What is 3×3 basketball?

Men's 3x3 competition featuring Serbia and Netherlands
World number one side Serbia faced the Dutch at the Aomi Urban Sports Park

It’s been a long time coming, but on Saturday we finally saw what Olympic 3×3 basketball is all about.

But what is it – and what happened on day one of the fast-and-furious competition?

What is 3×3?

One of four new sports for this year’s Games – along with skateboarding, surfing and climbing – 3×3 is played on a half court, with both teams shooting at the same basket.

Each side has three players on court at any one time in matches lasting 10 minutes – or until a team scores 21 points if that happens sooner.

It’s a faster, more furious, version of basketball and, according to an International Olympic Committee study, the world’s most popular urban sport.

Eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams have qualified, but will the United States dominate as they have in Olympic basketball?

Well their men did not even make it, and the women are the lowest-ranked qualifiers. So the short answer is ‘no’.

Competition starts with a pool round in which all of the teams play each other. The six best proceed to the knockout stage.

Who were the standout teams on day one?

In the men’s draw, gold-medal favourites Serbia beat China 22-13 and the Netherlands 16-15.

Their star man Dusan Bulut – widely regarded as the best player in the world – is nursing an ankle injury, despite being known as ‘Mr Bulut-proof’.

“In the beginning it was a little awkward,” he said. “I just wanted to see what I could do, and some things I could not do.

“Happily in the end I got a few baskets and put my team at an advantage. But in the end it was defence and we played defence really well.”

Jill Biden congratulates Team USA
First Lady Dr Jill Biden congratulates the US team after they won their second match of the day

US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron were in the stands as their respective teams met in the women’s tournament.

Team USA emerged victorious, Biden leaping to her feet to celebrate a 17-10 victory over the favourites.

“As soon as we walked out, we saw her in the stands,” said WNBA player Kelsey Plum.

“She waved and she brought all the energy so we are grateful for that. We asked her to come back so hopefully she has time for us.”

Hosts Japan, whose men’s side were narrowly beaten by Poland in their opening match, won a hard-fought battle with Belgium.

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