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9:34 PM / Friday November 22, 2019

17 Jul 2017

Philadelphia fans blindsided by and furious over Allen Iverson not playing in BIG3 game

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July 17, 2017 Category: Sports Posted by:

By Adi Joseph

USA Today, For the Win

PHILADELPHIA — Allen Iverson’s entrance at the BIG3’s first showcase in the city he once called home was full of flashing lights, blaring music and the roars of the fans.

It was all downhill from there.

Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers legend who has been the face of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 basketball league, did not play. He coached and signed autographs, but he had announced 25 minutes before the night’s opening tipoff via Instagram that he would not be hitting the court himself.

“To all my fans out there, based on advice from my doctor, I will not be playing in the game tonight for the BIG3,” Iverson said in the Instagram video posted at 5:35 p.m. ET. “I will be there to coach my team and beat Dr. J’s team, I will be interacting with all my fans, and we’ll have a great time and see some great basketball. I love you fans for supporting me all of the years up to date, and I’ll see you when I get there.”

Iverson and the league — which did not announce Iverson’s decision not to play during the three opening games — declined to comment further on his absence from the court, even after the crowd turned on its hero and the league. Boos streamed in and fans streamed out during the game between Iverson’s 3’s Company team and Tri-State, which was the last of the four-game evening and ended at nearly 10 p.m.

Many of the fans nearly filling the lower bowl of the Wells Fargo Center for the 6 p.m. event had no idea Iverson wouldn’t be playing until that game began. In interviewing hard-core Iverson fans, For The Win repeatedly had to be the bearer of bad news. Austin Hendricks and Sarah Pasetsky had driven down to Philadelphia from the Lehigh Valley, about an hour north. Their reaction was common.

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”Shut — no!” Hendricks said, exasperated. “Why isn’t he playing?”

“This is like a joke, right? Then he’ll come out,” Pasetsky said in disbelief.

Hendricks’ brother, Jared Richmond, froze in his tracks at the news. He hadn’t been to a game at Wells Fargo Center since Iverson retired. “Right there, by my reaction when you said that, that’s all you need,” he said.

The enthusiasm to see the 42-year-old Iverson — and 67-year-old Julius Erving, the fellow 76ers legend who coaches the Tri-State team — was obvious from their introductions. “The Answer” was genuinely important to these fans and to the city of Philadelphia.

“He’s been through his troubles and trials and tribulations,” said Robert Lawson, who wore a red Iverson throwback and came in from New Jersey. “He came to Philly. He knew what he was going through personally when he got to this city and saw how we’re a hard-working community. And he just brought it every night. We appreciated it. We knew that when he stepped on this court, he was bringing it every night.”

”Shut — no!” Hendricks said, exasperated. “Why isn’t he playing?”

“This is like a joke, right? Then he’ll come out,” Pasetsky said in disbelief.

Hendricks’ brother, Jared Richmond, froze in his tracks at the news. He hadn’t been to a game at Wells Fargo Center since Iverson retired. “Right there, by my reaction when you said that, that’s all you need,” he said.

The enthusiasm to see the 42-year-old Iverson — and 67-year-old Julius Erving, the fellow 76ers legend who coaches the Tri-State team — was obvious from their introductions. “The Answer” was genuinely important to these fans and to the city of Philadelphia.

“He’s been through his troubles and trials and tribulations,” said Robert Lawson, who wore a red Iverson throwback and came in from New Jersey. “He came to Philly. He knew what he was going through personally when he got to this city and saw how we’re a hard-working community. And he just brought it every night. We appreciated it. We knew that when he stepped on this court, he was bringing it every night.”

The fans still witnessed good 3-on-3 basketball in the four-game setup. Rashard Lewis put on a strong performance with 30 points and 10 rebounds for 3 Headed Monsters in a victory against Killer 3’s (who were without Chauncey Billups), and Cuttino Mobley and DeShawn Stevenson pushed Power to a blowout of Mike Bibby’s Ghost Ballers.

But “We want Iverson” chants broke out as Tri-State took a big early lead, and the sentiment seemed clear: The fans didn’t get what they came to see. Even other BIG3 players were late to find out, and several mentioned excitement to see Iverson before the final game had startedThat’s probably not a fair expectation for Iverson, who openly admitted he was not near game shape when the season began. Iverson has been mostly a non-factor on the court for 3’s Company, but he at least hit a shot last week in Tulsa.

“His presence alone, even just being a coach, has magnified what this league is all about and energized this league,” former Iverson teammate and Fox Sports 1 broadcaster Jim Jackson told For The Win this week. “Of course, it’d be great if he could play more. But I think we even internally have to keep our realistic expectations to a minimum and let Allen get into a place, mentally and physically, where he can perform his best.”

That wasn’t possible Sunday. Iverson did not clarify his injury or his status moving forward for this league. Without him, the impressive crowds may shrink. Philadelphia’s certainly would have been smaller.

“We made a last-minute decision last night to come,” said Casey Marohn of Newtown Square, Pa., about 30 minutes west. “We wanted to watch Allen play.”

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