Three-on-three hoops is coming to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It’s my new favorite sport.
Written by Kyle Magin
On Friday, we found out 3×3 basketball is coming to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This a cause for celebration. Three-on-three basketball is the sport at its most… something.
Cerebral: Maybe—you’re playing chess all game long as opposed to the checkers’ jumps that can result from a fast-break mismatch in full court five-on-five. Post up, drop step, kick out, set up a shot, lose your man. You can’t just roll out the balls in three-on-three play, or rely on a clipboard diagram.
Physical: Almost definitely. The entire game is contested essentially within 35 feet of the rack. Somebody is going to have to be in the post most of the time. Bodies will bang. Feelings will get hurt if somebody gets out to a good-size lead. There’s not a lot of space to dribble the clock down in. Hacks will happen.
With that in mind, let’s construct a few American entrees for the sport’s debut. For our purposes, NBA players may decide to join the traditional tournament or 3×3.
Squad One: Draymond Green, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant.
Everyone here fits an archetype. Day-Day is, obviously, the living embodiment of God for all orthodox YMCA 3×3 basketball players. He will tug on an opponent’s shorts to confound him, harass his own teammates to greatness for failing to roll off screens and is the dude who will definitely take any shot you give him in the halfcourt and hit it because you’re dogging it. It’ll be a set shot, just to rub the salt into the wound. Joel Embiid is a great negating force in the paint. His frame will do as much to discourage the other team’s inside game as his ability to erase shots will. Durant is the guy who holds the court until his mom picks him up or the lights go out. His game can float from the perimeter to the dirt inside. Bonus points for having an established relationship with Day-Day for give-and-goes. Fourth man should be a fine-wine-aged Zach Randolph, who could play another 20 years in a 3×3-only league given his deft touch and high socks.
Squad Two: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Josh Jackson.
The con of this group is obvious: There’s only one ball and nobody really rebounds. That said, how in the hell are you going to stop them? Everybody goes to the rack at a 1,000 MPH and contorts at odd angles to hit impossible shots. Fourth man is Vince Carter, because everyone should have a good changeup and it’ll be entertaining to see him nutmeg Frederic Weis to complete a beautiful two-decade orbit ‘round the Frenchman.
Squad Three: LeBron James, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis.
Ugh fine. This team beats you at every single level. Curry uses all 45 feet of the half court to slice you into bits. James, who will be early in his dotage at 35 years old, should be the most effective distributor in the tournament based on the space he can create for himself and others. Davis fills the Embiid role, grabbing every board and redirecting anyone who thinks they can do business in the paint. I like Isaiah Thomas as the fourth man to work in a small-ball lineup with James and Curry to drive and dish. This is the gold medal squad.
Have an idea for a team? Leave it below.