Ice Cube thinks it is “great” having the NFL back in his hometown of Los Angeles and he even took in a couple of Rams games last season to celebrate the occasion.
But one of the world’s most well-known Raiders fans is not entirely pleased with how it all came down — not even close.
“I think — and unfortunately I think the NFL knows — that they have a nightmare brewing,” the actor/rapper/producer and now three-on-three basketball entrepreneur (more on that later) told Newsday during a promotional visit to New York for his new film, “Fist Fight,” which premieres on Feb. 17.
That “nightmare,” he believes, will come when the Chargers move from San Diego to Los Angeles for next season and find that more fans of Ice Cube’s beloved Raiders remain in L.A. than those willing to embrace the Chargers.
“It’s the wrong team,” he said. “It’s like, you know, one of them is right and one of them is wrong. The Raiders and the Rams shared L.A. before. It would be a natural fit. There’s no competition AFC vs. NFC. You don’t even have to worry about each other until the Super Bowl.
“And I believe Raider fans would be Ram fans and Ram fans would be Raider fans and the synergy will be there. But when the Chargers play the Raiders in Inglewood, they’re going to feel like they just got kicked out their own house.”
Cube is not alone in that sentiment. Many football fans in Los Angeles have embraced the return of the Rams after two decades in St. Louis — although it will help when they stop being bad at football — but have no use for the Chargers.
“The Rams, you know, it’s like an ex-girlfriend that moves back in,” Ice Cube said. “It’s like, uh, I don’t know, we did like each other at one time, maybe it’s something. It’s that feeling; maybe it’ll work.
“But I just think the Chargers are absolutely close to being sacrilegious. It’s going to be hard to see the Los Angeles Chargers. It’s like the Clippers (who moved north in 1984). San Diego, stop sending us your trash! I used to love to hate ‘em, and they were tough. Now, it’s like, you’re supposed to cheer?
“And they’re still trying to take the Lakers down like they were when they were in San Diego. So how do I wrap my head around that?”
JUST REPRESENT, BABY
Ice Cube said many in Los Angeles like the Rams but added, “You’ve just got to win. It’s like you leave L.A. and go give St. Louis a championship, you better bring one back here, bruh.”
He was quick to note that the city’s only Super Bowl-winning team is the Raiders, who during their time in Los Angeles from 1982 to ’94 not only won Super Bowl XVIII but became closely associated with Ice Cube and his pioneering rap group, “N.W.A.,” which frequently wore Raiders gear.
In 2010, he directed an ESPN documentary, “Straight Outta L.A.,” that recalled that era as it related to the Raiders. He said the film planted the initial seed that led to the making of the 2015 movie on N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton.”
“It was the true intersection of music and sports,” he said of the group’s relationship to the Raiders, “so that X-marks-the-spot kind of storytelling really helped for people to see, well, OK, this probably could be a movie.”
Ice Cube remains a passionate Raiders fan, even with them back in Oakland. Absent them returning to Los Angeles, he said he would rather have them stay in northern California than move to Las Vegas.
“Here’s what I think should happen: I think the Raiders should play with the Rams in Inglewood, and I think the Chargers should go to Vegas,” he said. “I know it’s not happening, but this should happen . . . So I wish they could stay in Oakland. Tear down that prison they got out there that they play in and build them a proper stadium.
“They deserve their own stadium right there in Oakland, brand-new.”
Like all Raiders fans, Ice Cube was sad to see quarterback Derek Carr go down with a leg injury in Week 16 last season, which eventually made for a quick playoff exit. But mostly he was philosophical and optimistic.
“It was terrible to see him go down,” he said. “But it’s football, you know? I was happy we just were 12-4. I was begging for an 8-8 season. I was like, if we go 8-8, I might do a headstand. To be 12-4, playoffs, that was gravy.
“I still felt like we were a year away from winning the whole thing, so I’m not as mad as people think I would be. I kind of watched the playoff game just happy that the Raiders were in it.”
THE BIG3 VENTURE
As he spoke at a midtown Manhattan hotel, Ice Cube wore a shirt emblazoned with the logo of his latest venture, “BIG3,” an eight-team, three-on-three, half-court basketball league debuting this summer and featuring star players of the past, from Allen Iverson to Kenyon Martin to Chauncey Billups and others.
The list of coaches has an even more old-school flavor, including Rick Barry, George Gervin and Clyde Drexler.
“As a fan, it was just wanting to see these guys back on the court doing it,” he said. “I think a lot of athletes retire too soon. A lot of athletes don’t even know they retired. They just don’t get the call. They wait and don’t get the call and don’t even know. It’s like, ‘Oh, damn, I’m out of the league!’ You know what I mean?
“So I’m pretty sure for them it’s life-altering. For a fan it’s like, yo, look, I grew up watching this kid, from a high school student sometimes, college, pros, 12-year [pro] career, I know his ups and downs, how he acts when he loses, how he acts when he wins, and poof, gone.
“This is what I’m trying to create here, a place to go for athletes who can still do it. They probably can’t do it at the NBA schedule [pace]. They can still play at an NBA level, but they probably can’t play back-to-backs or three games in four nights, all the stuff that the NBA schedule brings.
“But they can play once a week, half court, three-on-three, like we all used to . . . This is like a UFC, going from town to town, you’re going to be able to see all four games — because of we have eight teams — in one day, same place, so you get to see 48 of your most known, sometimes favorite, stars play.
“It’s cool because it’s five guys on the team, revenue sharing, with 52 percent of it going to the players, and the champion gets the lion’s share, then second place, third place, all the way to eighth. So I think you’re going to have tough competition. And it’s grown-man basketball. It’s hand-checking, trash-talking.”
MAKE A FIST
In “Fist Fight,” Ice Cube stars alongside Charlie Day, who plays a fellow teacher who gets Ice Cube’s character fired, prompting the former to challenge the latter to a fight after school one day. Complications ensue.
How much practice fighting did the film require?
“It was really learning the choreography,” Ice Cube said. “That was three days of just learning everything we were going to have to do and try to get some muscle memory going. But it’s a trip. I’ve fought in a lot of movies. What’s cool is that I’m a teacher but in some ways I have to be a little more tactical because nobody knows what I did before I was a teacher. Everybody has these theories. So it’s different doing this than like when I did ‘Triple X,’ where precision was the key. I had to look the part. Here you can be a little looser.”
At 47, Ice Cube has managed to have it both ways as a performer, retaining the coolness and seriousness that marked his rise to fame with N.W.A. while also starring in broad comedies.
“I think whatever I do people feel like I’m honest, sincere, and I am,” he said. “So these are two different spectrums of my personality and two different spectrums of my life. So it’s cool that I’m able to show both sides and I just think when you give people quality or year after year you just really try to make sure that you’re giving the best of you that you can muster, then they reward you with longevity, and they take these rides with you.”
When I noted some people poke fun at the comedies of late-career Robert DeNiro after the seriousness that marked his earlier movies, Ice Cube said, “People might make fun of DeNiro, but they’re going to take the ride with him because of his body of work, and hopefully he’ll give us a glimpse back into the good old days when he was a gangsta.
“I’m still new. I’m still, to me, a fairly young man, so I feel like I have time for the pendulum to swing back and forth.”