3×3 basketball circuit makes hot start

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

With Typhoon Neoguri having passed, what awaited spectators was glaring sunlight and high temperatures perhaps heralding the start of the real summer.

And the arrival of the hot weather coincided with the beginning of the inaugural 3×3 Premier.exe basketball circuit.

On Saturday afternoon at Shonan Bellmare Hiratsuka Beach Park, hundreds of street hoop fans assembled to watch the opening round of the brand-new league, featuring games a little different from conventional 5-on-5 basketball.

The team that has the lead after 10 minutes of play, or that has scored 21 points first, wins the game. Teams earn points depending on where they finish in each tournament. The first-place team get 10 points, the runnerup gets eight, and third-place six. Teams compete for the championship with the points they accumulate.

There have been other 3-on-3 basketball events and leagues in Japan, such as Somecity. But the latest version is an official top-flight circuit recognized by the Japan Basketball Association. Starting with the Hiratsuka round, the season will be played in five more locations around the country until September. The final round will be held in Tokyo on Sept. 20 at Tokyo Solamachi.

The circuit is also approved by FIBA, the sport’s world governing body, and teams that finish high in the standings could be granted spots in FIBA-sanctioned 3×3 international tournaments.

Despite high temperatures that probably took their toll on every player, with even the fans continuing to stand around the court for more than a few hours, organizers deemed the show a respectable success.

“We worried about the typhoon, but we ended up watching wonderful games with wonderful fans at this great beach,” 3×3 Premier.exe commissioner Takaaki Nakamura said after the event. “We are so proud now.”

Yasuo Iijima, a player for GC Osaka.exe team, which was crowned champion of the first round with a 20-12 win over Tokyo Oceans in the final, said afterwards that he wanted to make Japanese basketball more popular in its 3-on-3 form than 5-on-5 competition.

“While we are going to enjoy the game, we want to make the fans enjoy it, too,” Iijima said. “Just winning can be done by anyone.”

Kenji Hilke, who played for the Kumamoto Volters of the NBL last season, insisted that the 3-on-3 game definitely has an ability to entertain people.

“I usually play 5-on-5 on a professional team,” said Hilke, who was awarded the MVP after the tournament. “But I got to play 3-on-3 at such a great location like this today and I was pleased to see the fans were excited, too.

“The 3-on-3 game has different attractions for sure. There’s 5-on-5, 3-on-3, baseball, soccer — lots of things you may like out there. But whatever you like, you just want to have some fun.”