For the first time, an Indian team will compete for a world championship in 3x3 basketball at the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals.
While the basketball world continues to be awestruck with the tip-off of the 2018-19 NBA season, FIBA continues its worldwide operations to develop the game and promote newer formats. One such format growing in popularity over the last several years is 3x3.
On October 27 and 28 in Beijing,12 of the best 3x3 professional teams from across the world will compete in the seventh edition of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals. While several teams are making repeat appearances, the 2018 edition is particularly special for Indian basketball fans as this marks the first time a team from India qualified for the Finals.
That unique honour goes to Team Delhi 3BL, known as the Delhi Hoopers from the 3X3BL - India's first professional 3x3 basketball league. They dominated the league, winning five of the six rounds over a 11-week period, accumulating 580 points out of a possible 600 to be crowned Champions of Season 1 of the 3X3BL. They led the points table of the 3X3BL during every minute of 3X3BL's Season 1, giving them the opportunity to represent the league at the FIBA World Tour Events.
Due to scheduling conflicts with their own league timetable, Team Delhi consisted primarily of Inderbir Singh Gill, Kiran Shastri, and Bikramjt Singh Gill and could only participate in two of the first six World Tour Masters - Utsunomiya, Japan and Mexico City, Mexico. They finished 9th in both tournaments, earning 20 points in each for a total of 40 that would not have been enough to qualify for the Finals.
The points format for determining the top 12 teams that advance to the World Tour Finals is simply the total points accumulated through all the World Tour participated in, irrespective of the number of tournaments participated in and the team's winning percentage. Of course, teams that won a World Tour Master automatically qualify for the Final.
Not finishing higher than fifth in any of their appearances, Team 3BL had to grind it out and pick up every possible point to ensure qualification. They picked up 90 crucial points by finishing 7th and 5th in two of the last three Masters at Hyderabad and Penang, respectively. Eventually, with a winning percentage of 40 and 130 total points, they beat out the team from United States - New York Harlem - that had a winning percentage of 57 and a total of 120 points.
Down but not out! 😏- 3X3BL (@3X3BL) October 15, 2018
Delhi #3BL have qualified for the #3x3WT Bloomage Beijing Finals on 27th & 28th October, 2018.#ShowYourSupport as they battle it out with the world's best #3x3 teams 💥#IndiaBasketball pic.twitter.com/xs0E2U6RMb
The tough journey for qualification into the FIBA 3X3 annual World Tour Masters began back in 2016.
The group of Rohit Bakshi (team owner), Inderbir Singh Gill, Amjyot Singh, and Bikramjit Gill - all players of Indian descent or Indian nationals - surprised everybody by not only participating but by winning the Japanese professional 3x3 tournament in 2016 as Team Hamamatsu. As Champions, they were invited to FIBA's World Tour Masters and after playing just a couple of events (one in Japan and the other in China), qualified for the 2016 World Tour Finals to be held in Abu Dhabi.
However, they weren't done surprising everybody as they made it all the way to the championship game where their fairytale journey finally came to an end with a loss to Team Ljubljana. Despite the bitter end, the show put on by the Hamamatsu team prompted FIBA to promote their 3x3 format in India.
And in just its first year, the league has reaped rewards with a team now set to compete against the best in the world.