With his beloved Lakers set for a possible Finals-clinching showdown with the Spurs tonight, we had to check in with Ice Cube, who was happy to critique L.A. on their situational play, put together a team of players from his industry, dish on who he was thinking of when he wrote a famous line, wonder about Pau Gasol as a rap star, discuss fatherhood—and even dispel notions that a Raiders hat symbolized much more than the fact that he grew up in L.A. and was a Raiders fan. And, well, didn't you wear the hat of your favorite team? Read on…
Mag: First off, the Lakers look good, but is this team capable of winning the title?
Ice Cube: I think so. You know, now we gotta concentrate on having better situational possessions. Our clock management is not where it should be, and I think some of our rotations are a little stale.
But they got one on the road.
Yeah, but I almost pulled my hair out when our first team was sitting down late with a seven-point lead, I'm like, 'This isn't the regular season!'
Yeah, but, it's also like stealing if you get one in San Antonio.
We stole two in this series! We were down by twenty in game one, were about to lose and then came back, then last night we hold them off. Seems like the odds are in our favor.
Changing topic … who's your starting five from your industry?
Oh man. I would definitely have Snoop in there. He's got game. He can definitely ball a little. Believe it or not, Brian McKnight has some game too. I'd get him in there. I'll take Lil Bow Wow as well. I'd scout from there…
I don't know, but I'd grab a Hall of Famer for sure.
Take the Lakers starting five, and give me the equivalent rapper.
I would have to give myself Kobe. For (Derek) Fisher, I'll go with Nelly—he's small with a tight, smooth kind of game. For Lamar Odom, I'd say DMX…
Why, because he's well-rounded like you? Sort of a Swiss Army knife player?
Yeah, for sure.
He's somebody who's kind of sporadic, kind of unpredictable. Maybe Old Dirty Bastard. Yeah. That's him.
Gasol? I don't know any rappers from Spain.
Yeah, me either. I'll just let him rap.
Your famous line from "Today Was a Good Day" is "…(bleeped) around and got a triple-double." Who did you have in mind when you wrote that?
Come on. Magic Johnson!
Just making sure it wasn't Pooh Richardson.
Magic Johnson was and is my favorite basketball player of all time.
Is he the basis for Ice Cube as a Lakers fan?
It was all Magic. By the time he's drafted into the league, I'm just starting to understand what basketball was all about, and then he came and won a championship his first year.
Other thing about that line was how it implies you are big on the stylistic element of the game.
Who epitomizes that today?
The style today? I'm not sure who has the ultimate style overall, but for me, Kobe; he has the ultimate style in the current game. Everything he does it's like there was a bigger element to it. It's like, swagger. He has it.
You went to Taft High School, which is insane for the amount of talent out of there. You got Joan Jett to Jon Lovitz. Lisa Kudrow? It's nuts. There's a monster list.
Yeah, we got some pretty good ones, even recently, Steve Smith got a ring for the Giants this year. And it was always in what we considered a cool area. Everybody wanted to go there because it was right on the boulevard. And it had athletes and entertainers, and with all of them, they kinda push you.
It seems everybody associates LA as much with what's off the field as what's on it. I can't even watch USC without seeing Snoop and Will Ferrell working the sidelines. Is it a great sports city, truly?
No question. For one, it's one of the best things to do in L.A. People have a lot going on, but we're also always there when it counts. The playoffs get nuts here.
But no football…
But you do have football teams. Two power conference teams with deep ties to the city, deeper than football, plus two basketball teams plus college, NHL hockey, two baseball teams. It's deep, and the teams are supported.
And those Raiders hats became sort of a cultural symbol.
Well, we were Raiders fans. And you also have to remember this: it sounds simple, but when the city was really divided, and we've all seen that, sports were a huge part of getting people together. You can at least agree on your teams.
What other sports are you playing these days.
I still play a lot of basketball, I swim and I'm good at pool. I'll play whatever. I'm a pretty good bowler.
Tell me you got a bowling alley in your house.
Nah. But I do have a full basketball court, with glass. It's tight.
And there's a daughter at home for that. As a father, you've had a life that's been pretty full. How does that come out in fatherhood?
You know, I've got a really well-rounded view of things, and I've seen a lot and done a lot, and as opposed to somebody else, maybe that means I have some stories to tell, or at least a few more lectures.
So some final thoughts on the Lakers … if they finish this off, and Kobe's the MVP, it's saying a lot going back to decisions they had to make, namely Shaq-Kobe.
Well, I understood why we got rid of Shaq at the time. We had two superstars, both of their contracts were about up, and we go to the Finals in June, and you basically got 45 days to make a deal or both of them could leave. What do you do?
Coulda happened this summer, too.
I understand where Kobe was coming from this summer. You know, put somebody around this dude that can at least help him be a champion.
And even when the season started, you're not looking at them like, "Oh this team is bound for the Finals…"
Well, I went to Opening Night, and I was interested to see how they'd play. You got all this controversy, Kobe on the trading block, and what I saw was, a team that said, 'We might not be that great, but when he's not here, we might get blown out by 40 or 50, so we need to step up." From the players, it didn't seem like everybody was worried about Kobe at the time, but was more into playing how they were supposed to. That's what I saw.
Is this Phil's best coaching job yet?
You know, I thought Kobe would be able to carry this team for a while, but when they lost (Andrew) Bynum, I thought they were out of the playoffs, first round. But when they added Pau (Gasol) and (Trevor) Ariza, it gave him the pieces we needed. I still think we need Bynum. I still think we need a strong center; I'm not completely satisfied with Pau's game there. Is this all good enough to win the championship? Phil comes in there. He can.