A guide to 3x3 basketball

MANILA, Philippines – Ever wonder exactly how different 3x3 basketball is to the regular 5-a-side full-court basketball many have come to love?

Rappler will walk you through some of the basic rules, how the sport is gaining ground internationally, and how it could be the next big thing in the Philippines.

What is 3x3?

3x3 basketball (pronounced 3-on-3, 3 by 3, or simply 3x3) is also known as street basketball and is considered to be the number one urban team sport in the world, based on an IOC-commissioned study.

In many ways, it can be as simple as pick-up basketball at local neighborhoods and has already been played for the longest time by Filipinos on the streets with improvised rings.

It is a fast-growing sport that is heavily supported by FIBA, basketball's world governing body, through events such as the FIBA 3x3 World Tour and the FIBA 3x3 World Championships.

The rules

Below are some of the basic rules and major differences from regular 5-on-5 basketball:

The full, detailed rules and regulations can be found here.

Former Ateneo Blue Eagles star and Gilas Pilipinas pool member Kiefer Ravena described how different 3x3 is from regular basketball.

"You think it's easy because it's just 3 on 3 but it's very tiring. The pace of the game is different," he shared in Filipino and English. "You have 12 seconds of shot clock and you don't inbound the ball anymore. It's tiring because not only do you play basketball, you also have to think.

"You need to think of a lot of factors such as fouls, shot clock, your teammates, and you're the only ones playing and calling a timeout. You will sub for each other so you also have to think about the timing of the substitution."

"I guess it's also fun because everybody gets to be a playing coach at some point in their lives," he added. "Transition-wise, it's more of the style of play. There are no more fastbreaks and running but it definitely gives you a sweat by how fast it's played."

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas deputy executive director Butch Antonio likewise weighed in.

"I didn't play it but through discussions and chit-chats with the players who played it, it's different, it's fun. Everybody's saying it's fun but it's not easy," he said. "Players say you don't have to run back on defense but the counter to that is you turn around and you have to be at the defensive side right away."

FIBA and 3x3

FIBA first ventured into serious 3x3 projects when they decided to "experiment with an alternative form of the sport at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore."

The sport – because it was simple, sustainable, and required minimal space, equipment and infrastructure to mount – was seen by FIBA as "a potential catalyst for the development of the sport of basketball worldwide."

By December 2011, the FIBA Central Board approved an international calendar of competitions for 3x3 basketball, which included the World Tour and the World Championships.

The World Championships, the grandest stage for 3x3, was established in 2012 and is played every two years with men's and women's divisions (although there was a mixed division in the inaugural year). The 2016 edition will be held in October in Guangzhou, China.

FIBA has since expanded to creating a 3x3 Competition Network, the 3x3planet.com, as well as individual world rankings and federation rankings. FIBA's plans for the sport can be further perused here.

The 3x3 vision for FIBA is "to increase grassroots participation in basketball, promoting the game of basketball to a wider audience and offering all national member federations of FIBA the possibility to grow."

They also intend for 3x3 to become an Olympic sport and have already made a request to the International Olympic Committee to have 3x3 included in the Olympic Program.

The Competition Network is essentially all of FIBA's endorsed 3x3 events, while the 3x3planet.com serves as an online community where players can track all events, scores, and news about 3x3. The community also has an app for both iOS and Android where users can be notified about the latest on 3x3.

3x3 and the Philippines

The Philippine men's national 3x3 team has been active since the 2007 Asian Indoor Games, where 3x3 was a demonstration sport. The team has since joined the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, the 2009 and 2013 Asian Youth Games, the 2013 Asia U18 Championship, and the 2013 FIBA Asia 3x3 Championship.

The country's 3x3 team has also qualified for this year's World Championships and will compete for the very first time.

The Philippines hosted the Manila Masters, one leg of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour, in July 2014. Manila West, one of 3 Philippine teams fielded to compete, won the Manila title and advanced to the World Tour final in Tokyo, where they eventually finished 5th.

Manila West was comprised of PBA stars Terrence Romeo, Niño Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, and Rey Guevarra.

In December 2015, the Philippines was present for the FIBA 3x3 All Stars in Doha, Qatar. The Philippine team, composed of Ravena, Jeron Teng, Ola Adeogun, and Bright Akhuetie, defeated hometown squad Team Qatar in the exhibition game.

"For that 10 minutes (of play), it was worth the 10-hour trip," Ravena said during a press conference.

The country's first-ever Intercollegiate 3x3 Invitationals or i3i is set to take off from March 19 to 20 at the Xavier School Gym and the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall, respectively.

Reigning collegiate champions Far Eastern University and Colegio de San Juan de Letran will headline up to 48 teams in the tournament, which allows each school to field up to 3 teams.

Recruits and transferees from other universities are allowed to suit up in the i3i provided they are currently enrolled in the school they will be playing for.

Winners of the two-day event will bring home cash prizes, with the champions taking P200,000 – half of which will go to their school. The second and third placers will get P100,000 and P50,000, respectively.

The hope is for the i3i, which is supported by the country's basketball federation, to evolve into a stable grassroots program for Filipino ballers and expose more talent.

At present, there are moves to include the sport in the Southeast Asian Games as early as next year in Malaysia, and similarly to have 3x3 part of the UAAP calendar.

"It's a new game, a new look for the players," said Ravena, who is i3i's tournament director. "It's going to be really entertaining. One thing I can assure is it's going to be fun. We want to make it as casual as possible but keep it competitive." – Rappler.com