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The Evolution of 3x3 Basketball Rules

  • Author:
    Jimena Panduro
  • Date:
    Apr 29, 2015

Since the first FIBA-organized international 3x3 event at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, the standard set of rules for the game has evolved.

As the game matured, throughout World Championships and numerous zone and qualifying championships, FIBA and the game’s organizers have adapted a set of rules that highlights 3x3’s excitement and standardizes the playing field.

Just like with any new sport, the way 3x3 is played will vary as officials aim to find improvements and reach maximum potential.

For Ieasia Walker, these rules introduced her to a different style of play than she had been used to before.

Walker was the MVP of last year’s 2013 USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 National Championship. She and her Team FST- L.I. (Long Island, N.Y.) teammates took first place and earned a trip back to this year’s championship.

A former South Carolina Gamecock basketball player who currently plays professional basketball for the Instituto Fertilidad Air Europa team in Spain, along with 3x3 teammate Ashley Bruner, Walker has been around basketball for a long time, yet she’s a newbie when it comes to 3x3.

Despite the differences, she was able to quickly adjust, as she realized that 3x3 was relatively easy to play.

A Game For Everyone
The essence of 3x3 is that it's a game for everyone and anyone who loves basketball. It's a discipline that provides a mix of competitiveness, skills and fun.

How To Play 3X3 Basketball

• A team is composed of at least three players and no more than four per roster.
• 10-minute game.
• 12-second shot clock.
• Each team gets one 30-second timeout.
• Baskets made from outside of the arc are worth two points, and all baskets inside the arc are worth 1 point (this includes layups, jumpers, dunks, etc.).
• The team that reaches 21 points first or scores the most points by the end of the 10 minutes, wins.
• If teams are tied at the end of the 10 minutes, overtime will be played, and the team that scores two points first wins.
• Opening possession is determined by a coin toss instead of a jump ball.


For complete rules, check out: or

“Last year, it was pretty tough to get adjusted at first because that was our first time playing together, and playing with those rules,” Walker said. “But once we got a few games under our belt, we were able to watch and see how other people strategized, and then we were able to do that ourselves, so we quickly got it together.”

Over a period of four years, 3x3 basketball has seen many variations of its rules, with some of the most notable being the length of the game, the shot clock, and the amount of points necessary to win a game.

Another big rule change, one that is more impactful on the men’s 3x3 game, is the dunk. In 2013, FIBA increased the point value for a dunk to two points, the same amount awarded for a make from behind the arc. After carefully watching the rule’s impact for one year, FIBA has returned to awarding the dunk a single point.

In its first FIBA-sanctioned competition in 2010, the game was played in two 5-minute halves with a 10-second shot clock and the team that reached 33 points first or scored the most points by the end of the game won. In addition, teams were allowed to have coaches roaming the sidelines and designing plays.

Four years later, the game is one 10-minute contest with a 12-second shot clock, and it is the team who reaches 21 points first, or the team that is leading after the 10 minutes expires, that is victorious. Also, teams no longer have coaches, making the game of 3x3 an independent, be your own coach, kind of game.

Even with two more seconds than it originally had on the shot clock, the game is fast, which could be said to be its most defining characteristic.

“I definitely love the fast pace of the game,” Walker commented. “It is a little trickier, because once you touch the ball, you have twelve seconds to shoot and score, so you have to be a quick thinker and already have some plays that you will run in mind. You can’t stop to hold the ball.”

“It’s fast, and that’s what I like about it.”

Cliff Alexander, a member of the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s 3x3 U18 World Championship Team and one of the country’s top ranked prep basketball recruits, agreed with Walker.

“It’s a lot faster and there’s a 12-second shot clock,” Alexander said when comparing 3x3 to the traditional five-on-five. “I enjoy playing it a lot.”

Naturally, some rules have remained the same since the game’s official inception, such as the use of one half-court and the structure of teams being made up of three starting players and one substitute.

It is all of these adjustments nevertheless, that has allowed 3x3 to progress and become appealing to everybody that encounters it.

“It’s alright if you’re not in great shape, you can still win” Walker explained. “It comes down to skill.”

With the 2014 USA Basketball 3x3 Championship only two weeks away, Walker says Team FST- L.I. is excited to come back to Colorado Springs and compete.

The winner of the 2014 USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship in May will earn the right to play in the 2014 FIBA 3X3 World Championship in Moscow, Russia, June 5-7.

“We were actually in Spain, Ashley and I, and we were talking about coming back and how excited we were. This means a lot. There are just so many incredible players, and to have that chance is great.”

Growing up in New York, Walker played pickup basketball constantly. She went on to play the traditional game in college where she competed against the best in the country.

3x3 basketball has brought her back to her roots, and at the same time this discipline is giving her the chance to represent her country doing what she does best.

“That’s the best feeling to have,” she said. “To represent the country doing something you love.”

And it’s even better when you’re having fun.

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