3's Company player/captain and coach Allen Iverson (3) takes a three-point shot during the first half of Game 3 in the BIG3 Basketball League debut, Sunday, June 25, 2017, at the Barclays Center in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Photo: Kathy Willens/AP
Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

Big3 begins: 3-on-3 league has close games, not much Iverson

The Iverson of old might be the only thing Ice Cube's new 3-on-3 basketball venture can't deliver. 

The rapper-actor's league of former NBA players got off to a strong start Sunday, with the first two games both decided on winning shots in front of 15,177 fans. 

Iverson's team won the third game, though as player-coach he only put himself in for 9 minutes. At 42 years old, the former NBA MVP said he doesn't expect to be playing heavy minutes in the 10-game season. 

"But I think the best part about this game here tonight and all the other games, it was exciting all throughout," Iverson said. "It didn't need Allen Iverson the player, per se." 

The quality of play was spotty, as players had to shake off sometimes years of rust. But it was certainly competitive. 

"I think it's going to be incredibly good. The games are exciting, the players are still talented and they're fun to watch," said Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who coached Power to a 62-58 victory over Tri State in the second game on DeShawn Stevenson's 3-pointer. 

Entertainers such as LL Cool J and NBA All-Star James Harden were in the crowd for the first two games before Iverson, the main attraction among players, took the court following a concert. 

He may be the biggest name in the league, but his role on the court will be minor. 

"I signed up to be a coach, player and captain. Coach part is going to go on throughout the game," Iverson said. "Playing part is not going to be what you expect. 

"You're not going to see the Allen Iverson of old out there." 

He can't be blamed, given the risk of injury for players way past their primes. Jason Williams, the flashy point guard nicknamed "White Chocolate," went down with a right leg injury late in the opener, and Corey Maggette had to come out of the second game. Both were expected to be OK. 

And that might not stop more players from wanting to play. Recently retired Paul Pierce was in the crowd and Andre Owens, the star of Iverson's 3's Company, said Kevin Garnett might want to play. 

"Sky's the limit. Obviously you see the debut," Iverson said. "I didn't even expect it to be like this, and then obviously guys that's retired now, to see the outcome of this situation right here, probably are going to get that itch." 

Games are played to 60 points but teams have to win by two, and getting to 60 wasn't enough in either of the first two games. 

In the opener, Rashard Lewis made a three-point play with his team facing game point as 3 Headed Monsters edged Ghost Ballers 62-60. 

The game has gimmicks — Lewis made the first 4-point shot and teams had 14 seconds to shoot. Team names included 3's Company and Killer 3s and some players wore nicknames on their jerseys, with Jerome Williams going with "Junk Yard Dog" on his. 

Cube vowed the games would be competitive — players are vying for a revenue share based on final league standings. There was pushing and shoving in the post and a few hard fouls, and the physicality and trash talk appeared to heat up as the games went on. With hand checking allowed, the games looked nothing like today's NBA game. 

"Some people like that style, some people don't," Trilogy's Kenyon Martin said. "So we're here to fill that void for the people that appreciate the way the game has been played forever, you know what I'm saying? Basketball is a contact sport." 

The eight-team league will play on 10 weekends, culminating with the Aug. 26 championship in Las Vegas. Games are shown on Monday nights on Fox Sports 1.

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