By Paul Osborne

3x3 basketball is the future for growing the sport ©ITG3x3 is the future of the sport of basketball, according to International Basketball Federation (FIBA) secretary general Patrick Baumann.

Speaking exclusively to insidethegames, Baumann emphasised that the discipline, first introduced onto the international scene during the inaugural 2009 Asian Youth Games in Singapore, is "our future" in a sense that it "works a lot with the kids, with the youngsters, and also pushes them to be a bit more innovative".

In order to "be around" as a global sport and as the most popular sport for 50 years and more, Baumann explained that working with children is one of the most important factors, with 3x3 basketball a perfect way to do that.

The innovative game also allows for mass participation across huge numbers of nations that would find it hard to compete internationally in the traditional 5x5 format of the sport.

"Take the Philippines," explained Baumann.

"The Philippines are now coming back to the World Championships after a 30/40 year absence, for the World Cup.

"There the sport really is hysteria.

"If you look at the biological way, they don't necessarily have the same size as the Russians could have or the Chinese can maybe find with 1.2 billion people, so countries like this have in fact an incredible chance of being world champions in 3x3.

"The same with African countries where resources are extremely scarce but talent is never ending.

"They jump, they run so fast, they are really fit but they don't have clubs, structures where they can go, so 3x3 is for us an incredible opportunity to really expand and open the game to many more countries."

The 3x3 basketball discipline at Nanjing 2014 gave 31 nations the opportunity to compete at the Games rather than the six that would have competed in the 5x5 format of the sport ©ITGThe 3x3 basketball discipline at Nanjing 2014 gave 31 nations the opportunity to compete at the Games rather than the six that would have competed in the 5x5 format of the sport ©ITG

This point was highlighted during Nanjing 2014, where 40 teams from 31 nations qualified to compete in the 3x3 basketball competition.

If the traditional 5x5 format had been played at the Games, just six teams would have qualified to compete, one from each continent.

The youth orientation of the discipline, and its growing popularity across the world, could also see the sport gain inclusion in future Olympic Games, with Baumann hopeful this could be the case.

"So for us this is sort of the next wave for us of growing the game," he said.

"It's extremely young, youth orientated, innovative and I think that the International Olympic Committee is looking to bringing disciplines in that are very complementary to the traditional programme but can bring fresh air, a little bit like beach volleyball has done for them, like rugby sevens will hopefully do, and this could be the next one to come in."

After making its worldwide debut in Singapore in 2010 during the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, the sport has now developed a World Tour, World Championships and even European Championships, which made its debut on the sporting calendar in Bucharest, Romania yesterday.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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