By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
In the middle of a heat wave in Athens, nobody really expected for the inaugural FIBA 3×3 World Championship to be a success, but what happened from last Thursday to Sunday in the historical center of the city opened many eyes.
In front of the majestic “Zappeion” building, just few hundred meters away from the parliament house, almost 3.000 to 4.000 Athenians showed up every day in order to see 192 players, men and women, competing in 3×3 basketball.
At the end, Serbia won the men’s gold medal, USA the women’s and France the mixed competition’s one. Specially the teams from France seemed quite experienced in this game and they got two silver medals in men’s and women’s competitions. Also in the individual contests, Estonia’s Pirgit Puu collected gold in the skills challenge, Stanislav Votroubek of Czech Republic in the shoot-out and last but not least Venezuelan Deivi Ananguren dunked over a motorcycle and won the contest.
For more details check this site, however the results are not the story. FIBA is trying to make a push for 3×3 to be included at the Olympics, a variation of basketball, similar of what beach volley is to “classic” volleyball. So, can this be the future, or at least a possible expansion of the sport?
The question is not easy and the most possible answer would be negative, at least at this point. Yes, the crowd enjoyed this fast paced game, with just 12 seconds on the shot clock, but there was also free admission at the bleachers. What would happen if there was a price for a ticket? Who were the stars of the event? The only known names to the general public were the Spanish veteran team of retired stars Jorge Garbajosa, Lucio Angulo and Carlos Jimenez, the Greek new wave of Bogris, Pappas, Giannopoulos and Papantoniou, all former members of junior national teams, and also French forward Karim Souchu and Israeli big man Amit Tamir.
Of course, everything can change if you have a USA team with NBA stars, or a Spanish trio of Gasol, Navarro and Rudy, even though the 3×3 format simplifies the team concept of basketball and diminishes the tactics of the sport. Everyone that made it to “Zappeion” had a great time, but this is not enough in order to consider 3×3 something more than a novelty and certainly not a possible new Olympic sport. That said, those four days in Athens can be considered a good first step and could be the start of something bigger.