During the opening minutes of the fourth and final game of Sunday night’s BIG3 showcase between 3’s Company and Tri-State, the irritated Philadelphia crowd filled the Wells Fargo Center with near-deafening “We Want A.I.” chants.
As former 76ers star Allen Iverson stood on the sideline to coach his 3’s Company team, all he could do is seemingly pretend that the focus was not on him in that moment. Earlier in the day, Iverson announced via his Instagram that he would not be playing that night due to “doctor’s orders.” In case you had any doubt, absolutely no one bought the excuse.
Needless to say, those who attended the sold-out event did not have any high praise for the league’s first ever stop in Philadelphia. Just about everyone came to see perhaps the most beloved sports figure in the city’s history take to the court, even if for just a few minutes. But instead, they left deflated of the excitement they entered the arena with a few hours before.
When rap legend Ice Cube announced the formation of the BIG3 league in January, the idea went from skepticism to increasing optimism as notable names were announced to be a part of the league. Once Iverson agreed to join in, it seemed as though the BIG3 experiment would yield positive results.
The inaugural night took place in a sold-out Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, and it was exactly what fans expected: former NBA stars showing what they had left in the tank. While their performances proved to be a far cry from their glory days, the competitiveness showcased showed that the league would bring significantly more excitement than your average celebrity game.
Although it seemed like the league was slated for a bright future, the BIG3 has seemingly began taking a nose-dive over the past several days. First, Iverson not only ditches playing, but also ditches the post-game press conference for reasons unknown, leaving the speculation to the idea that he did not want to face questions about his decision not to play.
Then things took an even further turn when coach Gary Payton defended his decision to arrive late and skip out on media appearances during the league’s opening weekend. “Sh*t, this ain’t my m****f***ing job,” he said. “This ain’t paying my bills.”
This all leads to one question: If biggest names of the promotion don’t care, why should the fans?
If there is one thing Iverson has been adamant about, it’s the fact that no one should expect to see him put on a heroic performance of the past. But, was anyone expecting that? Only a fool would admit that they spent $100 to see a 42-year-old Iverson drop 48 points on a weekly basis. Fans simply want to see Iverson take the court and at least pretend he was once the most exciting player to step on an NBA court.
I’m not going to speculate on why exactly The Answer did not play. Whether it was a long night out, placing too much pressure on himself to be the Iverson of the past, or something else, the one thing that remains clear is that Philadelphia’s hero turned out to be nothing more than a disappointment Sunday night.
So now, what does this mean for the future of the BIG3? Will fans shell out money to now only possibly see their favorite players of the past play? Will every week from here on out feature some song and dance as to why things just won’t go as planned? Will the BIG3’s grand opening also be its grand closing?
One thing we can not take away is the efforts from other players, from Rashard Lewis showing he’s still got range with the four-point shot to Deshawn Stevenson hitting a game winner in Brooklyn. However, despite the determination from players across the league, I am sure we can all agree that guys like Kwame Brown are not going to help move thousands of tickets per week.
Unless the BIG3 finds its second wind before the season wraps up, we may become witnesses to its quick implosion.