3x3 basketball is the most widely played urban team sport in the world.

(Photos from FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2022)

This year, Singapore will host one of the most anticipated events in basketball: the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3x3 Asia Cup 2023, set to take place at Singapore Sports Hub between 29 March and 2 April.
Think of 3x3 as basketball played in tight spaces, or simply a more accessible form of the sport. Six players — three per team — battle it out on a half-court with a hoop. This smaller format makes it easy to organise the game in a variety of locations, especially in urban environments like Singapore’s. Another part of its appeal is the non-stop music playing in the background, with thumping beats heightening the game’s intensity and sending the crowds wild.

One thing’s for sure — 3x3 basketball has the potential to offer triple the excitement of a standard game. Read on for a primer on the sport — and you just might be inspired to shoot a couple of hoops yourself.

Played on a half-court with a clock that never stops until fulltime, 3x3 basketball is fast-paced and exciting to watch.

It’s not pronounced “three times three” or “three by three” — it’s “three-ex-three”, according to FIBA. The 10-minute game has no half-time, no quarters and is over when a team clocks up 21 points. 

Inspired by informal streetball games played in cities with limited community spaces, 3x3 competitions were started by FIBA to attract a new audience to basketball. The flexibility of a 3x3 game and its early digital integration — FIBA launched an online platform in 2012 to help players find tournaments across the globe — make it a sport for the 21st century. 

Did you know that Singapore has a special link to the game? The first official 3x3 competition took place at the Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010. Added to the Olympic roster from Tokyo 2020 onwards, 3x3 basketball is now widely considered the world’s No. 1 urban team sport.

3x3 basketball is suited for the Asian built, as there is less emphasis on height — given the higher relative value of outside arc shots — and more emphasis on agility and speed.

The appeal of 3x3 basketball is obvious. With only six people on the court, each player has more opportunities to handle the ball. As the play is non-stop, teams go from playing offence to defence in a flash — making for an intense, fast-paced game. It’s no surprise then that celebrities and retired National Basketball Association (NBA) players want to get in on the 3x3 game. Rapper-actor Ice Cube created the BIG3 league in 2017, bringing legends like Allen Iverson and Stephen Jackson on board as coaches. Currently playing in the league — which has since expanded to 12 teams — are former NBA players Kevin Murphy, Earl Clark and Glen Rice Jr.

Besides the obvious differences to a standard basketball game, i.e., fewer players, shorter duration, no three-pointer shots, smaller court, even a smaller ball, 3x3 basketball is also highly suited for smaller-sized players. Canadian 3x3 star Michael Linklater, who is 1.78m tall, has gone on record to say that being shorter actually offers a speed advantage that makes a difference in the 3x3 game. The average height of an NBA player in the 2021/22 season was 198.6cm.

As such, it’s possible for countries with a smaller talent pool — like Singapore — to dominate at 3x3 basketball. Indeed, Asian countries are thriving in FIBA 3x3 tournaments, with nations such as Japan, Mongolia and China chalking up wins and making their mark on the game.

Asian 3x3 players to look out for include Anand Ariunbold of Mongolia, Tomoya Ochiai — also known as ‘Worm’ — of Japan, and China’s Zhang Zhi Ting, who led her team to triumph at last year’s FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.

Catch pulsating 3x3 basketball action at Singapore Sports Hub from 29 March to 2 April.

Not only is Singapore the venue for the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023, it will also be hosting the 2024 and 2025 editions.

Last year’s Cup saw a record 51 participating teams hailing from 29 countries, with the women’s team from China and the men’s team from Australia rising above fellow competitors to lift the cup. The event attracted 4,000 spectators with an estimated digital outreach of 35 million.

The FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 will be played for even higher stakes than prizes or trophies — the men’s and women’s champions will win a spot to one of the qualifying tournaments for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Spectators at FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 won’t be left out of the excitement: the buzz will be heightened by community events organised in conjunction with the competition across the Kallang Alive precinct. So, make sure to mark your calendar for 3x3, and watch this space for more information.

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