Why Ice Cube’s BIG3 Basketball League Is Focused On Chicago And Dallas

Why Ice Cube’s BIG3 Basketball League Is Focused On Chicago And Dallas


During its first three years, Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league was a traveling road show, visiting different destinations every weekend of the summer.

For the 2022 season, which debuted June 18, the 3-on-3 league is playing its first two weeks in Chicago, and the last six of the regular season are in Dallas.

The change in strategy is largely a result of consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Even though we’re turning the corner in the pandemic, we’re not out of the woods yet,” said BIG3 CEO Chris Hannan. “And so running around city to city with different sort of local and state regulations, it’s hard. So for us, the best thing for us to do was continue to move around but reduce the total cities.”

Chicago and Dallas were selected in part due to their centralized locations.

“Our coaches and players are located throughout the country,” said BIG3 chairman of the board Amy Trask.

It makes the logistics — which involves 72 players and coaches, including Dr. J, Gary Payton and George Gervin, arriving each weekend — easier but not necessarily cheaper.

“In some regards you’re just substituting some expenses for others,” Trask said. “You don’t have to put the court and the equipment and the uniforms on a truck and get them somewhere else… but you do have to find a place to store them.”

Trask, who previously served as CEO of the Raiders from 1997 to 2013, and Hannan said the strength of the Dallas and Chicago sports markets made them perfect locations for the 2022 regular-season games.

“They’ve been two of the pillars of the BIG3 since 2017,,” Hannan said.

In the 2019 regular season, Dallas hosted the BIG3 Ballout, which included on-court performances by hip hop artists TI and Yella Beezy and a series of clinics for youth area throughout the weekend.

“We were welcomed with open arms by Mark Cuban,” Trask said.

Limiting the games to Dallas’ Comerica Center, where the G League’s Texas Legends play, and Chicago, where the games are played at Credit Union 1 Arena on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, also made sense because of a loaded summer. Destinations around the country are enthusiastically hosting many indoor events again, and securing arena space has become more challenging.

“It was based on venue availability,” Hannan said. “Concerts are back. Last summer, venues still weren’t getting booked.”

After the 2022 regular season conclusions in Chicago and then Dallas, the BIG3 contests are headed farther and farther east. The playoff games are slated to be held in Tampa and Atlanta, and then the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas hosts an All-Star Game.

“There’s a flow to our season,” Hannan said.

Two years ago the flow of the BIG3 — like most other things in life — was interrupted.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the league did not play in 2020.

Then, last year’s games were slated to take place in Las Vegas — a city with the facilities and infrastructure to create a bubble atmosphere if needed and a destination within driving distance of Los Angeles, the home of many staffers, including Ice Cube — and New Orleans, where the BIG3 has strong connections.

When Covid-19 spiked in New Orleans in 2021, the league was forced to shift games to Dallas, Chicago and Milwaukee.

Looking toward the future, next season should normalize, and there’s a strong chance that it will feature an expansion of teams (from 12 to 16) and an expansion of its weekly destinations.

“Ultimately, we’ll move back around to 15, 16 cities, but this year I’m really happy with our schedule.” Hannan said. “It was just a smart move for us this year.”

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