Big3 Basketball Expands

Ice Cube’s Big3 professional basketball adds 10 arena summer stops

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: August 7, 2017

Big3 basketball at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Barclays Center)

The basketball world and arena operators weren’t quite sure what they had on their hands when Ice Cube’s Big3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league descended on Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on June 25. Following a successful debut that drew local fans and national media attention as some of the biggest veteran names of the National Basketball Association (NBA) made appearances in the eight-team league, the remaining nine stops on the summer schedule had something to look forward to.

“It’s always exciting to work on events that are different from the ‘norm’ and when you have success, it increases your confidence to think out of the box for venue content,” says Ereka Brim, arena marketing for Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.

Seven weeks into the eight-week regular season that precedes a week of playoffs and then the finals, the Big3 has offered up its unique style of sporting event from Tulsa, Okla. to Seattle.

Brim says the event was “NBA meets family show entertainment.” Jeff Nickler, general manager of BOK Center, Tulsa, says he jokingly describes the event as a “mix between a hoops game and WWE. There were a lot of celebrities, colorful personalities and lots of pageantry associated with the event from the team introductions to the halftime festivities, to a surprise live performance on court by Ice Cube.”

The Big3 planning, handled by Ice Cube’s agents at William Morris Endeavor and his management team, The Firm, selected 10 cities for the Sunday afternoon events. Starting in Brooklyn, N.Y., Big3 then moved to the Spectrum and BOK Centers before stopping at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia; UIC Pavilion, Chicago; American Airlines Center, Dallas and Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. The final week of the regular season occurs  Aug. 13 in Staples Center, Los Angeles, before the playoffs in KeyArena, Seattle and the finals in MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas.

“It was a great honor to be one of only 10 cities to land this marquee event,” Nickler says. “The amount of media attention and national television exposure the Big3 generated for Tulsa was huge.”

Brim says the atmosphere brought highly competitive games, but still with a continuous nod to entertainment. “The players, coaches and entertainers were interacting with the fans, taking pictures and having fun,” she says. “After the game, Ice Cube signed autographs and spoke with fans waiting on the street to get feedback on how they can get better.”

Fan interaction made its way to social media, which Brim says likely contributed to creating additional excitement for the next venue stop on the summer circuit.

Brim says the Big3’s interactive social media marketing using players, the tournament and venue helped push strong walk-up numbers. “The diversity with the crowd and the engagement and excitement of a family event that entertained a wide range of ages, demographics and interests, made for a success.. The inclusion of  local athletes and influencers in the market assisted with the personable feel of the event.”

Nickler says it was obvious that players bought into the concept of connecting to fans “one hundred percent” without losing any of the competition level on the court.

Both the Spectrum and BOK Centers say the event generated as many media—local, regional and national—and VIP requests as any event of the year, including the BOK Center handling a surprise visit from NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and the Big3 proving one of the highest attended media events of 2017 so far for the Spectrum Center. Even with the popularity of the first-ever event, the Big3 provided no additional challenges to accommodate, whether with the on-court product or the additional entertainment spaces in and around the venue.

Ken Kuhl, assistant general manager and vice president of booking for American Airlines Center, Dallas, says he knew the Big3 event would offer “exciting entertainment” opportunities for local basketball fans with Fox Sports a broadcast partner and former NBA stars on teams.

“With 3-on-3 basketball included as an Olympic sport in the 2020 games, Big3 was a unique opportunity to showcase this type of event at the arena level while delivering good summer programming to Dallas/Ft. Worth,” he says.

From the beginning, Nickler says they communicated heavily with WME and The Firm, believing in the vision for the event. “We understood there was some risk in hosting a brand new and unproven concept,” he says, “but thought the investment in the league was worth it for the long-term relationship.”

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: August 7, 2017