3-on-3 basketball is now officially an Olympic sport — here’s how it will work

Kevin Durant DeAndre Jordan USA BasketballEzra Shaw/Getty Images

On Friday the IOC announced a number of new events that will be included in the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Most notable among these new additions for basketball fans is the inclusion of 3-on-3 basketball for both men and women.

The 3-on-3 Olympic competition will follow current FIBA rules. Games will be played in the half court with a 12-second shot clock. Scoring goes by ones and twos over the course of one, 10-minute period.

The first team to reach 21, or whoever is leading at the end of the 10-minute period, wins.

Each team consists of four players — three starters and one substitute, and the ball is slightly smaller than that used in the NBA.

While pure basketball talent will still usually rise to the top as it would in the NBA, the rules and style make for a few significant differences when it comes to 3-on-3 competition. First, the pace of play is FAST. With just 12 seconds to shoot and a ton of space to drive, these games move quickly.

Additionally, shooting is important. Of course, shooting is always important in competitive basketball, but with a game only lasting for 10 minutes and going to 21 points, the stakes of every shot are raised exponentially. As Matt Santangelo, a former Gonzaga guard and executive director of Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, recently told Bleacher Report, “Shooting is really at a premium in 3-on-3, more so than in the NBA, because in these games you can’t hide on the floor. If you’re open, you absolutely must hit the shot. If you don’t, you lose.”

3-on-3’s inclusion in Tokyo 2020 is especially intriguing for fans of Team USA because no one can be sure what talent will be interested in taking part in the competition. While it’s hard to believe that anyone already playing for Gregg Popovich in 2020 would pull double-duty, it’s also difficult to resist the fantasy lineups that could be made by constructing a three man team of NBA superstars.

Could Finals stars LeBron, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant put aside their differences to bring home the gold? What about a reunion of Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden running the court? Maybe LaVar Ball will get his sons to work together so he can introduce the Big Baller Brand on the international stage.

BIG3 Iverson Ice CubeMichael Loccisano/Getty Images

Slightly more likely is that former pros or college standouts will get in the mix. With the BIG3 League coming later this summer featuring Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin, Mike Bibby, and more, there’s a chance that some of these players put together a team to potentially represent the United States in international competition.

With the Olympics still years away, only time will tell.

Following the announcement by the IOC, the BIG3 put out a statement supporting the decision, but stopped short of saying whether or not they would ever try to field an Olympic team.

This announcement by the International Olympic Committee comes at a perfect time, with the BIG3 10-game season tipping off in less than two weeks onJune 25Barclays Center in Brooklyn,” co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz said in a statement. “This decision reconfirms our gut instinct that 3-on-3 basketball is what sports and entertainment fans want to see.”

There is already a thriving 3-on-3 community supported by FIBA and the competition is strong. In the 2016 FIBA 3×3 World Championships the United States took silver, losing to Serbia in the championship game.

You can watch highlights of that game below and get a glimpse what the event could look like when Tokyo 2020 comes around. Hopefully by then Team USA will be ready to win gold.

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