3x3 Basketball: Ashgabat 2017’s spotlight on the new Olympic sport
The old adage of ‘the bigger the better’ is certainly not the case when it comes to the evolution of some of the world’s most popular sports.
And when the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games welcome more than 6,000 athletes from 65 delegations to the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat in a month’s time, there will be one sport particularly in the spotlight.
Despite being only a five-a-side game played on a relatively small court, Basketball is following a similar path taken by other mass participation sports like Cricket, Rugby and Football.
Twenty20 brought a new lease of life to Cricket, making it fast-paced and TV-friendly; Rugby Sevens gained a spot at the Olympics with its appeal as a quick, high-scoring game; and Futsal is now widely recognised as a more skillful form of the full-side game by the world’s top clubs and countries.
So it is not surprising that 3x3 Basketball, which will have men’s and women’s events at Ashgabat 2017, is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and has been included onto the roster for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Born from the shrinking spaces in urban environments, where sprawl had eaten away the traditional courts, 3x3 Basketball is a staple sport for many city kids and has now elevated itself to a life of its own. But what does this sport entail? In simple terms, as the name suggests, it is a Basketball game played between three players on each team and with only one basket on a half court.
It will be a showpiece event at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games with this edition including athletes from Oceania for the first time.
The Games are held under the Olympic Council of Asia banner and were originally conceived as the Asian Indoor Games in 2005. However, the event was later amalgamated with the Asian Martial Arts Games – an event that itself began in 2009 – in 2013 and was renamed to what it currently is.
The story of 3x3 Basketball’s rise is inspiring.
The official page of FIBA (International Basketball Federation) features a catchy tagline on their 3x3 Basketball section: ‘from the streets to the Olympics’. It is a very powerful one-liner, perfectly depicting the rise of the game as a result of infrastructure confinements. When you are outside and see a lack of space, the only way out is to be efficient with what’s available.
The onset of 3x3 Basketball on the international stage came in 2007, when FIBA decided to try it out at the Asian Indoor Games. The tremendous reception led to it being introduced at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore after a unified set of rules were agreed for the format.
In September 2010, the FIBA World Congress gave an in-depth presentation about how to further develop the discipline. It included a roadmap with the view of making 3x3 Basketball an Olympic event.
The roadmap consisted of an improved set of rules coupled with an online community of players and technologically-driven focus of strategy on a worldwide network of competitions.
Like in every other sport, performances in games would determine rankings of the players. The players were also free to move to other teams between tournament gaps. As it turned out, the roadmap was sanctioned in March 2011.
Following the ratification, a test phase took place in the summer of 2011 where FIBA collected an extensive amount of data from a lot of tournaments which they helped to organise.
Another important event took place that same year when the U18 World Cup for boys and girls was held in Italy.
An international competition calendar that included the FIBA 3X3 World Cup and the FIBA 3X3 World Tour was set in motion just months later, laying the foundations for the remarkable growth of the sport that is being witnessed today.
The mains rules of 3x3 are as follows:
? 1 basket on 1 half-court
? 2 teams of 3 players and up to 1 substitute per team
? 12-seconds shot-clock
? 1st team to reach 21 points or best after 10 minutes win
What to expect at Ashgabat?
The confirmation that 3x3 Basketball will be an Olympic sport has thrown the global spotlight on the event at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
While Japan – the highest ranked team in Asia – will be the men’s favourites, there are a host of teams who are sure to provide some stiff competition.
Japan will also be the team to beat in the women’s competition with the strongest competition likely to come from Kazakhstan.