placing odds and figuring out who’s going to come out with the championship.

1. Three-Headed Monster

Rashard Lewis (captain), Jason Williams (co-captain), Kwame Brown, Eddie Basden, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Gary Payton (coach) — As I mentioned before, the backcourt of Abdul-Rauf and Williams is going to create havoc. Of course, they may not both be on the court together, since this is 3-on-3 and bigs might be able to take advantage. Either way, the game is not timed and first to 60 wins, so the constant barrage of quickness might tire out any team of vets. Add in a Kwame Brown, who performed well in the combine, and Lewis and we may have a dominant force. Let’s also not forget that there are three spots for 4-point shots, and this team is as equipped as any to knock those down.

2. Power

Corey Maggette (captain), Cuttino Mobley (co-captain), Jerome Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Moochie Norris, Clyde Drexler (coach) — This team was going to get my vote as a top team no matter who they drafted for one reason: Mobley. In case you haven’t seen the videos, Mobley has been going out to the Drew League looking like the real Uncle Drew and demolishing young cats. I don’t know if there’s an MVP of this league, but if so, Mobley has to be preseason favorite.

3. Trilogy

Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (co-captain), Rashad McCants, James White, Dion Glover, Rick Mahorn (coach) — Anyone who plays 3-on-3 knows that rebounding is key. Players have to clear the boards and get the ball outside of the paint as quickly as possible. This squad, with Martin and Harrington, seems ready for that task. Also, there’s no illegal defense, so Martin camping out in the paint daring anyone to drive is going to be a deterrent. Add in top draft pick McCants and we have a sleeper squad on our hands.

4. Killer 3s

Chauncey Billups (captain), Stephen Jackson (co-captain), Reggie Evans, Larry Hughes, Brian Cook, Charles Oakley (coach) — This team might be smaller than most, with only one guy taller than 6-foot-8 (Cook). But they have shooters in Billups and Jackson and an athletic Hughes. Plus, Jackson being coached by Oakley seems like a recipe for bully ball. Ice up, kids.

5. 3’s Company

Allen Iverson (captain), DerMarr Johnson (co-captain), Andre Owens, Michael Sweetney, Ruben Patterson, Allen Iverson (coach) — This squad is going to be the most anticipated simply because it marks Iverson’s return to the court. Does he still have it? Can he score 50 points in a 60-point game? Is he going to practice?! That’s well and good, but he’s lacking another big former NBA star like the teams above him. Former Atlanta Hawk Johnson will be an athletic help, but this is going to be a one-man show. And if A.I. can pull out his magic, that’ll be all they need.

6. Ghost Ballers

Mike Bibby (captain), Ricky Davis (co-captain), Maurice Evans, Marcus Banks, Ivan Johnson, George Gervin (coach) — Bibby and Davis are going to make for an explosive backcourt. However, there’s one problem: shooting. There aren’t many 3-point specialists here, which might hurt them in trying to get to 60. But if anyone can go off for an unexpected monster game, it’s Davis.

7. Tri-State

Jermaine O’Neal (captain), Bonzi Wells (co-captain), Xavier Silas, Lee Nailon, Mike James, Julius Erving (coach) — One good thing about 3-on-3 games is spacing. Bigs get to work out in the paint and destroy guys one-on-one, so it’s possible the Tri-State squad might be dominant thanks to having the league’s best big-man scorer in O’Neal. The only problem is that if he gets double-teamed, I’m not sure if the rest of the guys can nail the 3s. They’re seventh in my ranking, but they have the best chance to move up quickly.

8. Ball Hogs

Brian Scalabrine (captain), Josh Childress (co-captain), Derrick Byars, Rasual Butler, Dominic McGuire, Rick Barry (coach) — I don’t want to be that guy, but I have to: These guys are already at a handicap with Scalabrine as their captain, expected to pile on minutes. Sorry, White Mamba. They also drafted seventh, so it’s a cocktail for a roster that has an uphill battle.

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