There are many sports fanatics who want to play team sport but are not – and in many cases don’t want to be – part of a club or a team. They want organised sport, but without the commitment of being part of a club.
And the problem facing these Sportsiders under the new ‘rule of six’ that we are living under now is that, while organised sport is fine, meeting up in the park in numbers over six is against the rules.
Football, rugby and cricket really struggle to work on a three v three basis – but there is a sport that fits the bill perfectly: Basketball. It’s been doing it for years.
3×3 (three-on-three) has been around since the 80s and, while far more prevalent in the US than it is here, the International Olympic Committee recently recognised it as the largest urban team sport in the world.
The premise of 3×3 is simple: two teams of three (a substitute is allowed for each team – but under the rule of 6 we will leave that alone for the moment) on a half-court, with one hoop to shoot at. It is fast, it is furious – and all you need is a ball and your local court.
Adidas backed a 3×3 competition in the States in the early 90s and since then the number of events and competitions around the world has grown hugely. The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 will host a test event while the Paralympic version will make its debut as a sport at the Games.
The Guardian recently threw the spotlight on what it described as a “thriving community” of ballers who had organised their own street tournament in the absence of their formal league taking place. They caught up with the player behind it, Nhyriya Asihene and produced a compelling photo essay from the matches he arranged.
“A lot of people were itching to get back on the court and were happy to get active again,” Nhyira told the Guardian. “I wanted to create an atmosphere of peace, love and positivity among the young people in our community.”
Some of the teams were local and organised – others had just come together on the day, having seen the tournament advertised on Facebook, TikTok or Instagram.
It captured the spirit of organised-unorganised sport that is going to be key in keeping the country active even in these days of the Rule of Six.
The British Basketball League is still not due to return to competitive action until Friday November 13 and there are fears that its absence may have lost a potential audience of young players from London’s inner city.
The absence of action only added to the alarm felt by former Great Britain captain Kieron Achara who, in a recent interview with Sky Sports, expressed his disappointment in the support he feels his support gets from the relevant governing bodies in the UK.
Basketball remains England’s second most popular team sport and is heavily represented by the BAME communities but Achara said he could not understand why it doesn not receive more funding.
He said: “The only logical explanation that I can give is that there is a subconscious bias against basketball and specifically the demographic that basketball represents.”
Sport England has invested around £20m in basketball since a disappointing performance at the Olympics in London 2012, but Achara – who was part of the Team GB basketball squad at the Games – believes ‘under-funding’ is part a wider issue related to how basketball and its participants at all levels are perceived.
“I do feel it’s not a respected sport,” he told Sky Sports News.
“It doesn’t get the media attention, unless you’re a Luol Deng (the British two-time NBA All-Star). And even then, he still walked down the streets and no one recognised him.”
The recent Netflix documentary The Last Dance, a fascinating behind-the-scenes film following Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their incredible run of six NBA titles in the 90s, has undoubtedly put the sport in front of new audiences and shown UK viewers just how powerful it can be – both on and off the court.
And Sport England insists it understands this power and cites the scheduled 3×3 event in Birmingham 2022 as proof of that.
“Sport England has always recognised the significant value of basketball, for the enjoyment and benefits it brings to the thousands of people that play regularly, and the way it can engage a wide range of people, including young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds,” a statement read.
“There is no doubt about the important role that basketball can play in communities and Sport England continues to work with the game’s leaders to find new and innovative ways to get more people playing. For example, 3×3 basketball will take centre stage at an iconic outdoor venue at Smithfield in the centre of Birmingham at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“It’s an opportunity to present a sport in a new, exciting way and make it even more accessible to more young people.”