What Is 3×3 Basketball, and Could the U.S. Men’s Team Win Gold?

NBA fans are poised to watch their favorite players team up in Paris this summer as Team USA pursues its fifth straight gold medal. But there’s another group, smaller in size and less famous, that’s also going for gold this summer.

It’s USA Basketball’s 3×3 men’s national team.

More from

The team, led by sharpshooter-turned-venture capitalist Jimmer Fredette, is set to be the nation’s first men’s 3×3 squad to compete in the Olympics. The women’s team, which hasn’t yet announced a roster, will look to capture another gold after winning the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. They qualified after placing second in the FIBA 3×3 federation rankings.

USA Basketball will be represented by four teams at the Olympics for the first time (two men’s teams and two women’s teams). Here, we answer a few questions about the sport that will played at the Olympics for the second time this summer.

Is 3×3 basketball an Olympic sport?

The IOC announced in 2017 that the street basketball sport would be contested at the 2020 Olympic Games for both men and women. The street basketball sport made its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2021. The U.S. women won the gold medal, and the men’s team failed to qualify.

The 3×3 game, easily recognized across the globe, is the largest urban team sport in the world, according to a study done by the International Olympic Committee. This means that it won’t be as easy for the men’s USA team to capture gold as many expect.

How does 3×3 basketball work?

The game of 3×3 basketball features two fewer players per team than the traditional 5×5 game, as the name implies, plus one substitute for each team, and there’s also a different set of rules. In 3×3, a shot inside the arc is worth one point, and a field goal from beyond the arc is worth two points. Free throws are worth one point each—the same as in a 5×5 basketball game. The winning team is the one that reaches 21 points first or has the most points after 10 minutes.

The shot clock runs for 12 seconds during this more continuous, half-court style version and there’s no halftime or quarters. There’s also no break after scoring unlike the 5×5 game, where the opposing team must inbound the ball after a player has scored. Additionally, 3×3 uses a slightly smaller ball that complements the speed of the game, and a 3×3 court consists of a half court and one hoop.

Who are the best 3×3 basketball teams?

The world’s best team is No. 1 Serbia, which enters the Summer Games after winning five FIBA World Cups (compared to just two for the USA women’s team). The men’s USA team is second on the FIBA World Cup rankings just in front of Netherlands and Austria, which is hosting the 2024 Europe Cup. The three-time World Cup-winning USA women’s team will also be challenged by some of the world’s best teams such as France and China.

Best of