PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Allen Iverson walked onto a familiar court to a rousing ovation and then took an unfamiliar spot on the sideline.
The Answer was Coach AI in his Big3 homecoming.
Iverson said a few hours before his team played against Dr. J’s squad that his doctor advised him not to play Sunday night for unspecified reasons, dampening enthusiasm for his return.
So, he assumed his role as coach of 3’s Company in Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league. That didn’t stop fans from chanting: “We want AI!”
“I’m glad I had a chance to come back home,” Iverson told the crowd after introductions. “Ain’t nothing like this relationship we have. I love you for supporting me throughout my career and still today you’re still supporting me.”
After he walked on the floor, Iverson cupped his ear the way he used to during his days leading the Philadelphia 76ers and implored the crowd to cheer even louder.
They made it sound like 2001 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Iverson hugged everyone in sight, smiled, waved, blew kisses and went to work as a coach. He stood in front of the bench, arms folded, interacted with officials and did his best Larry Brown impression.
The Hall of Famer hasn’t played much so far. He had six points on 3-for-13 shooting in the first three games before sitting out this one.
Julius Erving, coach of the Tri-State team, embraced Iverson and whispered in his ear before addressing the crowd first.
“Big3 is a new concept but it’s an old story,” Erving said. “It’s about playing ball the way we all learned how to play ball out in the playground, like the playgrounds all around Philadelphia.”
Erving’s team, led by Jermaine O’Neal and Bonzi Wells, won the game. Iverson didn’t speak to reporters afterward.
Cube wrote on Twitter hours after the game that the only one feeling worse than him was Iverson.