The Department of Justice (DOJ) has initiated an inquiry into the National Basketball Association (NBA) following allegations made by rapper Ice Cube that the NBA is actively working to undermine his Big 3 basketball league. Ice Cube and his business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, launched the 3-on-3 basketball league primarily featuring retired NBA players in 2017. The investigation, which was launched months ago, is focused on anticompetitive behavior by the NBA that has reportedly hindered the growth of the Big3 league.
The allegations against the NBA encompass various aspects, including claims that the NBA has used its influence to discourage sponsors and potential partners from collaborating with Ice Cube’s league. There are also accusations of the NBA dissuading television networks from broadcasting Big3 games.
Despite the NBA and Big3 seasons not overlapping, some current NBA players have expressed a desire to participate in the Big3 league during the offseason. However, according to the Big3, the NBA has imposed arbitrary rules to prevent players from joining Ice Cube’s league. It is worth noting that NBA players often participate in non-NBA games after the season concludes, such as the renowned Drew League in Los Angeles.
Sources familiar with the investigation suggest that Big3 officials believe they have been unfairly targeted by the NBA. Additionally, NBA team owners have allegedly been discouraged from investing in the Big3 while also owning NBA franchises. Referees have reportedly been affected as well, with some being told they cannot officiate Big3 games, even if they work for other organizations outside of the NBA.
The DOJ’s investigation began with meetings between Ice Cube, Jeff Kwatinetz, and DOJ lawyers in the first half of the year. Investigators have also reached out to NBA owners as part of their inquiry.
If the government ultimately finds that the NBA has committed antitrust violations, the league could face substantial fines. In response to these allegations, NBA spokesman Mike Bass stated, “Those claims are not true,” and added that while the NBA has supported the Big3 since its inception, they chose not to invest in it.
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