When the IOC approved 3-on-3 basketball as an official Olympic sport last month, BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz wasn't surprised.
The Olympic approval came five months after Kwatinetz and media mogul Ice Cube announced their endeavor of a halfcourt league featuring retired NBA stars such as Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, and Rashard Lewis. BIG3 CEO Amy Trask poked fun at the IOC's timing Wednesday, days before Philadelphia hosts the league on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
"You're welcome," Trask said. "I'm waiting for them to express appreciation."
The IOC's move toward adding 3-on-3 basketball started well before the BIG3 began showcasing the talents of retired NBA stars. FIBA first sponsored 3-on-3 basketball in 2007, proposing the addition of 3-on-3 to the 2010 Youth Olympic Games — a proposition that was approved by the Olympic Committee.
Without FIBA, 3-on-3 basketball would not have been approved as quickly.
"This is a historic day for FIBA and [3-on-3]," FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann said on June 9. "It is the recognition of 10 years of hard work to codify the rules of [3-on-3] and to innovate with a unique [3-on-3] digital platform and player ranking system."
For the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 3-on-3 basketball will be played with three starters and a substitute on a halfcourt, with a 12-second shot clock. The first team to reach 21, or leading after the 10-minute period, wins. The ball will be slightly smaller than a regulation NBA ball. Olympic 3-on-3 basketball will follow rules of FIBA, the same governing body for 5-on-5 Olympic play.
The IOC, FIBA, and BIG3 hope that the sport's fast pace resonates with the younger demographic.
"It's accessible everywhere," Kwatinetz said. "The demographics that play it are younger. The demographics that watch it are younger. And as the Olympics looks to make sure that they regenerate their huge audience, they need to appeal to younger sports fans as well. We were very happy to see they did it, but we weren't surprised because of the popularity of the sport."
In 2020, Kwatinetz anticipates BIG3 players appearing on the United States 3-on-3 roster. While Kwatinetz's league is the first of its kind in the U.S., 3-on-3 basketball has significant popularity at the youth level, particularly in pickup settings.
"We do fully expect players from our league to be representing our country and potentially others at the Olympics," Kwatinetz said. " I think part of what the Olympics responded to was what we responded to, which is the 3-on-3 game of basketball is the most played sport in the world."
Between now and the 2020 Olympics, 3-on-3 basketball will continually develop as the BIG3 and Dew NBA 3x tour gain momentum through different formats and visions.
"We definitely think the timing works in our favor for what we're introducing to the world with professional 3-on-3 basketball," Ice Cube said. "It's great what the Olympics is doing, but that's three years away, and we plan on making a lot of progress between now and then to elevate our game, as well."
The BIG3's 3-on-3 game format differs from the Olympic version that fans will see in 2020.