The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently investigating the NBA over allegations of antitrust violations targeted at Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league. While these allegations have been firmly denied by the NBA, the DOJ has been examining these claims for several months, focusing on purported anticompetitive practices that may have hindered the growth of the Big3.
The allegations against the NBA include claims that the organization leveraged its influence to obstruct potential sponsors and partners from engaging with Ice Cube’s Big3 league. There are also reports of the NBA discouraging television networks from broadcasting Big3 games.
In 2017, Ice Cube and his business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, launched the Big3, a 3-on-3 basketball league predominantly composed of retired NBA players. Some current NBA players have expressed an interest in participating in the Big3 during the offseason. However, according to Big3, the NBA has imposed what they view as arbitrary regulations, preventing players from participating in the league. Notably, the NBA and Big3 seasons do not overlap, making such restrictions particularly contentious.
It’s not uncommon for NBA players, including top stars like LeBron James, to compete in non-NBA games during the offseason, such as the popular Drew League in Los Angeles. Despite this, the Big3 league officials believe they have been unfairly singled out by the NBA.
Furthermore, sources familiar with the investigation have indicated that NBA team owners have been discouraged from investing in the Big3 while simultaneously owning an NBA franchise. Referees have also not been immune from the alleged influence, as some sources claim they’ve been prohibited from officiating Big3 games, even if they work for organizations unrelated to the NBA.
During the first half of the year, Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz reportedly met with DOJ lawyers, and investigators have initiated communication with NBA owners as part of their ongoing investigation. If the government concludes that the NBA did indeed commit antitrust violations, the league could potentially face significant fines.
The NBA has denied the allegations, with NBA spokesman Mike Bass refuting claims of interference with sponsorship and television networks. He stated, “Those claims are not true,” and added that while they have supported the Big3 since its inception, they chose not to invest in it.
As this investigation unfolds, both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Big3 have declined to provide any further comments on the matter.