PHILADELPHIA — Clyde Drexler called it the greatest show on Earth — this summer.
Others might have described it as old-timers’ night with the most famous old-timer too hurt to play.
The BIG3, a professional 3-on-3 basketball league, stopped at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night.
The league is built on nostalgia, and BIG3’s big draw Sunday was former 76ers standout Allen Iverson.
But Iverson took some excitement out of the evening when he announced on Instagram shortly before the event started that based on his doctor’s advice he would not play. Iverson still coached his team and even signed autographs on the concourse.
That was good enough for some fans.
Tyler Cole, 17, of Philadelphia, wore Iverson’s No. 3 jersey and waited in line for Iverson to autograph it.
“I still got to meet him, and it was a really good experience,” Cole said. “It was awesome — life changing. I like his ego. I like his attitude. He was game-changing.”
This is the BIG3’s initial season. Rapper/actor Ice Cube co-founded the league. He and fellow rapper/actor LL Cool J sat courtside Sunday.
The league is playing in 10 cities this summer. Philadelphia was stop No. 4.
The league features eight teams with five players each and a head coach who is a former NBA player. Iverson is a player-coach for 3’s Company. Julius Erving coaches Tri-State. Other coaches include retired NBA greats Drexler, George Gervin, and Gary Payton.
“We all still love the game,” Drexler said. “In 3-on-3, you have to three two-way players. You have to take the challenge. This has been a blast. These guys can still play at a very high level. It’s the greatest show on earth — this summer.”
Fans filled nearly all of the Wells Fargo Center’s lower bowl. There were four games, with the first team to score 50 points winning. The games took about 50 minutes.
The teams featured recognizable former NBA names, such as Mike Bibby, Cuttino Mobley and Al Harrington.
The players are relishing the chance to still compete.
“If I get to play basketball, I’m always excited,” said the 41-year-old Mobley, who sported a gray goatee. “To be able to have that camaraderie every weekend and see ourselves as a group evolve — it’s a fraternity. We’re not the knuckleheads we were in our 20s.”
The play was solid. Bibby made some acrobatic drives to the basket that drew roars from the crowd. DeShawn Stevenson, a Utah Jazz first-round draft pick in 2000, sank 6 3-pointers.
The players interacted with fans. Jerome Williams wore his nickname “Junk Yard Dog” on the back of his jersey. The 44-year-old center woofed with the fans after making a big play.
“I think this is going to be a great landing spot for guys who feel like they still have something left,” said Harrington, 37, who first made his name as a star at St. Patrick’s School in Elizabeth in the mid-1990s. “You have the camaraderie of the locker room and still get to play in front of fans.”
Most of the fans also seemed happy to walk down memory lane.
They gave Erving a standing ovation when he was introduced.
“This gives you a chance to remember me,” Erving told the crowd, “and me a chance to remember you.”
But Iverson, 42, was clearly Sunday’s big draw. He did not play much in 3’s Company’s first three games. Iverson did not disclose the nature of his injury on Instagram.
Fans pulled out their phones to tape his entrance. They roared when he entered the arena. Iverson walked onto the court and cupped his hear to the crowd — just as he did after he made big shots as a player. The fans roared louder.
Iverson and Erving embraced. At that point, not many people seemed to care Iverson wasn’t playing.
Iverson told the crowd that NBA players have special relationships with fans.
“Michael (Jordan) has a relationship with Chicago. There’s LeBron (James) and Cleveland and Kobe (Bryant) and L.A.,” Iverson said. “Ain’t nothing like the relationship we have.”