The world’s most popular urban team sport will finally have a place in the Olympics, starting with the Tokyo games in 2020. The fast-paced game of 3×3 basketball has been popular with youths and adults for decades, but has only recently garnered the attention of large scale organizers and those with pull in the right places.

How Does 3×3 Basketball Work?

For those not in the know, 3×3 is a variant on basketball where each side has three players on the court at a time. The rules are similar to traditional basketball, with a few variations on scoring and possession changes. The most notable difference is that only one rim is used rather than two. When a basket is made, only one point is made when inside the arc, and two outside, though this may vary by organization. Shot clocks are also halved to reflect the half-sized court, and rosters only require four players–three on the court with one substitute.

It’s this last rule on roster sizes that makes 3×3 what it is. Not only does it increase the pace of an already fast-paced game, but it lowers the barrier for entry. In order to field a team for more traditional five-on-five play, rosters needed to be up to 15 players. With 3×3, only four players are needed–an easy hurdle for even the smallest of olympic countries. Not coincidentally, this low player requirement is also what makes it popular among average people worldwide, as only six players total are needed for a game without subs, and only a couple more with.

For the most part, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has held the reins of 3×3 basketball, deciding on the rules and holding tournaments from time to time. With the sport’s profile rising over the past few years, other groups have started to spring up, hoping to shape the sport. Perhaps the most popular new league is BIG3, founded earlier this year by Ice Cube and media mogul Jeff Kwatinetz. Dozens of NBA and former NBA players have signed on to play or coach in the league, including some superstar names like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Chauncey Billups, and Allen Iverson.

In BIG3, some of the rules differ from the FIBA ones, some more in line with NBA and others exclusive to the league. For example, uses standard scoring of two and 3-point shots, rather than one and 2-pointers, though an additional 4-point shot is also possible from a designated circle on the court. Games are played to 60 points rather than playing to a clock, and teams must win by at least four points. For a full list of rules, check out the BIG3 website.

Big 3 Basketball Tickets


So far, the league has been mostly limited to playing near their headquarters in New York City, but tournaments are now scheduled nationwide throughout the summer with playoffs throughout the fall. Tickets are also relatively inexpensive, starting at just over $30 for most tourneys. To see when they’ll be heading your way, check out the upcoming schedule here.

The rules for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will most likely be more in line with the FIBA ones, but the details have yet to be finalized. Traditional five-on-five games will still be a part of the summer games as well, much like when beach volleyball was added without displacing indoor volleyball in the 1990s.

In the meantime, fans of basketball should tune in and familiarize themselves with 3×3 if they haven’t already, whether by checking out action for some of the leagues or by getting a few buddies together and trying it out for themselves. With the higher profile of BIG3 and the Olympics getting on board, the world’s most popular team sport is going to get even more popular.