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Chattin' with Cube

Rapper talks sports/hip-hop connection, kicks, more

Posted: Monday August 28, 2006 2:49PM; Updated: Monday August 28, 2006 3:51PM
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Ice Cube
Ice Cube appeared on the May 24, 1999 cover of Sports Illustrated.
David LaChapelle/SI
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Ice Cube can do it all. In fact, he pretty much has done it all. He went from being one of the originators of gangsta rap with N.W.A. and later on with his influential solo debut album, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, to one of the most successful family-comedy actors with leading roles in Barbershop and Are We There Yet?

Whether he's rapping about life in the hood or trading barbs with kids on screen, however, one of the constants in Cube's life has always been his love for basketball. The actor/rapper was a big Lakers fan while growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and his passion for the game has continued long after he's become a household name. Cube has also been a fixture in the NBA Entertainment League. "It gets competitive," he said of the invitation-only league for celebrities. "We had Snoop, Justin Timberlake and Frankie Muniz on the team this year."

Cube recently took a break from filming Are We Done Yet?, the sequel to Are We There Yet?, to talk about basketball, sneakers and how he ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

SI.com: Why is there such a strong relationship between music and sports, and more specifically, hip-hop and the NBA?

Cube: I think they go hand in hand. Take the NBA, for instance, since I can only speak on hip-hop. The NBA without hip-hop is just a game. You know, think back to the '70s and how the game used to be. Michael Jordan couldn't be Michael Jordan without the embracing of the hip-hop community. He could still do what he did on the court, but he couldn't be as famous as he was without the help of hip-hop. They were the ones that said he and his shoes was the top of the line and they supported him.

Most of the guys who play in the NBA are hip-hop fans. You used to go to games and you didn't see any merchandise among the fans. Now the hip-hoppers wear the merchandise all the time in the hood. They might not have ever been to a Bulls game, but they got all the Bulls gear. Things like that make the NBA what it is today.

SI.com: What was your take on the new dress code in the NBA?

Cube: I just look at it as a slap in the face. I know the league was meant to run a certain way, but hip-hop has nothing to do with the league's problems. Every fight that has ever happened has happened in league- and team-issued uniforms on the court. You rarely see guys when they enter the arena or leave the arena in their street clothes get into a fight. So how does [a dress code] clean up everything? What does that do? It just told me that [the league] could care less about what their employees feel. They just care about corporate America, which is cool, but corporate America ain't everything.

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