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Olympic 2021 || Throwing Baskets At Speed 3x3

No breaks, spectacular moves - the new 3x3 basketball is already the discovery of this Olympic Games. It's also a glimpse into the future of the sport.

It's so feverish in 3x3 basketball that at some point you no longer trust your senses. This Russian player with the ponytail and the name Frolkina on her jersey - doesn't she exist twice? It takes a while before you realize: twins. Olga and Evgenija, shirt numbers 15 and 16.

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3x3 basketball is a new Olympic discipline and it does something to you. You get out of breath just watching. Something happens all the time. A basket, a rebound, a foul, which in this format is often overlooked in order to keep the game going. Neither the players nor the spectators are allowed to rest. Basketball in acceleration mode. Throwing baskets at speed.

A sport that is made for a time when something always has to happen. For a generation that can't get bored because YouTube and TikTok are just an app away. One could condemn that in a culturally pessimistic way. But you could also be happy about the extraordinary discipline that came out of the considerations about how the sport should position itself in a contemporary way.

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The fresh 3x3 basketball, pronounced "three ex three" in English, is already the discovery of these games. A sport straight off the street. It is only played on one basket, on only one half of the field, just like streetball in Harlem, Belgrade or Wanne-Eickel. A game lasts ten minutes, whoever has the most points or reaches 21 first wins. A normal basket is worth one point, a "three" two. Each attack only has 12 seconds instead of 24 as in the NBA.

Ten minutes of playing time doesn't sound like much, but it can be very long for the players. "It's hell, as if you're a human cannonball," said the American Kelsey Plum, who scored five points against Russia and its twins and won with her team 20:16, ahead of the Olympics. "You can never really take a breath."

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There isn't even time to cheer. If you are happy about a basket for too long or mourn a failed attempt, in the worst case you have to watch your opponent score. If he then loses concentration for even a second ... and so on. This can create cascades of throws and points. There are three baskets within ten seconds.

As exhausting as it is for the players, the 3-way version is clear for the spectators. You have to keep an eye on fewer active players than in five-on-five, the complexity of the game is reduced because there are fewer possible combinations. But more one-on-one duels. The ankle breaker risk of being wiggled by an opponent is higher. These are often the most entertaining moves.

A contemporary spin-off of one of the world's most popular sports. The idea for 3x3 basketball, however, did not come from the IOC (you cannot trust the Olympic Committee with that much street cred), but from the world basketball federation Fiba, which first tested the format at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. So now with the big players, and the chances are good that the game will prevail. What works in beach volleyball could also work here, especially since the event atmosphere is similar. Only the beach is missing, it just bounces badly on the sand.

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So 3x3 basketball may be a glimpse into the future of sport. And a role model for others. Sports, the original version of which is less modern than basketball, are also feeling the pressure to change. Athletics is experimenting with new disciplines, with manageable success. Traditional sports such as wrestling or weightlifting, which are no longer really appealing to young people, could soon no longer be part of it.

The new basketball format doesn't have this problem. The first lady Jill Biden stopped by at the US game against France and fistbumped their president Emmanuel Macron. The Chinese basketball player Yao Ming has also been spotted in the narrow arena. By the way, the atmosphere would be extraordinary, because the spectators, if they existed, would be sitting almost in the middle of the square. It wouldn't even need the constant Daft-Punk-and-Jay-Z-doodling and the somewhat hard-working stadium announcer who commented on every action live.

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3x3 leads to another special feature: the smaller version of the basketball makes the small nations big. Because, for mathematical reasons, it simply takes less good players to form a team, even nations with a manageable talent pool can keep up. Mongolia sent a women's team to Tokyo, the first ever appearance by a Mongolian team at the Olympic Games. The player Khulan Onalbaatar carried the flag of her country at the opening ceremony.

Because the NBA millionaires like to give each other the Olympics, players like Karlis Lasmanis from Latvia, who meanwhile earned his money as a dock worker, dominate Tokyo. Or 38-year-old Michael Hicks, a Nashville-born former college player who is now a Polish citizen. The Olympia was originally intended for amateurs.

The star of the scene is Dušan Bulut, a 35-year-old Serb who specialized in 3x3 early on and spent most of his career as number one in the world rankings . With his team he won four of the previous six world championships. Not many basketball fans know him yet. That may change in the next few days.

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