Ice Cube: At the top of his game

After becoming one of the most bankable stars in movies, the rapper-actor-producer has entered a whole new ballgame, as co-founder of the Big 3 Basketball League.

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The man we know as Ice Cube is one cool customer, talented in many fields, and always looking for more to conquer. Tracy Smith has our Sunday Profile: 

At 49, Rapper-actor-producer Ice Cube has become one of the most bankable stars in the movie business, and he's done it (for the most part) without ever cracking a smile. His trademark scowl says it all, whether he's the straight man to the frantic Kevin Hart in "Ride Along," or a Gulf War soldier opposite George Clooney in "Three Kings."

So, did he work on that famous scowl, or is that just natural? "It's natural," he said. "I used to be in school and people would come up to me and say, you know, 'Why are you mad?' And I'm like, 'Man, I'm not mad. I'm just thinking about, you know, coffee cake. I'm not mad!' But I was born with it."

"You've used it to your advantage," Smith said.

"Hey, you gotta use what you got to get what you want!"

And what he wants now is a whole new ballgame. Ice Cube is the co-founder of the Big 3 Basketball League, as in 3-on-3 games played on a half-court, with a slightly different set of rules. Here, you even get credit for making an impossible shot.

"Now, this you don't see on a regular NBA court," said Smith.

"This is our four-point circle. It's 30 feet from the basket. If you shoot 30 feet from the basket, you should get extra points!" Ice Cube said.

"Can you make that shot?"

"Umm ... sometimes!"

It's not a problem for these players; they're mostly retired NBA stars who never thought they'd ever get to play under the big lights again.

"A lot of these guys when they retired still had the juice," said Smith. "Is there something to being able to give them that chance?"

"Man, that's one of the best parts, you know? All the thank-yous I get from guys who said, 'Man, I was lost, I was looking for something to do.' Just imagine, you're 34, 33. Somebody tells you, 'It's over. You can't do what you do anymore,' basically, 'Beat it.'

"So, if you kept your game up, we have a place for you, and that's a great feeling."

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Ice Cube, co-founder of the Big 3 Basketball League.

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3-on-3 basketball will be an Olympic sport in 2020, and the league is catching on with fans. But Ice Cube's not surprised: Seems he has been defying expectations all his life.

His real name is O'Shea Jackson; he was nicknamed Ice Cube by his older brother, and he really did grow up on gang turf in South Central Los Angeles. 

But he stayed out of trouble. His working-class parents made sure of it: "My father was my hero. And he was just a man doing what he was supposed to do, you know? Going to work every day, coming home, looking after his family, his house, his yard. Trying to make sure we were good people."

That work ethic stayed with him: Ice Cube actually went to school for architectural drafting before he co-founded one of the biggest and most controversial rap groups of all time:  N.W.A.

N.W.A. - Express Yourself by NWAVEVO on YouTube

       
Smith asked, "Do the women in your life give you a hard time about some of the language that you've used about women in music?"

"They used to," he replied. "My mom, she would say stuff like, 'Why you gotta rap like that,' you know?"

"And what would you say?"

"I said, 'It's my style, I'm gonna say what I feel.'"

By 1991, he was a rap superstar, but a complete acting novice, so when director John Singleton cast him in the groundbreaking film, "Boyz n the Hood," Ice Cube felt completely out of his league.

Boyz n the Hood (8/8) Movie CLIP - Don't Know, Don't Show (1991) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

       
Smith asked, "I'm curious, when you did 'Boyz n the Hood,' were you surprised that you could act?"

"Yeah, I was," he replied. "I felt like I was unqualified, you know?"

He asked Singleton to show him dailies. And his response to watching them? "I said, 'You know what? This feels like a movie to me. This feels like something I would actually pay to see.'"

Since, then a lot of people have paid to see his movies. He's had a long list of hits ("Are We There Yet?," "Barbershop"), and a few misses, too ("The Janky Promoters").

"You know, a setback is nothing but a setup for a comeback, you know what I mean? That's all a setback is," Ice Cube said.

"So for you, what's the greatest setback then?"

"It's being doubted."

"When were you doubted?"

"Doubted all the time, you know, as far as things I want to do in entertainment," he said. "You know, you still always gotta convince people that you're at the top of your game."

"Do you feel like you're still doing that?"

"Always," Ice Cube said. "I mean, just being black, I'm gonna have a chip on my shoulder about being successful. Because I know I gotta do the extra things, I gotta go the extra miles, gotta make sure that it's extra perfect to get what I deserve."

Of course, he hasn't done it alone:  Cube and Kim Woodruff have been married for 26 years. He says she keeps him in line. "You gotta have somebody in your life that's gonna give it to you straight," he said.

"Does that hurt sometimes?"

"Yeah, yeah. 'Cause you think everything you do is fly! You know? But it takes somebody to say, 'You need to work on that a little more.'"

They have three children, including actor O'Shea Jackson Jr., who played a young Ice Cube (scowl and all) in the smash 2016 biopic "Straight Outta Compton."

Straight Outta Compton 2015 - Ice Cube Trashes Priority Records by H Moga on YouTube

Smith asked, "Do you think about your legacy?"

"I think about honoring the life that God gave me, and letting people know that I've been here, you know?" he said. "You're here for a blink of an eye, so you gotta make the most of it."

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Ice Cube (far right, with Tracy Smith) draws a crowd at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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And he says not even he thought he'd get this far. As a kid, Ice Cube would ride the city bus past the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but never dreamed he'd ever get a star on that sidewalk – or that he'd draw a huge crowd if he ever went to look at it.

"Youngsters on their way to school maybe might come across my star, like I've come across so many other stars," he said.

"And maybe they can dream something different?"

"Yeah. You know, hopefully, from seeing my name down there, and knowing my history, knowing my background, that nothing's impossible."

Or, if you try hard enough, even the biggest longshot can pay off.

From the four-point line, Ice Cube landed a shot. "Bam! I make it sometimes!" 

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He shoots ... he scores!

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Story produced by John D'Amelio.