Olympic 3×3 basketball is perfect in every way


It’s no secret that the IOC has reached the point of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. There’s a concerted effort to try and attract younger viewers to the games, and get the new generation invested in the Olympics. Alongside the addition of skateboarding, BMX, surfing and other youth-focused sports came the 3×3 basketball competition, and it was better than I imagined.

I’ll admit, I was a little jaded about the concept of three-on-three basketball at the games. I mean, did we really need another basketball competition added to the slate? Now, with both the men’s and women’s competition in the books I’m overjoyed to say I was wrong. The 3×3 was utterly perfect.

The event never overstays its welcome

The blistering, first-to-21 or 10 minute structure makes the 3×3 the perfect small bite Olympic event. You can tune in, watch a couple of games with your coffee, and just when you feel like watching something else, you’ve seen some games to completion.

Honestly, for a lot of fringe sports I kinda tune out after the first 15 minutes — especially when I don’t have a vested interest in the countries competing. However, with 3×3 you can dive in, fall in love with the players in seconds, then get out and feel satisfied.

Fouls are BRUTAL

Look at the women’s gold medal game between USA and ROC for the best example of this. Russia found itself in deep foul trouble early in the game and it created a hole they couldn’t dig their way out of. Instead of players fouling out (since there are just four on a team), they just keep going — so it creates this fun dichotomy of a team not being able to afford giving up fouls, while an increasingly frustrated player just keeps fouling.

And hoo boy, does it hurt when you’re in foul trouble. The penalty, like traditional ball is shooting free throws, but keep in mind this is still first to 21 and a foul shot is the same as a basket. Then, when you hit 10 team fouls it’s like mega bonus, and you shoot two. What a delightful concept.

The announcers make everything amazing

There’s a certain irreverence that comes with calling the 3×3, and the casters know it. Yes, there are breakdowns of the sport itself, complete with the offensive and defensive nuance of playing on a half court — but then there’s just goofy asides that make the whole package more fun.

USA Network commentator on Kelsey Plum: “She’s quicker than J. Cole’s hoop career.”

— Mark (@tole_cover) July 28, 2021

There were also astounding observations like: “USA is great at putting the round thing in the round thing.” That’s the kind of analysis I need in my life.

So … uh … did we win?

The U.S. women dominated Russia to take gold in a match that never felt close from the jump. The U.S. men didn’t qualify for the Olympics.