The US men’s 3×3 team has failed to qualify for this summer’s Olympics, marking the first time a Team USA basketball has missed out on a Games they have entered. The American disappointment was offset by the women’s team booking their place in Tokyo.
The men’s team were the defending world champions but the roster at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Austria had only one player, Robbie Hummel, with any meaningful NBA experience. The team lost in the quarterfinals to the Netherlands on Sunday, ending their hopes of winning a place in Tokyo. No current NBA players were being considered for the 3×3 tournament at the Olympics.
The women’s team, meanwhile, finished in the top three of the qualifying tournament ensuring their place at the Olympics. The team has plenty of WNBA experience thanks to the likes of Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray and Katie Lou Samuelson.
The rules for 3×3 basketball are made for a faster-paced competition than five-on-five. Teams play with one- and two-point baskets over a single 10-minute period (with a 12-second shot clock), though a game can end sooner if a team reaches 21 points inside the distance.
In April, Hummel spoke to the Guardian about the US’s struggles in the 3×3 game. “Part of it is a numbers game,” said Hummel, who balanced his preparations for Tokyo with his NCAA tournament broadcasting responsibilities for Westwood One radio. “We just haven’t had as many people playing. It hasn’t been as popular here as it has been in Serbia or some of the Eastern European countries or even Asia for that matter. Another barrier is that I think that in my 3×3 career, I’ve played in like two events in North America. There’s some serious barriers to the game I think for countries on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, because [the tournaments are] just so far away and they’re not easy to get to. It’s not like you can just drive down the street to play in a Fiba 3×3 event. You’ve got to fly to Seoul, or you got to fly over to Europe and catch a connecting flight to a place like no Novi Sad, Serbia, or fly into an airport and drive a couple hours. These events aren’t always easy to get to.”
The US men’s and women’s teams are expected to dominate the traditional five-on-five tournament at the Olympics, with WNBA and NBA stars set to compete. The US teams have never failed to win a medal at any Olympics they have participated in. The US teams qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow but boycotted the Games.