CLEVELAND—Excitement abounds in basketball’s birthplace about the fast-paced 3-on-3 version of the game being added to the Olympic lineup Friday by the International Olympic Committee.
With roots in Harlem’s legendary Rucker Park playground games and the Gus Macker series that has toured US cities for 30 years, 3-on-3 has reached a renaissance that includes an eight-team US pro league tipping off in two weeks and Olympic status starting at Tokyo in 2020.
“USA Basketball is excited that 3-on-3 basketball has been added to the 2020 Olympic Games,” USA Basketball chief executive Jim Tooley said, adding: “3-on-3 is a great way to develop the sport and expand it to parts of the world that might not otherwise be active in basketball.”
While American teams of NBA and Women’s NBA stars have dominated the familiar 5-on-5 version of the game on the Olympic stage, 3-on-3 offers nations with less depth the chance to compete at a global level much as Rugby Sevens does in its realm.
“It is a popular and growing sport,” Tooley said. It’s non-stop, fast-paced, high energy and an exciting version of the game.”
The NBA has conducted 3-on-3 events around the world, including stops in Brazil, China, Philippines, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.
“Today’s announcement by the IOC to include 3-on-3 basketball in the 2020 Olympics is great news and continues to signify the growing popularity of basketball around the world,” said NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum.
The Dew NBA 3X Tour, the first nationwide US elite 3-on-3 competition, is in its second year with events from May to October in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington and San Francisco.
“The last few years, we have made a major push in 3-on-3 basketball with our nationwide Dew NBA 3X tour and several international 3-on-3 competitions and the Olympic stage will provide these elite athletes with the opportunity to further demonstrate their talents,” Tatum said.
‘What fans want’
Former NBA standouts Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups are among players in the new Big3 league, where eight teams play a round-robin schedule of tournaments, four games each night in various cities with playoffs and a championship.
“We would like to commend the Olympics for making 3-on-3 basketball, the most played sport in the world, an official Olympic sport,” Big3 co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz said in a statement.
“This decision reconfirms our gut instinct that 3-on-3 basketball is what sports and entertainment fans want to see.”
The Big3 tips off on June 25 at New York’s Barclays Center.
World governing body FIBA had 3-on-3 in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games and in the 2014 edition of the event in Nanjing, China, the sport now becoming the first Youth Olympic discipline to be included in the Olympic program.
“Three-on-3 has proven to be a global sport and one of the most popular spectator sports,” Tooley said. “USA Basketball hopes the addition of 3-on-3 to the Olympics will help grow participation in the sport worldwide.”