November 11, 2012

KFC 3x3 Challenge in Beijing

3x3 basketball - like it or not - is being sold aggressively, and a majority of different interested parties, from FIBA to the NBA to your neighbourhood tournament organisers, are hoping to see this format of the game grow. FIBA's dream is to see 3x3 Basketball become an Olympic sport by Rio 2016, and they've begun to hold FIBA 3x3 world championships in recent years. The NBA has gotten in the act by holding the NBA 3x tournament around the world, including the tournaments that were launched around India a few months ago.

It's a slightly different story in China - the world's largest population has been holding one of the largest basketball competitions in the planet for the past eight years, independently of FIBA or NBA's official participation. The KFC National Junior/Youth (U19) 3-Men Basketball Challenge was launched in 2004 in China, and this year, it has seen participation from nearly 200,000 young players from 500 Chinese cities! The quickfire format of 3x3 basketball is designed to increase participation, and there's no place that has mastered the art of involving it's massive population like China!

I was at hand on Saturday to watch some of the action of the Beijing City Finals of the 2012 version of KFC's national tournament. The tournament was being held at the national training facility of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) - who are part of the tournament's organisers - the same facility that is used for China's national teams for practice.

There was a major Jeremy Lin overdose at the event. Lin's visit to China in the summer opened up doors for a plethora of commercial possibilities. Lin is the official brand ambassador of the championship; his banners were draped all around the arena and they were TV commercials on the big screen of Lin (in very bad Chinese) inviting Chinese guys to play 3-on-3 with him.

The great thing is that the tournament is free for kids to register. Their objectives are simple: play basketball and eat KFC. Those last five words also sum up my life.

The one drawback: there is no equivalent competition for girls in the KFC 3x3 Challenge. It's an All-Boys championship nationwide. There could easily be another 200,000 if the scope of the championship is widened to involve girls, too.

Everyone who has plays basketball has played 3x3 basketball. That's a fact. But is the format of the game good enough to be taken seriously, to become an Olympic sport, or even a professional sport? Many suggest that 3x3 is good because it involves participation and also levels the competition a little bit. But it still feels like a less serious version of the game, and it involves and showcases fewer skills than 5-on-5 fullcourt, real basketball. In China, there are hundreds of thousands of youth who already swear by it. Time will tell how popular the organised version of 3x3 can get in the future around the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment