Three-on-three basketball is having a moment. On top of Ice Cube’s newly launched league for aging NBA folk heroes, the playground staple also just got added as an Olympic sport.
That’s right 3-on-3 basketball will be at the Tokyo Games. We’re still picking our jaws up off the floor.
And we have so many questions. Chief among them: Is this Good or Bad?
Some thoughts as we try to sort out our feelings …
Why it’s cool
Three-on-three half-court is arguably the funnest way to play not necessarily watch, but play basketball. Plenty of lifelong hoopers would rather run 3-on-3 half-court games than full-court 5-on-5 for reasons aside from sheer laziness.
There’s more space on the floor. But, as opposed to two-on-two or one-on-one, each team still has enough players to make offense interesting. Meanwhile, skill becomes more paramount, in contrast to informal full-court games that can easily devolve into sloppy track-meets.
So yeah, that’s cool on a certain level, to see a game so familiar to weekend warriors being played on the Olympics stage. Official international 3-on-3 rules even say the score must be kept by ones and twos another playground staple.
“Adding a new urban basketball discipline to the Olympic program marks a quantum leap for the development of the game and presents an array of opportunities for new countries and players alike,” read a Friday press release from FIBA, the governing body of international basketball.
But our main question is an important one …
Who’s going to play in this thing?
Imagine watching a lineup of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry take on all comers in 3-on-3. Imagine other countries with their own lineups of NBA stars Andrew Wiggins for Canada, Ben Simmons for Australia, Giannis Antetokounmpo for Greece, just to name a few.
That’s fun to think about, but it’s tough for several reasons to realistically see many if any of the world’s top NBA players participating in 3-on-3 at the Olympics. The face of Olympic 3-on-3 would more likely look quite different.
Two years ago, for example, Vice Sports did a feature on what it called “the best 3-on-3 team in the world.” They’d won pretty much everything in the sport and were a group of random dudes from Novi Sad, Serbia. Bleacher Report recently spotlighted a member of the American 3-on-3 team that will compete at this summer’s FIBA 2017 3X3 World Championships in France; he’s a 30-year-old financial manager who played college ball at Northwestern.
Does seeing financial managers from Manhattan take on no-name dudes from Serbia with an Olympic gold medal on the line the highest honor in sports, mind you sound cool? Or does it just sound weird?
Whether it’s Good or Bad is subjective. But there’s no debate that it’s different. So are other details, like the fact that 3-on-3 regulations use a slightly smaller game-ball than the NBA version.
No matter what you make of it all, though, there is this: Come 2020 in Tokyo, 3-on-3 hoops will have completed its journey from the playground to the Olympics.
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