A bit of history
Three-a-side basketball was born on the streets of large American cities, on those celebrated playgrounds found, for example, under New York’s elevated subway lines. Many NBA players honed their skills in this type of basketball (known as ‘streetball’ or ‘street basketball’) whose chief philosophy is the ‘one-on-one’ challenge. Forged by the constraints of players and space, the aim was to get a lot of people to play in small areas. Hence the principle of teams of three players on a half-court with very short playing times accompanied by background music, frequently rap music, chosen to infuse the whole team with plenty of energy. The sport has now spread from the North American continent to cities around the world. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) was naturally obliged to set rules for this movement expanding on the fringes of its own structures. This is how the first FIBA 3×3 World Championships were held in 2012 and the IOC, which is keen to include new sporting practices and attract a younger audience, added 3×3 basketball to the Olympic program in 2017.
The rules of 3×3 basketball are extremely simple. The match opposes two teams of four players, (three on the field and one substitute), played in a single period of 10 minutes without half time and sudden death at 21 points. Player substitutions can only occur during a dead-ball situation.
In the case of a tie after 10 minutes, the winner is the 1st team to score a further 2 points. Successful shots scored beyond the 6.75m arc – the three-point line of 5-a-side basketball – are worth two points; other successful shots are worth one point, the same as free throws. If the defensive team gains possession of the ball, the ball must be moved out of the 6.75m arc and the team has 12 seconds to score. The ball is a size 6 basketball but with the weight of a size 7 ball. Coaches do not intervene during the game; the players manage the changes themselves.
The rapid development of 3×3 basketball is due, in part, to the very nature of the sport, which offers a considerable amount of rhythm and spectacle. First, the game is in sync with the modern era, fast-paced and full of surprises. Compared to 5-a-side basketball, the teams are more homogeneous; there are no specific positions, the players must know how to do everything and assume all the roles, rebounds, shots, and one-on-ones. The sport also calls for more cardio capacity than traditional basketball. The matches are shorter but more intense. This means that the players put up a thrilling show, especially since they are accompanied by a musical backing perfectly attuned to our modern times.
Although its inspiration is essentially urban in nature, the sport also offers a great many advantages allowing it to attract players in small towns and villages. The fact that it can be played with a limited number is an advantage in these regions. What is more, a whole team can be transported to a competition in a single car…
Finally, the Federation has developed a model of individual rankings (as in tennis) with the ATP ranking, enabling individuals to take part in a team sport as well as to distinguish themselves and measure themselves against others on an individual level.
This ranking is drawn up on a national and international level, for both men and women and by age groups (U18, U23, and seniors).