10 things we learned from 3x3's Olympic debut

29 Jul 2021

TOKYO (Japan) - 3x3's debut gave everything and more in the most incredible five days of Olympic competition at the Aomi Urban Sports Park.

We are still in Olympic fever so let's look back at the 10 things we learned from 3x3's debut on the biggest stage.

3x3 stole the show in Tokyo

Devoted 3x3 fans knew their best kept secret was about to be revealed to the world.

And sure enough the world fell in love with this fast and furious game which made a slew of new fans.

While unfortunately there were no fans in the stands, some of the most famous people in the world just had to have a glimpse of 3x3 and see what all the hype was about.

On Day 1, French president Emmanuel Macron and USA First Lady Dr Jill Biden attended the women's blockbuster between their respective countries. The heads of state of Monaco, Mongolia, Poland, and San Marino also came to visit.

In the women's gold medal game between USA and ROC, IOC president Thomas Bach was courtside to watch USA create history and become 3x3's first Olympic gold medalist.

3x3 won the hearts of new fans

Social media almost melted due to the affection given to 3x3 by new converts who instantly were reeled in and remained glued to their television for five days.

We knew it would make a splash but 3x3's Olympic debut blew out the expectations and now the bandwagon is full!

The coverage was immense with major media outlets dedicating big coverage to 3x3, including the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and Sports Illustrated.

Anything is possible

You thought Serbia were going to roll through to the gold medal, right? It's hard to blame you after they were undefeated in the pool stage and clicking on all cylinders.

But 3x3 die hards knew there were no guarantees for a game, where 25% of the games are decided by just one basket.

Yes, of course, it was still shocking to see Serbia suffer a beat down against ROC in the semis - just 24 hours after they had beaten the same opponent by the exact same score of 21-10 - but the result was not out of the ordinary in 3x3 which is a game where anything can really happen.

Just ask No.1 seed France, who dominated the Women's Series in 2019 and 2021, but fell short of a podium finish.

Lasmanis really is a superhero

He's known as 'Batman'. Or maybe now he should be called 'Superman'. Pick your poison because Karlis Lasmanis is 3x3's ultimate superhero after clinching gold for Latvia with a two-piece for the ages to sink ROC in a thriller.

Lasmanis, whose father was a two-time Olympian in rowing, has been dreaming of this moment for a long time but even he couldn't have scripted such a perfect ending.

The 27-year-old has been one of 3x3's biggest stars for some time having dominated the FIBA 3x3 World Tour. Quite simply, Karlis Lasmanis deserved this moment.

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Plum is all heart

There weren't too many more heartfelt stories than USA star Kelsey Plum, who thought her Olympic dream was over a year ago after injuring her Achilles - an injury often rated as one of the worst for athletes.

But the 26-year-old never lost the belief and relied on her trademark resiliency and work ethic to make a speedy recovery. USA Basketball maintained the faith and that trust was rewarded with Plum leading USA to gold as she topped the scorers in Tokyo with 55 points from 9 games.

USA confirmed their title credentials but they were pushed all the way in the knockout stages by France and ROC. They needed Plum's passion and determination to get them through those challenges and she delivered in style.

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Power to the U23 alumni: Young ROC turned heads in Tokyo

ROC had the most success in 3x3 with a pair of silvers. Both men's and women's were No.2 seeds and filled with young talent but came into Tokyo fairly low key.

They quickly proved they were the real deal with twin sisters Evgeniia and Olga Frolkina who received a silver medal on their 24th birthday, starring for the talented ROC women's team, who had three players part of their victorious U23 Nations League 2019.

The men stuttered in the pool stage before lifting to a gear some didn't think they had with an upset for the ages against Serbia in the semis before almost defeating Latvia in the final.

This type of hot patch shouldn't surprise with ROC having won the U23 World Cups in 2018 and 2019, where Alexander Zuev won MVPs.

The 24-year-old announced himself as a legit superstar with a dominant 11-point haul in the semis where he outscored Serbia by himself.

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Vervoort is the best rising star in 3x3

Belgium have been riding a 3x3 tidal ride in 2021 and were the last team to clinch their ticket to Tokyo, where they impressed to just fall short of a podium finish.

Much of their success can be attributed to Thibaut Vervoort, who was so accurate under pressure that he really should have been competing in a shooting event in Tokyo.

Luckily he stuck to 3x3 as he produced some of the most memorable memories of the competition with a trio of game-winning two-pointers.

Maybe his headband gives him special powers because the 23-year-old can create miracles.

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China's new superstar

Perhaps it was fitting Yao Ming was watching from the stands because he surely gave a nod of approval to towering Jinqui Hui, who toyed with his opponents like they were in kindergarten.

The 2.10m (6ft 11in) giant was unstoppable as he finished with a remarkable tournament high average of almost 10 ppg, which was boosted by his astonishing performance against Netherlands, where he scored 17 of his team's 18 points.

He has set the scoring mark in 3x3's Olympic debut and it's a record that will be hard to top.

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China and Japan are gaining strength

3x3 has mostly been dominated by European teams but Asian teams are coming at them fast.

China's depth of talent was underlined by their women's claiming bronze even though they came into Tokyo without several stars.

Lili Wang was dynamic and finished equal top scorer with Plum, while Shuyu Yang proved why she is so popular back home with an eye-catching performance.

Japan didn't medal but their young guns impressed as the hosts made the quarters in both men's and women's, who were the only team to beat USA after a stunning upset on day four.

Mai Yamamoto, complete with her insane handles and crazy shot making, lit up Tokyo, while 20-year-old sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga justified the hype.

These major Asian countries are no longer sleeping giants - they're top tier.

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3x3 will be even bigger and better in Paris

3x3 somehow exceeded the expectations and hype at the Olympics. But you just know it will be even bigger and better in Paris.

With fans - surely! - back in the stands, 3x3 will be once again be rocking and showing why it has the best atmosphere in all of sports.

And by then, 3x3 will have spread and developed even more so new teams and players will no doubt emerge.

We can't wait for Paris! Just three years left.

The countdown begins.

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