Ice Cube's Basketball League Is Taking on New 'Owners' With NFTs

VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk and rapper, actor & BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube joined CoinDesk's "First Mover" to discuss decentralized sports team ownership via NFTs.

AccessTimeIconMay 6, 2022 at 9:28 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:38 p.m. UTC
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O’Shea Jackson Sr.,aka Ice Cube, is an award-winning rapper, actor, filmmaker and co-founder of BIG3, a 3-on-3 basketball league that he started back in 2017 alongside executive Jeff Kwatinetz.

The South Central Los Angeles-born entrepreneur is now exploring Web 3 and is looking to divvy up ownership of BIG3 among its fans, giving them the option to “own” a bit of the sports league by purchasing NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

The 12-team basketball league tapped serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk to act as one of the faces of the organization as it began experimenting with the world of crypto and “decentralized team ownership.” Vaynerchuk, who began his career in wine, is a leading expert of NFTs.

"The real impact of the consumer blockchain and NFTs will be utility with hints of collectibility," the VaynerMedia CEO said in a Friday interview with Ice Cube on CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover.”

Vaynerchuk has emphasized how these supposedly scarce digital tokens are changing what it means to be a fan of something – in BIG3’s case by giving holders ownership-like value in the team.

The league is minting 12,000 NFTs. Each team will sell 1,000 tokens, including 25 "fire" tokens that cost at least $25,000, with the remainder going on sale for $5,000 apiece. What all this means for securities regulators is an open question.

Vaynerchuk said previously he would buy the full allotment of 25 “fire-tier” NFTs for the 2019 championship winning Triplets, a team coached by former professional basketball player Lisa Leslie and whose captain is Joe Johnson, a seven-time National Basketball Association All-Star.

Previous sports-NFT related tie-ups have seen success, like the industry-standard "NBA Top Shot," which lets fans own recorded moments of gameplay.

It’s not just that Vaynerchuk is a sports fan, he also sees BIG3’s Web 3 play as representative of where the NFT industry might be headed.

“Utility is going to start [being at the] forefront or at least [become] equal to the collectability and community part,” of NFTs, Vaynerchuk said. BIG3’s tokens will “create scenarios” for fans – like giving them the opportunity to score courtside seats, meet players or even design team logos.

The press release announcing a “GROUNDBREAKING OPPORTUNITY FOR FANS AND INVESTORS TO PURCHASE TEAM OWNERSHIP STAKES” cites “additional ownership benefits,” including earning a “percentage of future team sales” as well as opportunities to advise teams and coaches and go to afterparties.

“We are thrilled to be lowering the barrier to entry to team ownership so our fans can take their investment to the next level,” Kwatinetz said in the press release.

Still, it remains unclear what “ownership” ultimately means. The BIG3 league still keeps the majority of control over the organization, Ice Cube said, and looks to have a series of private investors.

“It's really about getting in, understanding the world and then taking it [NFTs] to new heights.” Ice Cube said.


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Fran Velasquez

Fran is CoinDesk's TV writer and reporter.

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