A new avatar spreading wings on court

NEW INITIATIVE The three-a-side basketball game has caught the imagination of fans worldwide. It is, however, really hard to explain how this three-on-three, 21-point ‘ritual’, performed more often than not to compensate for the lack of bodies on court, turned into a full-blown form of basketball. What makes it further more interesting, is FIBA’s (International Basketball Federation) sudden, dramatic urge to spread the form wide and well enough to catch the eyes of the 2016 Olympics committee.

Originating from its much more illustrious brother -- Streetball, three-on-three basketball has found it’s own niche, and despite what the purists have to say, it’s here to stay. There are, however, obvious differences between the faster, trash-talk favouring, self-foul-calling version of Streeball and the relatively laid back three-on-three variant, but the basic idea to get more people playing the sport for fun seems to remain untouched.

This ideology has helped Streetball grow in the United States and the rest of the world in little over decade, primarily through the advent of popular Streetball organisation And1, and it seems to be rubbing off it’s success on three-on-three. Three-on-three basketball, however, has an added advantage over Streetball! It has the backing of FIBA and that’s really going to facilitate the growth of the sport, while curbing numerous unofficial/illegal tournaments being organised world over.

The world body’s three-on-three format -- FIBA 33 -- was first tested at the Asian Indoor Games in Macau in 2007, and introduced at international level at the Asian Youth Games in Singapore in 2009. The format made its worldwide competitive debut at the Youth Olympics in Singapore last year. There is even news of a ranking system being created. Some promising signs!

“We have worked out a lot of things to make this format a success,” said FIBA Asia secretary general Dato’ Yeoh Choo Hock of Malaysia. “We have really stepped up the promotion of it and we have a lot more tournaments now. It’s a great form of the sport and contrary to what people have to say, it is a great fundamental teacher. It really preps you up for the actual game.”

“It’s so much quicker, and it’s so much more driving than the original form. See, we will never betray the original form of the sport. We have to find ways to spread basketball in a cheap and easy way, and three-on-three gives us that opportunity. We have so many things planned in this format. Our real ambition is to have three-on-three feature in the Olympics. It’s a big dream but it will come true someday,” Hock added.

While the five-on-five version of the sport itself seems to have had a tough time making it’s presence felt in India, and that despite NBA’s relentless pursuit over the past couple of years, three-on-three has already got a foothold.  From colleges to schools, from clubs to corporates across India, three-on-three has become the new rage, and with no less than one tournament being held in a month, as compared to the occasional five-on-five tournament, it has spread in blistering pace.

The Basketball Fedration of India also seems to want to cash in on the trend. “We are taking forward three-on-three basketball very aggressively. We also have two members from BFI take part in the FIBA Asia committee meeting soon. We’re also planning to issue a circulation to all State associations to try and conduct three-on-three tournaments alongside the actual tournament. We are also working on sending a team from India to take part in the World Championships to be held sometime in September,” said BFI secretary general Harish Sharma.

When asked if three-on-three is less physically demanding, Sharma said: “I don’t think so. I think this form is as physically demanding as the orginal form because of how much quicker it is. See, the basics of the game remain the same. The only changes are in the rules such as half-court play and 12-second shot-clock violation time etc. The idea is to spread the game and make it a household name in India. This form of the sport will not, I repeat, will not eliminate the importance or the beauty of five-on-five basketball.”
If the rapid growth of T20 cricket alongside Test cricket can be taken as a trend, basketball too can hope for a bright future.

Factfile

* Three players per side with a maximum of four per squad.
* Half of FIBA regulation court, with one basket, is used.
* Three-point conversion before the game to decide possession.
* The game is divided into two periods of 5 minutes each.
* First team to score 33 points or the team with the highest score at the end of regulation time wins.
* A tie in regulation leads to as many overtimes, two minutes each, as needed to produce a winner, either by one team being ahead at the end of an overtime or by a team reaching 33 points.
* A 10-second shot clock is used.
* No timeouts are allowed at any time. 

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