Participants seen during Red Bull Half Court Qualifiers in Athens, Greece on May 1, 2022.
© Alex Grymanis/Red Bull Content Pool
Basketball

3on3 basketball: Everything you need to know about the fast-paced sport

Explore the world of 3on3 basketball, from the rules and regulations to the origins of the game and its rapid rise to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
By Henner Thies/Baba Osikoya
8 min readPublished on
Once considered nothing more than a backyard past-time, 3on3 basketball has developed into a professional sport with official rules sanctioned by the international basketball federation (FIBA). On a more grassroots level, tournaments like Red Bull Half Court (3on3) have emerged as a way for the global streetball community to keep on pushing boundaries, ensuring that the sport evolves, captivates, and unites enthusiasts worldwide.
We’ll guide you through the history of the game before looking at the different leagues, tournaments and players that make the sport a must-watch.
Make sure you mark October 16-21 in your calendar for the World Final of the Red Bull Half Court 3on3 tournament at the iconic Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, United States. For more event details go here.
01

The history of 3 on 3 basketball

Participants seen during Red Bull Half Court Qualifiers in Athens, Greece on May 1, 2022.

The action is fast-paced and extremely physical

© Alex Grymanis / Red Bull Content Pool

Organized 3on3 basketball developed from the streetball that was played across America. Originating in the 1980s, it was popular in urban areas where there was often only one basket and a half-court available. There was no need for a referee and teams were often formed on the spot.
As the game became more popular, FIBA decided to trial organized 3on3 basketball at the 2007 Asian Indoor Games in Macau, China. The format – featuring the use of only one basket and two teams of three players on a half-court – was immediately well received and led FIBA to introduce the sport at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
Since 2012, FIBA has organized 3on3 World Championships as well as a 3on3 World Tour, while in 2017, US rapper Ice Cube founded the 3on3 professional league, Big3, in America. That same year, the International Olympic Committee announced that 3on3 basketball would make its debut at the Games in Tokyo – where USA claimed gold in the women’s event and Latvia triumphed in the men’s tournament.
Since 2021, the Red Bull Half Court tournament has also been looking for the world's best streetballers - with stops in more than 21 countries.
02

How does it work?

Participants seen during Red Bull Half Court Qualifiers in Athens, Greece on May 1, 2022.

3 on 3 action at Red Bull Half Court in Athens

© Alex Grymanis / Red Bull Content Pool

A variant of the classic sport of basketball, 3on3 is played by two teams of three players each. The action takes part on half a court, using one basket only. The points-scoring method is different to traditional basketball. In 3on3, a basket scored from inside the shooting circle counts as one point (instead of two points in classic basketball), while a basket from beyond the shooting circle counts as two points (rather than three points like in 5on5 basketball).
Each 3on3 game lasts for 10 minutes or until a team scores 21 points – whichever occurs sooner. There's also a 12-second shot clock, which is half as long as in traditional basketball, where you have 24 seconds to complete an attack.
Another big difference to traditional basketball is that the game does not stop when a basket is scored. In 3on3, the ball changes teams immediately once there is a basket and the game continues without interruption. This is one of the reasons why 3on3 basketball is sometimes referred to by players as 'a 10-minute sprint.'
03

The most important rules and terms at a glance

Event participants compete at the Red Bull Half Court 2022 Tokyo Qualifier on May 3, 2022.

The perfect jump shot

© Jason Halayko/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Start of the game: 3on3 basketball starts with a coin toss. The team that wins the coin toss gets to decide whether it wants the ball at the start of the game or at the start of a potential overtime.
  • Game time and overtime: A 3on game lasts 10 minutes, unless one team manages to score 21 points before that time has elapsed. If the score is tied after 10 minutes, the game goes into overtime. During overtime, the first team to score two points is the winner.
  • Check ball: After each interruption (ball out of bounds, foul, or after free throws, etc.) the ball is handed to the offensive player by the defensive player in the middle of the court beyond the throwing circle. Only after this 'check' does the game continue. The game clock and shot clock continue as soon as the offensive player has the ball.
  • Continuation after a successful basket: After a successful basket, possession of the ball changes. Unlike in classic basketball, however, the game continues immediately, without a throw-in or a check. There are only two requirements: First, the team that has conceded the basket must bring the ball once (by dribbling or passing) behind the throwing circle. Second, the team that made the basket and is now defending must not obstruct the offensive player in the semicircle under the basket and must remain outside the small semicircle until the ball has been passed or dribbled out of the semicircle.
  • Continuation after offensive rebound: If the attacking team gets an offensive rebound, it may immediately shoot at the basket without first bringing it behind the throwing circle again.
  • Continuation after a defensive rebound, block or steal: If the defending team wins the ball via a defensive rebound, block or steal, it must first bring the ball behind the throwing circle before it may attack.
  • Jump ball situation: After a jump ball situation, the defensive team receives the ball.
  • Fouls and free throws: If a defensive player commits a foul on an offensive player during a shot inside the throwing circle, the offensive player receives one free throw - if the foul happens during a shot outside the throwing circle, there are two free throws. If the foul does not occur during a shot, only the possession of the ball changes. If a team commits more than six fouls during a game, the other team receives two free throws each time after the seventh foul. From the tenth foul onwards, there are two free throws plus possession for each foul. Personal fouls are not counted in 3on3.
  • Changing players: In 3on3 basketball, you can change players as often as you want. The only requirement is that the game must be interrupted. When changing players, the substitute player must tee off with the substitute player and the change must take place on the out-of-bounds line away from the basket.
04

The most important 3on3 events

  • FIBA 3x3 World Cup: This is probably the most important global tournament for national teams. First held in 2012, there is a men's and women's division. Serbia has won the men's title the most times – on five occasions – while the US are the most successful women's team with two titles.
  • FIBA 3x3 World Tour: From May to December, teams from cities around the world collect points in a tournament format with stops from Japan to France.
  • FIBA 3x3 Women's Series: Similar to the above, the series runs from May to September and features the best teams competing in tournaments around the world.
  • Red Bull Half Court: Since 2021, the world's best 3on3 players have been able to compete in Red Bull Half Court, a tournament with stops in more than 20 countries. This makes Red Bull Half Court the most global streetball tournament in the world.
05

Red Bull Half Court 2024

Red Bull Half Court sees teams register to participate in local tournaments or national finals across the world to see if they can become their countries representatives at an annual World Final. This year's finals will be in Brooklyn, New York City, between October 16 and October 21.
Qualifiers for the season finale at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City will take place across five continents, featuring countries like Australia, Belgium, Egypt, India, Japan, Serbia, the Philippines, Italy, the UAE, and the USA between February and August.
A new feature of the 2024 Red Bull Half Court season on top of the usual 3on3 rules for the competition is the introduction of the 3-POINT-SPOTS on courts used in tournament. The 3-POINT-SPOTS will be marked by two circles with a 3-foot diameter drawn 2 meters behind the arc. If a player's foot touches a 3-point spot while shooting and scoring, the shot is rewarded with 3 points.
To experience what it feels like to play at the World Finals, relive the action from the Red Bull Half Court World Final 2023 in Serbia.

4 min

World Champions crowned at the Red Bull Half Court World Final 2023

See the best of the action from the Red Bull Half Court World Final 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia.

06

Players to watch

Dusan Bulut seen during a promo shoot for Red Bull Half Court in Munich, Germany on March 3, 2022.

Dušan Bulut shows off his slick handles

© Markus Berger/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Dusan Bulut: The Serb is a living streetball legend and is considered one of the greatest of all time. Bulut combines a dangerous mix of mad skills, basketball IQ and all-out hustle. Throwing, passing, shooting – there's nothing he can't do.
  • Nadine Selaawi: The Egyptian woman played a crucial part of in Egypt taking the 2023 women's title alongside another great women's player in Hager Amer.
  • Laetitia Guapo: Incredibly athletic, a natural scorer and excellent in defense, France ace Guapo is simply one of the very best players the women's game has even seen.
  • Strahinja Stojačić: Consistently ranked the best played in the world by FIBA, the Serbian has won world and European titles and regularly dominates the World Tour.
  • Michelle Plouffe: The Canadian led her country to victory in the women's Series in 2022 and regularly leads the way when it comes to points and assists.

Part of this story

Red Bull Half Court

The 3-on-3 basketball tournament tips off in five continents worldwide. With 15,000 expected participants in 2023, Red Bull Half Court is the world's most global streetball tournament.

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The Red Bull Half Court Final slam-dunks New York for the final showdown as the world's best ballers fight for the crown.

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