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The Big3 Pulled A Bait-And-Switch On Philadelphia

The Big3 Pulled A Bait-And-Switch On Philadelphia
From Deadspin - July 17, 2017

Allen Iverson was on time.

Anyone whos followed Iversons career knows he has a penchant for flaking. He famously eschewed practice. He skips autograph sessions. In his last full season for the Sixers, he blew off Fan Appreciation Night. Hes no-showed appearances at basketball games and high schools.

But, at 4:35 p.m. yesterday, Allen Iverson arrived at the arena in South Philadelphia. I know this because that was the same time I arrived. I saw him walk in. Iverson wasnt just on time, he was early. His Big3 team wasnt going to play until around 9. This may have been the earliest Allen Iverson arrived for any event, ever.

It was a good start to the Big3. Fans filed into the arena. Lotta dudes in Iverson jerseys that dont fit anymore, @85mf wrote on Twitter, a group that included Iverson himself. An in-arena host promised cash prizes for fans who made shots during breaks in the action. The crowd was smallthe mezzanine level of the arena was closedbut things were going well.

Big3, the 3-on-3 summer basketball league featuring former NBA players, was Iversons chance to come back to Philadelphia for one last game. Think of it as the basketball equivalent to the House of Hardcore wrestling shows Tommy Dreamer runs at the old ECW Arena. Though he looked old and out-of-shape in previous Big3 appearances, with any luck wed get to see Iverson hit one last shot in South Philly.

We wouldnt. About 25 minutes before the first of four games were about to begin, Iverson announced on his Instagram that he wouldnt be playing in his later game on the advice of his doctor. (Presumably, he didnt mean Dr. J.)

And, you know what, I should have known. Because when I saw Allen Iverson heading into the building, he was walking like an old man.

Iverson had been honest about his role in the league at a press conference the day before. Im not going to go out there and be the 25-year-old Allen Iverson, he told reporters. Youre going to see a 42-year-old man out there. Iverson had played in the three previous Big3 games, if only for short spurts. Ice Cube, one of the co-founders of Big3, admitted that the whole point of the league was to get Allen Iverson on the court again: That was part of the dream. The hope, the wish. Just seeing him run out of that tunnel in that uniform, seeing him warm up, basketball in his hands.

So Big3 was in a bind. As nice as it was last night to see Reggie Evansone of my favorite Sixers role playersnobody bought their tickets to see him. They bought their tickets to see Allen Iverson. Here was their marquee attraction, in the city where hes most popular, and he wouldnt be playing.

Big3 did not handle this well. There was no announcement in-arena that Allen Iverson wouldnt be playing in the marquee game of the evening. When Iverson gave a speech to the crowd before the gamehe was introduced as a coachhe didnt mention that he wouldnt be playing. As such, the crowd chanted We want A.I. throughout the last of four games. People booed. Half of them left early, as word spread that Iverson wouldnt be getting off the bench.

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