Building Momentum For USA Participation In 3x3 Tournaments
Playing a 3x3 pickup basketball game seems like a quintessential American pastime, and it is. But 3x3 basketball also is a reflection of the ever-expanding globalization of the sport.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) first introduced 3x3 basketball as a sanctioned sport at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and has held 3x3 events yearly since then. FIBA in fact has publicly stated that it would like to see 3x3 basketball added to the competitions held during the Summer Olympic Games. The growth in 3x3 popularity around the world has led to more countries participating in the game.
“I love basketball whether it’s 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, 5x5 -- it doesn’t really matter,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. “But when you think about how many of us learned the game on the playgrounds, a lot of it was 3x3. ... It’s a different game in the sense that it takes a unique set of skills to be competitive in international competition. It’s exciting, it’s short, it’s quick. And I think the more competition we can develop within the game of basketball, such as 3x3, it’s going to serve our purposes as it relates to growing our game.”
While USA Basketball teams dominated international competition in 2014, winning gold at every level of play, it might be surprising to note where the USA stands in FIBA’s current 3x3 rankings:
USA 3x3 Overall Rankings
Men - 3rd
Women - 6th
U18 Men - 9th
U18 Women - 5th
That’s because FIBA’s 3x3 rankings are all about player registration and participation. According to FIBA, the USA has hosted 30 FIBA-sanctioned 3x3 tournaments in the past 12 months – 12th-most in the world and fewer than half as many as the top-ranked country, Romania (67 events).
The USA ranks fourth with 3,316 registered 3x3 men and women players, behind Turkey (3,357), Hungary (3,900) and Indonesia (8,449).
“In the long run, the dominance of USA Basketball in the world is great for USA Basketball. But it’s also important for other countries to come and be more competitive, so that they can have an opportunity to win in international competition,” said Colangelo. “3x3 is a game that has allowed small countries (to succeed) – it doesn’t matter how big or strong or wealthy your national board is as it relates to promoting the game in your respective country. There’s a chance for them to win, and it’s already been proven that’s exactly what takes place.
“3x3 has been a tremendous gateway for the game in many of the smaller countries.”
While playing 3x3 takes place daily on basketball courts around the country, organized 3x3 tournaments in the United States are growing.
“We want USA Basketball to be the place people come to learn more about 3x3 and where they can participate,” said Travis Johnson, USA Basketball’s 3x3 program director. “We want to keep building that momentum of playing 3x3 so we qualify for future FIBA 3x3 competitions.”
The first international 3x3 competition of 2015 will be the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships for Men and Women, June 4-7 in Debrecen, Hungary. The USA men’s and women’s representatives in that competition will be determined by the USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Tournament, held April 30-May 3 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
That said, the FIBA 3x3 rankings determine whether or not a country qualifies to be in FIBA’s 3x3 world championships. So the team that wins the national tournament still must rely on participation from teams around the country.
Simply put, said Johnson, “The more people who are playing 3x3, the higher your country is ranked.”