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Ice Cube speaks
Photo by Mandy Howard

As you might imagine, working for an alt weekly paper, I like music. I’m open to most styles, and, like a lot of amateur musicians, I enjoy discovering new artists. This past month, I became an Ice Cube fan.

It’s not that I’m even overly familiar with his catalog or that I had some epiphany while listening to old NWA tracks. My Cube conversion happened because of a movie and an event, and they weren’t even his.

The event was the Nancy Lieberman Charities Dream Ball. Any of you who have read this blog for a while know I work this gala every year, and every time local and national celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment find their ways to its red carpet and its stage. This year, the charity honored basketball legend Julius Erving with its Trailblazer Award and Ice Cube with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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The last three years, host Jay Harris of ESPN has concluded the evening with a roundtable discussion with notable attendees, including Billy Crystal last year and boxing royalty Lonnie Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and George Foreman in 2017. This year Harris would speak with Erving and Cube.

Nancy Lieberman has known Dr. J since she was a teenager, and the two both coached this past season in the BIG3, a professional three-on-three basketball league co-founded by Ice Cube.

It’s at this point in the story that I reveal one of the reasons why I like Ice Cube, while simultaneously damaging the rap legend’s street cred: I think he’s a nice guy.

We interviewed Cube in Dallas and again in New York. And I talked to him a couple of times at the Dream Ball, too. He was consistently pleasant and professional. He even smiled a few times. I hope this news doesn’t depress sales of his edgier recordings.

Loyalty is also apparently one of his character traits. He agreed to come to Dallas In support of Lieberman’s charity even though he figured it to probably be a fairly low-key suburban affair. He discovered the Dream Ball to be a highly produced, well-attended, energetic affair that raised a million dollars this year and three million over the last three years for a charity that also attracted tens of million of eyeballs to its mission through the media coverage it gets.

Ice Cube added a basketball outreach component to the BIG3 this season. The Young3 helps kids develop their games in each city the BIG3 visits. So based on that and what we now all know about his personality, it makes sense that he would appreciate a nonprofit that will open its 75th Dream Court basketball/sports court next week and annually awards aspiring students with scholarships, mentoring, tablets, backpacks full of school supplies, and more. Admittedly, Cube and I have that appreciation in common.

Which leads me to something else we share, and the other big reason I have (metaphorically, at least) joined his fan club.

One task I take on for the Dream Ball is preparing some topics for Jay Harris to cover during the roundtable (not that an ESPN SportsCenter anchor necessarily needs my help, but he humors me). In addition to his accomplishments in music and business, Ice Cube has made himself into a force in film as well, as a writer, director, producer, and actor. Always in search of topics the interviewees have in common, I thought back to my youth and my father taking me to see a film called The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. It starred the likes of Stockard Channing, Meadowlark Lemon, The Spinners, and the best-known basketball player of the day: Julius Erving.

Ice Cube is about my age, and I speculated that he would have been as into basketball as I was at that time in his life and might have seen the film. But it was a kind of silly movie, and Nancy and I decided not to include it in the list of topics. Jay Harris and I laughed about it before the show.

Then, in the middle of the interview, Cube threw out, unprompted, that he had loved seeing Dr. J in a now-little-known work of the cinema entitled The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. That night our crew managed six cameras, loads of video and audio cues, and hordes of celebrities.  But there was no question which part of the show made my night.

I bumped into Cube backstage later and we discussed how, as kids, we had both been so excited to see a basketball movie starring The Doctor (who, judging from my limited experience with him, is also a nice guy).

So I admire Ice Cube’s incredible talent in the world’s of film, music, and business. I appreciate how he made time in his crazy busy schedule to help a North Texas-based charity raise money to help kids. But I will admit that I’m the most thrilled that we seem to be longtime fans of the same basketball team: the Pittsburgh Pisces.

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