3x3 Basketball: From The Streets To The World Stage
A game of pickup hoops between friends is a rich tradition and a common form of entertainment around the world. As its popularity continues to grow, FIBA introduced 3x3 competitions in 2010 and propelled this one-time recreational activity into not only an internationally recognized game, but an Olympic discipline in 2020.
Despite its rapid growth, 3x3 basketball faces challenges as it aspires to be a dominant sport worldwide.
Derek Griffin, a participant of three 3x3 basketball tournaments as a member of Team Denver, a five-time USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship participant, and two-time champion, believes the key to get more people involved, is to get people playing.
“We’ve got to get more people playing it. Once they start playing it, they will be like ‘I love this style of play’, and they will be hooked. This is serious, and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand, 3x3 basketball is the real deal,” Griffin said.
In addition to playing the game himself, Griffin, who also works with the Denver Nuggets Youth Basketball program, is a supporter of 3x3 basketball as a method of practice and conditioning; an aspect that FIBA hopes to ensure will help continue the development of the game of basketball itself.
“(3x3 basketball) is conditioning galore,” Griffin acknowledged. “When I coach teams, I usually use 3x3 basketball as a conditioning drill because it’s great; it never stops.”
As FIBA.com states, “With over 250 million players worldwide and ranked among the most played recreational sports on the planet, 3x3 basketball is increasingly becoming a key motor for the development of basketball.”
Even though a game of 3x3 basketball seems to have been up and running since forever in backyards and gyms everywhere, it wasn’t until 2007, when FIBA announced it would introduce 3x3 basketball at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, that an official discipline began shaping up.
Since its inception in 2010, FIBA has worked to create a set of rules to establish an official way to play 3x3 basketball worldwide, making the game a universal new discipline to partake in.
Along with a set of rules, came the creation of local, national and international tournaments, which allowed 3x3 teams to play against the best teams from around their cities, countries and the world. FIBA now conducts its open (no age limit) and U18 3x3 World Cups on an annual basis, with one exception. Every four years (2018, 2022, etc.), the Youth Olympic Games takes the place of the 3x3 U18 World Cup.
And of course the biggest 3x3 news is the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee to include 3x3 basketball in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
How To Get Involved and Register
Becoming an internationally ranked 3x3 basketball player, finding teammates and partaking in local, national, and international competitions is now a process made simple by 3x3planet.
Here’s How It Works:
The level of the tournament is set within a system of colors for all 3x3 tournaments that indicates the size, quality and importance of an event in the international context of competitions. These colors will represent the amount of points each tournament is worth.
The best aspect of 3x3 basketball is that anybody can make it to the top, an idea that FIBA along with 3x3Planet have been trying to share for the last few years.
For more information, follow @3x3planet on twitter or check out 3x3planet.com.
Members of 3x3planet.com interact with each other through the web and they can team up, organize pick-up games, register for tournaments, save their game results and tally their points.
Griffin, a member of the 3x3Planet community, said that registering and being proactive on the site is quite easy, as well as a fun thing to do.
“3x3planet.com is very simple; super simple, actually. The first time we registered it took us literally five minutes. It’s easy to use, and we check it quite often. That first year we registered, (my teammate) and I were the top-ranked 3x3 players in the USA, and we thought that was the coolest thing ever so we were constantly looking at it and the updated scores.”
In order to up a player’s ranking, 3x3Planet allows each athlete to input statistics such as tournaments won or tournaments participated in, which earn a player points. Their ranking will then depend on the points accumulated and the skill level they possess. This ranking also will be compared globally, meaning it is quite simple to see how one stacks up against the rest of the world.
The simplicity and ease of getting involved in 3x3 is perhaps what makes this discipline so appealing. For Griffin and his teammates, 3x3 basketball provided a second chance to play the sport they love.
“I’m very passionate about it,” Griffin admitted. “My teammates and I, we all kind of have the same story - we played in high school, played in college, gave pro a chance and then stopped. This gave me a second chance to play for something bigger than myself, bigger than our team and at a high level. The things we’ve gotten to experience through 3x3 are amazing.”
These experiences Griffin refers to are precisely what FIBA and USA Basketball are hoping to continue in order to spread the word and gain support for the discipline.
He confesses that at first, 3x3 basketball was something he and his teammates didn’t take seriously. They merely entered their first tournament for pure fun.
“We had no clue that there was any sort of thing to it outside of winning a T-shirt. We didn’t know that if we won a 3x3 tournament, we would get to play in the USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament. We had no clue what that meant. We didn’t take it seriously.”
It didn’t take long for that attitude to change, however, as Griffin and his team quickly realized that this was not your average game; this was bigger, more intense.
In 2012, their first appearance at the USA 3x3 National Tournament, they finished a disappointing third place.
But, there was one thing they gained that was more valuable than anything else, a newfound respect for 3x3 basketball.
“That tournament was during the Olympics, so we saw LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and all of those guys that were practicing for USA Basketball, wearing the exact same thing we were wearing in our tournament, and that blew our minds,” Griffin shared. “It was like, this is legit. We didn’t think it was legit until we got there and realized that it was an amazing event.”
“USA Basketball runs an amazing program. It was well organized; everything was high class and top notch. (For us), it all started with a little tournament that we didn’t think was a big deal, and it has turned for the last few years, into something really special.”
Note: This story was originally published on April 24, 2014, and updated on March 21, 2018.