3-on-3 Basketball Named Official Olympic Sport

28 Jun, 2017

By: Michael Popke
Planners May See Revived Interest in Format Following Olympic Inclusion

Among the new events the International Olympic Committee recently announced for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo are additional competitions in swimming, track cycling, and track and field.

But the addition of three-on-three basketball is the one that really has people talking. The event will allow 32 men and 32 women to participate in a 3-on-3 Olympic competition following current rules established by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Half-court games will feature a 12-second shot clock, and scoring goes by ones and twos over the course of one 10-minute period. The first team to reach 21 points ­— or the one head after at the end of the period ­— wins. Each team will consist of four players (three starters and one substitute) using a slightly smaller ball than the one used in the NBA.

The sport’s profile has jumped in recent years in the United States, thanks to the NBA’s Dew NBA 3X Tour, which awards the top men’s and women’s three-on-three teams $20,000 each.

“The last few years, we have made a major push in three-on-three 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,” Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner, said in a statement.

But all this probably “won’t be as cool as it sounds,” argues Rodger Sherman, a staff writer for, who says the event isn’t likely to attract the NBA’s top stars. But it should pull in younger fans of street-style hoops.

According to the site:

The hope here is to invent another beach volleyball. Traditionalists gawked at the addition of beach volleyball to the Olympics in 1996; it seemed like a cheapening of an existing Olympic sport in order to add bikinis. Fast-forward 20 years, and the sport has proved its worth. Beach volleyball is perennially one of the most popular sports at the Olympics, and it produces a party-like vibe around its venues in each city. In many countries, the game’s stars have become more famous than regular volleyball stars. It also appeals to younger fans, a demographic the IOC desperately craves. In 2016 the IOC added skateboarding and surfing to the Tokyo Olympics, and at this point the Winter Olympics are about 40 percent X Games. 

These new events will probably attract more excitement than staid Olympic events like equestrian, velodrome cycling and modern pentathlon.

Three-on-three hoops is a clear attempt to recreate that success. Like beach volleyball, it’s a formalized version of a game played informally across the globe. And it will be played outside, on blacktop-like surfaces, with an emphasis on creating a fun environment for fans.

But will LeBron James — a guy who has played for Team USA in three previous Olympics — show up along with NBA All-Stars to give three-on-three a shot? Probably not.


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