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Original Issue

Let's Play Three!

The half-court game gains international recognition. Is three-on-three Olympic bound?

Three-on-three basketball, that disheveled cousin of the full-court game, first got buttoned up in 1974 with the launch of the Gus Macker tournament in a Michigan driveway (SI, July 8, 1985). Now half-court hoops could find itself clad in an Olympic blazer. FIBA intends to pour more than $2 million per year during the ramp-up to the 2016 Games into developing its own events and a world ranking system. Think tennis, where players compete both under national colors and against one another irrespective of nationality—"like the Davis Cup," says FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, "as well as the ATP ranking in doubles, only here it would be 'triples.'"

Three-on-three's inclusion at the 2016 Rio Olympics would be more evidence of the IOC's quest for younger TV viewers. In FIBA's favor is Baumann's generational standing within the IOC, where he's young (44) for a Lord of the Rings; the enthusiasm of Rio organizers; and three-on-three's proposed status not as an entirely new sport, but as a new "discipline" within basketball, an Olympic mainstay.

Earlier this month the inaugural FIBA youth 3 √ó 3 world championship in Rimini, Italy, showcased how the street game now reaches all corners of the globe. In the shootout contest a boy from Guam won a silver medal and a girl from Sri Lanka a bronze. The boys' team gold went to New Zealand, and the runner-up, Bulgaria, beat the U.S. in the first round. "If it's a five-on-five game over 40 minutes, there's no way Bulgaria can compete with the U.S.," one of the Bulgarians, Dimitar Dimitrov, told Sport Italia television. "But in a three-on-three game that lasts just 10 minutes? Well, anything is possible."

Which just about nails the very idea of three-on-three in the world of citius, altius, fortius. How do you say "in your face" in Latin?



DRIVING FORCE The inaugural youth worlds drew three-player teams from 40 nations to Rimini, where the New Zealand boys took the gold.