Which came first? The full-court game or half-court 3×3? There is some room for a chicken or egg argument here. Basketball, when it was first invented, did not have a cap on the maximum number of players. That came in only after there were bouts of over fifty players on the court at the same time. So there is a chance that people were playing some version of 3×3 basketball before it was introduced as a format of the game. It’s not difficult to see why it caught on. And here are 7 reasons why I think it can really thrive in India.
1. Proof in the pudding
I think the format can thrive in India because our teams have been shining abroad in this format. The Indian teams have enjoyed a good measure of success in this format. Our women’s team has won numerous gold medals in this format, including the first 3×3 FIBA Asia Championship. The junior boys and girls teams both won the silver medal at the FIBA Asia 3×3 Championship in Thailand. My theory for why we are more successful in this format is that despite having a rich crop of individual talent, a full court game requires more physicality to go along with skills. And to maintain consistency in that format, its essential to have ample facilities. Our country can’t yet fulfill all the basic requirements of a team. But in 3×3, the supplementary requirements are a tad less, allowing the talent to float on top.
2. It can be played with fewer people
One of the more depressing sights for a basketball fan in Kolkata is to head over to the WBBA courts on Red Road on a weekend. You need to cross the maidan and circumvent about a thousand people playing football and cricket. You are inundated with the sports spirit by the time you reach the courts, and its not an unusual sight to find the courts empty. Basketball has a higher learning curve than cricket or football in some aspects. So there aren’t players available readily everywhere. But you can always round up five other buddies to ball with, if not nine. Being an Indian, its not the easiest of things to run into a fellow basketball player. A format which allows one to play with few players is bound to be a hit.
3. Space constraints
A basketball court causes an optical illusion of sorts on the eyes of football and cricket fans. They hallucinate the court as a playing field for their strange games and since they are greater in number, they occupy many basketball courts for their strange pastimes. A full court game is not possible when you have people playing football on it; I’ve tried often. A half court match is still playable though. The courts may be crowded, but 3×3 is still playable on them. You can have one football match and a 3×3 match going on one basketball court at one time, albeit with a risk of having the football hit the basketball players or vice versa.
4. Faster paced action
3×3 basketball is played a lot faster than full court basketball. It is an amazing format for learning the fundamentals. Idle time of dribbling the ball upcourt without facing a full court press is eliminated. You just get the ball outside the three point line and you let rip.
5. Take away transition baskets
Here’s a look at India’s U-18 captain Loveneet Atwal pressuring his opponent into a turnover, our team won the silver-
This format eliminates the easy transition baskets and you have to rely on skill more than size or speed to get buckets. Of course, a steal or block can still lead to a quick bucket, but for the most part, you have to go through the other team for your baskets. While transition plays are one of the most exciting parts of basketball, the format of 3×3 essentially is like a 3 on 3 fast break. And transition baskets can often give one team an insurmountable lead, leading to more garbage time. Speaking of time…
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!”
A basketball match is 40 minutes long, ignoring the timeouts and delays. Comparing it to football or cricket, that is still a very small time. But in 3×3, there is a lot of action packed in just 10 minutes. In this day and age when time taken to travel or do chores has been reduced thanks to technology, we are looking to get more out of the unforgiving minute then ever before. T-20 form of cricket has followed that philosophy, and 3×3 basketball fills more action in one minute than perhaps any other sport.
You don’t need a full court, not even a half court; just a rim and about 20 feet of space on either side. Not even 20 feet full. With slight modifications in the rules, half court 3×3 basketball just requires a hoop, a ball and some players.
The NBA trotted out the NBA 3X in India last year, and it was quite a hit. With the rate basketball is spreading across the country, the front for expansion will likely be led by 3 on 3 half-court basketball.