FIBA is trying to introduce a new concept to the basketball aristocracy — one that has been confined to the streets for some time — 3 on 3 basketball.
Yesterday the FIBA 3×3 Youth World Championships tipped off in Rimini, Italy. The tournament, running until September 11, is clearly designed to take a different tack to the established official basketball channels. For starters, the location for the tournament is being described on the official website as “the lively and hip city of Rimini renowned for its parties, hotels and most notably for the Dolce Vita lifestyle that is enjoyed near the Adriatic Sea.“
In addition, the three day tournament will include the highly-attractive dunking, skills and shooting contests that appeal to so many youth and street players.
40 countries will be represented, including 240 players — 36 boys’ teams and 24 girls’ teams. This is the first tournament of its kind, being an official FIBA 3×3 tournament, diverting from the usual 5-on-5 regulation competition.
What is more, FIBA is pushing to make this a part of the Olympic Games by 2016. That is a serious shift in focus from an official sports body that is usually known for sticking to tradition — clearly a nod towards how much traction the 3-on-3 game has in hoops lore.
Another hugely positive and impactful outcome of this tournament is the presence of the likes of Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Qatar, Romania and Guam — none of which are renowned for their basketball prowess. Of course, the traditional basketball superpowers are in attendance too, including USA, Russia, Spain, Greece and Serbia.
What is interesting so far, is that the usual rules of country dominance have not entirely applied. In the Boys’ Pool 1, Estonia is undefeated on 8-0, ahead of the likes of Greece (5-3) and Puerto Rico (5-3). In Pool 2, Italy is 8-0 with a hugely dominant for-and-against, ahead of Serbia (7-1) and Spain (6-2). Pool 3 sees New Zealand at 7-1, ahead of Latvia 6-2, Canada 6-2, Turkey 6-2 and Germany 4-4. And finally Pool 4 sees Bulgaria at 7-1 ahead of both Russia and USA on 6-2 and lowly Croatia at 3-5. (On the other hand, the Girls’ standings are relatively expected, with USA, Australia, Spain, Russia and Italy being joined by the surprising Japan.)
I’m sure that there are a bunch of factors at play here, including the lack of focus on these championships, given the current Olympic qualifying tournaments and the very different 3-on-3 nature of the games, but nonetheless, it is refreshing to see new basketball countries emerging as possible future contenders. At the very least, it may spur interest in basketball in those countries, making this a very smart move by FIBA on a multitude of levels.
FIBA, keep up the progressive work.