Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images
Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

The incredibly entertaining and fast-paced game that captivates audiences.


3x3 basketball is an exciting and innovative sport. It developed from street basketball and is considered to be the world’s No. 1 urban team sport. In 2007, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) formally adopted universal rules for 3x3 basketball ahead of its debut at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore.

Since 2012, FIBA has organised the FIBA 3x3 World Cup which is contested among nations while the FIBA 3x3 World Tour is club based. In 2017, 3x3 was selected as an official Olympic sport for the Tokyo 2020 Games and is the first-ever new YOG discipline to be included in the Olympic programme. As a result, in just seven years the sport has gone from the streets to the Olympic Games.

Some 182 countries and regions participate in the world competitions, and the number of players practising the sport exceeds 430,000.

3x3 basketball is played on half a regular five-a-side basketball court, with each team shooting into a single hoop. Teams consists of four players, three players on court and one substitute. A coin toss is held to determine which team will start the game on offence. The three-point line in conventional basketball serves as the two-point line in 3x3 basketball, with shots made outside the line earning two points and those inside it one (free throws also earn a single point if a foul is committed inside the arc). The winner is the team with the highest score at the end of the 10-minute period, or the first team to reach 21 points. If the score is tied after 10 minutes, the game goes into overtime with the first team to score two points declared the winner.

Event Programme

  • 8-team tournament (Men/Women)

Essence of the sport

A fast-paced and dynamic sport that switches between offence and defence in a flash.

3x3 is known for its highly entertaining atmosphere with games being played at iconic locations in the city, while DJs and music help create an exciting and urban atmosphere.

However, the highlight of 3x3 basketball is its fast pace. There is no break after a goal or foul, and the team on offence must take a shot within 12 seconds from possession of the ball.

Unlike the five-a-side game, players are not required to be specialists, rather they should be versatile all-rounders, with strong skills in both shooting and defence. Most of the time, players face a one-on-one situation and the defensive team must quickly mark their opponent in order to block their shot. On the other hand, the offensive side needs to act quickly to find a chance to take a shot. Well-seasoned teams pass the ball around quickly to outwit their opponent.

Coaches are not allowed to be at courtside, so players must build their own strategy. Players must also have good reflexes, coordination and vision as 3x3 basketball is a physically demanding sport with substitutions made frequently.

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

Who will the first Olympic champion be?

In the men’s 3x3, Serbia has won four out of the six World Cups since the inaugural tournament in 2012. While most nations have players from five-a-side who participate in 3x3, Serbia has developed the 3x3 game independently, sending professional teams to world competitions and gaining a high ranking so they continue to be the team to beat.

One of the outstanding players from Serbia is the 191cm tall Dušan Bulut of Novi Sad, the winners of the 2019 World Tour Utsunomiya Final. Bulut, the No. 1 player in the world, is known for his outstanding passing ability.

Meanwhile, in the women’s game there is no dominant nation, with five different countries having won a World Cup — the most recent being the People’s Republic of China. For Tokyo 2020, the chance for a spot on the podium is open, so all teams are gearing up to deliver their best performance.