Three-a-side basketball hits the big time at first European Games
By Tom Hayward
BAKU (Reuters) - With thumping music, ferocious slamdunks and sublime skill, 3x3 basketball came out with a bang on Tuesday at the inaugural European Games, but the sport with inner-city backyard origins has far bigger ambitions -- a place at the Olympics.
It has been played as "streetball" and other guises for years but in 2007 the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) identified it as a "sport with a young, urban and positive image" and began to focus on heightening its profile.
Three-a-side basketball enjoyed a hugely successful debut at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games before emerging at the maiden European Games in Azerbaijan's capital Baku. Now, with 250 million people playing worldwide, according to FIBA, it is one of the most popular recreational sports on the planet.
A potential catalyst to enhance basketball worldwide, 3x3 basketball has rules predicated on simplicity and flexibility.
In official competition, matches last 10 minutes or until the first team gets 21 points, allowing many players to compete in multiple fast and furious games within a short span of time.
It is played between teams of three, with one substitute, wearing standard basketball shorts and vest on a court measuring 15 meters (49 feet) wide by 11 meters (36 feet) long with one hoop instead of two.
Baskets scored within the arc are worth one point while shots from outside are worth two, but must be scored within an allocated 12-second shot clock.
At the European Games that began on June 12, attendance at Baku's Olympic Stadium for the athletics was disappointing. But fans swarmed to the arena for the opening 3x3 basketball match, creating a carnival-like atmosphere on the Caspian seashore. Continued...