Ice Cube already has an impressive career compiled of awards and accolades many can only dream about receiving — but his latest might just be the most impactful of them all.
On Monday (January 15), the rapper, film producer, actor, entrepreneur, and BIG3 basketball league co-founder is set to be awarded the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural Ice Cube Impact Award.
Named after the West Coast icon, the award will honor his “extraordinary contributions to the world of basketball, his unparalleled passion for the game and his unwavering commitment to encouraging crucial dialogues surrounding inclusivity, equal opportunity, and racial and social justice while contributing to initiatives focused on education and community development.”
Speaking to HipHopDX ahead of the award presentation, which will take place during halftime of the Hoophall Classic at Blake Arena, Springfield, Massachusetts, Ice Cube opened up about what the award means to him, his Top 5 basketball players, and he also shared some of his earliest basketball memories.
“This is big time!” Cube told DX, putting the honor down to his unparalleled passion. “I’ve had passion for music, and in movies and sports. I’ve ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — not reaching for that, but just having the passion at the right time. I got a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood just [from] having passion to do good work. And then in sports this is another milestone that’s just off the chart, because no way, shape or form did I ever think I would be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame — for any reason.”
Going on to explain that having the award named after him is “a great honor,” Cube added that the fact it’s “given to people who make a positive impact using basketball” is another reason he’s overjoyed to be the award’s namesake and inaugural recipient.
When the Ice Cube Impact Award was announced back in November it was a total surprise to the N.W.A. rapper, who wasn’t even sure the Hall of Fame would want to acknowledge him due to his highly publicized feud with the NBA.
“It was a total surprise,” he explained. “Of course, we felt like our position when it comes to the NBA has been publicized, and so we didn’t think we had the shot to ever be involved with the Basketball Hall of Fame. But what they explained to us was that they’re not the NBA Hall of Fame, they’re Basketball Hall of Fame. They honor high school, college, pros, and they see the BIG3 as a great asset to the game. And so you just never think about it, and here we are.
“So it kind of came out the blue. But what’s great is they’ve been kinda working with us to make sure that it rolls out and is presented right, and that it’s something that people want — they want to make an impact, they want to be a finalist, they want to win it. It’s really up to us to push that narrative from here on out.”
Cube revealed that a committee of “people that we respect” is being put together to vote on who should win the award in future years, and while he has a few names in mind he’d like to honor, he’s holding them close to his chest.
“We’ve been looking around and there’s a lot of people that do a lot of great things to help people when it comes to basketball and using the sport to just make people’s lives better, whether it’s a player, fans or the community, and so we got our eyes open. Once we get past this first one, which the Hall of Fame is going to honor me with, then we’ll look for the best deserving people.”
As he previously mentioned, Ice Cube was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, and a year later was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s been the recipient of various other accolades and awards over the years too, but where does this latest one stand among them all?
“I respect the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, definitely respect the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and this, to me is the trifecta; it’s right up there with those two,” Cube said. “Hall of Fame is to me the highest honour that you can give an artist or athlete or professional, and so to have those, I cherish them.
“It’s like the music we make or the movies we make, it’ll be here longer than we are, and so when people see you in the Hall of Fame they gotta respect what you did, whether they know what you did or not, you got to respect the name; so I feel very satisfied as an artist on all levels.”
Asked whether he has his speech ready for the award ceremony, Cube said he doubts he’ll write one as he likes to “come from the heart with stuff like that.”
He then noted the “great synergy” involved in him receiving the award on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “He’s a powerful man. It’s great that the country honours his contribution to society by having a holiday, and so to me it’s great synergy and it’s great timing, and it all feels right to do it on Martin Luther King’s birthday holiday. That to me lets me know that the stars do align,” he said before adding: “Great things happen on great days.”
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame will permanently house the Ice Cube Impact Award in its museum and honor subsequent award winners each year “through a dedicated exhibit and in-depth storytelling about honorees who use basketball as a platform for good works in their own communities.”
The award is particularly significant for Cube because of his lifelong love for basketball. From co-founding popular 3-on-3 league the BIG3 to his famous “Lakers beat the SuperSonics” line on his classic hit “It Was a Good Day,” he’s always shown love to the game. Thinking back to the beginning of his love affair with the sport, the Friday star revealed he had to prove early on that he was tough enough to ball alongside his older brother.
“I wasn’t big enough to play with my brother and his friends, they would have battles in the backyard,” he recalled. “I remember my brother and my father putting up the basketball hoop — it wasn’t like today where you can go buy a professional-looking backboard, it was basically some plywood that they had fused together and made a backboard. And then I saw them put the rim up and the net, but I couldn’t play. The guys were too rough, too big.
“I remember just complaining to my mother that I hate being little and wanna play. Then I remember getting old enough to get out there, and I was strong enough and big enough to hang and eventually beat all those guys playing, or most of them.”
Coincidentally, the very first professional game he went to see was, in fact, the L.A. Lakers vs. the Seattle SuperSonics — but it wasn’t the same game he mentions on “It Was a Good Day.”
“My brother [Clyde] took me to see the Lakers play the SuperSonics; it was 1978,” Ice Cube said. “It was at The Forum and the SuperSonics had just won the championship. I think they had a guy named Gus Williams, he was the man and my brother kept saying: ‘This dude is incredible.’
“I remember going to that game; it was a vivid memory. I wanted to play. I kept asking them: would they let me go down and shoot the ball? It was like, ‘Nah, you can’t get up. You got to stay in your seat.’ I just remember wanting to play so bad.”
Much like the age-old Top 5 rapper debate, in which Cube himself is often mentioned, DX asked the Don Mega to list his Top 5 basketball players, which is pretty Laker-heavy — though not surprising given his lifelong fandom for the purple and gold.
“I love Michael Jordan. I love Kobe; Shaq [is] incredible,” he began. “After that, it just starts to get a little blurry for me. But you know, Magic Johnson, he’s definitely out there as one of my favourites. And I love the Iceman, George Gervin.”
In other Ice Cube-related award news, it was announced earlier this month that N.W.A. will receive a lifetime achievement award during this year’s Grammys week.
The Recording Academy, the organization that organizes the Grammys, announced on January 5 that the group would be among the recipients of the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to the Academy, the Lifetime Achievement Award is “presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.”
The other 2024 recipients are Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, Tammy Wynette, Laurie Anderson and the Clark Sisters.