By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK – Ice Cube has dreamed about seeing his favorite NBA players come out of retirement. Now, he’s going to make it happen. The rapper turned entertainment mogul is starting a 3-on-3 league for former professional basketball players.
And one of his favorites, Allen Iverson, has signed on as a player/coach in The BIG3. The two were at a news conference last Wednesday to introduce the new league.
“As a fan I’m excited to see the guys I know who can still strap it up and play at a competitive, high level,” Ice Cube said. “I’m happy that I have the right people and partners to provide the stage for that.”
Ice Cube partnered with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz to start the league for former professional players over the age of 30. It is expected to start play on June 24 with Chauncey Billups, Rashard Lewis and Kenyon Martin among the former NBA stars already committed to the league. Gary Payton and George Gervin will serve as two of the coaches in the league.
“We grew up watching these guys, some of them from high school, college through the pros. We see their ups and downs, win games and lose games, become part of our everyday life in a lot of ways,” Ice Cube said. “We look up one day and they’re gone, nowhere to be seen. It’s like losing a family friend or loved one or best friend. Someone you just really admire. I got my heroes, too.”
Count Iverson among them.
“Getting him to sign on was big,” Ice Cube said. “He still can play.”
Iverson, who was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year, was excited to be part of the new league.
“When I got the call it was a no-brainer. It’s Ice Cube. You don’t turn that down,” Iverson said. “That’s success looking right into your eyes. I wanted to be a part of it.”
Asked who he would most love to have on his team, the former MVP had an easy answer.
“Shaq and Kobe, that’s a no-brainer,” Iverson said.
The league will play its eight-game season on Saturdays in the summer – so far without Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Each week’s contests will take place in a different city, with all eight teams playing. It will culminate in a two-week playoffs.
The players will share revenues with teams earning more money based on how they finish in the standings.
Teams will be comprised of five players and games will be played to 60 points. The league will also have a 4-point shot – a little deeper than the NBA 3-point line.
There will be a draft combine in March with a draft set to take place soon after. To be eligible to play in the league you have to have played professionally – in the NBA, D-League or overseas.
“I know a lot of my friends are going to hit me up on text to have me draft them,” Lewis said. “But it’s really a business, I have to act as a general manager as well and find the best four other guys for my team to do well.”
Kwatinetz said that they are looking into potential sponsorships and television deals, and the cities haven’t been set.
Ice Cube and Kwatinetz are hoping each weekend’s games will have the festive atmosphere of a Final Four or NBA All-Star Game, with other events that include kid clinics and halftime shows.
Ice Cube laughed when asked whether he’d be performing.
“I don’t know. Maybe if I’m feeling it. I don’t want this league to be about me. I’ll do everything I can to promote the league and get it rolling and then I want to fade to the back,” Ice Cube said. “Let these guys do what they do best. You know I might get down, you never know. I’m definitely not above it. I like to get down on stuff like this.”