The road to 3-on-3 basketball becoming an Olympic sport has been a long and winding one, all the way back to us falling for a 2015 report so obviously fake that “Betoota” remains a byword among the staff for news that we think might be bogus. But it’s real now! Really real! The IOC greenlit 3-on-3 hoops in 2017 for inclusion at the Tokyo Games, which have been delayed until this summer. And the men’s qualifying tournament is being held in Austria as we speak.
Surely, when the news was announced, we all had visions of Anthony Davis running the pick-and-roll with Steph Curry dancing through our heads. Team USA runs regular Olympic basketball, so why not its 3-on-3 version? But FIBA put a stop to that. In a conscious attempt to grow the game rather than let the superpowers continue to dominate, FIBA required rosters to be made up of players who have already hit certain 3-on-3 rankings benchmarks. Put another way, players can only participate if they’ve been on the 3-on-3 circuit for years. Which means putting together a team of say, LeBron, Harden, and Durant wasn’t an option.
Instead, the Team USA qualifying team consisted of Dominique Jones (day job: playing in China), Kareem Maddox (radio and podcast producer), Robbie Hummel (ESPN and Big Ten Network analyst), and Joey King (running a basketball camp; King replaced Canyon Barry when Barry, a D-Leaguer, suffered a back injury). Not necessarily our best hoopers, but our most experienced 3-on-3 players. And they aren’t bad; the 2019 U.S. team with Maddox and Hummel won the World Cup.
But at today’s quarterfinal match against the Netherlands, and with only the top three teams qualifying for the Olympics, Team USA came up short.
Frustratingly, the U.S. men could’ve avoided this tournament and automatically qualified for Tokyo if they had been one of the top-three ranked ranked teams on Nov. 1, 2019. But they were fifth, right behind Mongolia.
The eight-team Olympic field will consist of hosts Japan, already-qualified Serbia, Russia, and China, and the top three at these qualifiers, which are down to Poland, Latvia, France, and the Netherlands. A last-chance tourney for the final spot will be held next week.
The American women are in better shape. That team, consisting of WNBAers Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Stefanie Dolson, play their semifinal match today against Spain, with the winner guaranteed an Olympic spot. You can watch that live on FIBA’s Youtube channel, beginning at 11:55 a.m. ET. [Update, 12:19 p.m. ET: The Team USA women qualified for Tokyo.]