India has first-mover advantage in 3x3 basketball for Tokyo Olympics, says 3BL commissioner Rohit Bakshi

Can you imagine an Olympics where the American team does not make the cut while the Indian team does? 3x3 Pro Basketball League's commissioner Rohit Bakshi believes that's a possibility at the Tokyo Olympics in the 3x3 format.

Having seen the first season of 3BL wrap up, Bakshi spoke to Firstpost about the league, how it can help the Indian basketball team make it to the Olympics in two years' time among other things. Excerpt from an interview:

 India has first-mover advantage in 3x3 basketball for Tokyo Olympics, says 3BL commissioner Rohit Bakshi

Dhruv Sushil Barman, from Hyderabad 3BL, is among India's best 3x3 players. Image courtesy: 3BL

Could you explain the concept of the 3x3 Pro Basketball League and how it will be beneficial for Indian basketball in general?

To begin with, our focus in the league is 70 percent on the game and 30 percent on the entertainment side of things. We host matches in malls with high footfalls so the game itself will get popular among people. We wanted to bring the sport to the people, not people to the sport. That's why we don't do it in stadiums, we conduct matches in malls with high footfalls. We are also trying to make the league more sponsor-friendly. Sponsors need audience and eyeballs. By targetting high-traffic areas we want to make the entire system a sponsor-friendly environment.

How will this league help India to get to the Olympics in the 3x3 format in two years' time?

The qualification to Olympics depends on the FIBA rankings of the federation. In the system, there are two ways of earning points, which decide the ranking. The first way is to play 3x3 basketball professionally, so that would be playing in 3BL to earn FIBA 3x3 individual points. Teams that qualify for various rounds of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour through their performance in 3BL have the opportunity to earn additional points. The second way to earn points is through national competitions like the Asia Cup, World Cup and more. Each player gets points based on the competition they play in and the final position of their team in that competition. The points for the federations in FIBA rankings come from the top 100 players from the country. The top 20 federations in the world will then qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Playing 3x3 professionally, through 3BL, is allowing our players to participate in more World Tours and Challengers is helping the Indian federation’s ranking grow. Before 3BL started in May, India was ranked 86th in world and we are at the 44th position, despite having only 36 Indian players. If we had more players, India’s rank would have been better.

In the first season, Basketball Federation of India did not allow their regular 5x5 players to play in the 3BL. Will that get sorted out by the next edition? Can we see the top basketball players like Amritpal Singh and Palpreet Singh play in the second edition?

The federation's logic then was that there are two different sports so the main players should stick to 5-on-5. But right now they're reconsidering the entire norm itself because they realise that in 3x3 format, there is an Olympic opportunity for India so we should focus more on the 3x3. So now if a player wants to play 5-on-5 he can play 5-on-5, if he wants to play 3x3 he can play 3x3. If he wants to play both, he should play both. So we will get players like Palpreet, Amjyot and Amritpal next season.

Do you think the 3x3 format is more suited for countries like India? Since in America, you have 100s of good players but for a country like India, getting even three players becomes a big deal. So when you reduce the number of players on the court, do you make it a slightly more level playing field? Also with 3x3, you reduce the timing of a match. So do these factors make it more suited for a country like India?

The Indian athletes are more influenced by a mentality where the mindset is more 1-on-1, it's more towards scoring. But most importantly, India has a first-mover advantage. It's like there's a new sport in basketball. Even top countries like the US and their players are not completely ready for the format. That's why we have a first-mover advantage. If we put our entire focus as a nation, we have a very big chance of making it to the Olympics.

Are you saying that there is a possibility that US might not even make it to the next Olympics in the 3x3 format? Do they play 3x3 a lot in the US?

Yes, there is a possibility that USA might not make it to the 2020 Olympics. They only started playing 3x3 basketball there this year. Their teams like New York Harlem, Princeton and Chicago are three known teams, but apart from that, you won’t hear much of USA in 3x3. Canada is putting more effort into the 3x3 format. Countries like China, Japan, Serbia and Slovenia are big in the format. Currently, China is ranked No 1 in the world and if you look at Netherlands, they are 6th in 3x3 basketball out of 156 federations. In 5-on-5, they would struggle to emerge at the top in the Olympics. In 3x3, on the other hand, due to the efforts made by the entire nation, their federation ranking is high and they will make it to the Olympics without a doubt.

Updated Date: Oct 25, 2018 19:17:06 IST