Even though their marquee name has played sparingly, the founders of the Big3 are happy that the quality of play is getting better as the league reaches the midpoint of its season.

The 3-on-3 league featuring former NBA players, which was founded by rapper/actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, heads to Chicago on Sunday after drawing 12,435 fans in Philadelphia last weekend.

“We always said if this became a league about nostalgia, then it would be a flash in the pan. If it became a league about credible and competitive sports, it would stand the test of time and only get better,” Kwatinetz said Wednesday during a conference call. “You are seeing a huge emphasis on defense. These teams are not letting people walk to the hoop and score.”

While all four games in Philadelphia were decided by seven points or fewer, the first time that has happened this season, Allen Iverson’s decision not to play remained one of the focal points. The onetime Sixers great said a few hours before the game that his doctor advised him not to play for unspecified reasons.

Most of the fans did not know about Iverson’s decision until they got to the Wells Fargo Center. Cube, who said he is hopeful that Iverson can play this week, said the league hoped to do another event in Philadelphia in the future where Iverson can play.

The former NBA MVP has been more coach than player for 3’s Company the first four weeks. In the first three games, the 42-year-old had six points on 3-for-13 shooting from the field.

“I don’t think our league hinges on Allen Iverson as people see,” Cube said. “We think it is better for the fans and league if he does play, but if he doesn’t, we’re still going to have great basketball that people want to see.”

Trilogy, which is coached by Rick Mahorn, remains the league’s only unbeaten team (4-0). Captain Kenyon Martin, who has missed three games because of a hamstring injury, is set to return this week.

This week will also see the debut of Joe Smith, the first overall pick in the 1995 draft. Cube said it might take a couple weeks for Smith, who will play for the Ghost Ballers, to get a feel for the league’s style.

“A lot of people think they can just walk out there and get on the court with these dudes, I don’t know about that,” Cube said. “Week 1 maybe, but by now guys are into what they are doing.”

The eight-team league’s season culminates with the Aug. 26 championship in Las Vegas.


This story has been corrected to show that Smith was drafted in 1995, not 1994.