3×3 Basketball Comes to the Matches with a GOAT: Dusan Bulut

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TOKYO – It all started with “White Men Can’t Jump”.

Dusan Bulut was 9 years old and was channel surfing at his home in Novi Sad, Serbia. street ball caper appeared on television starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes.

He was transfixed. He decided he wanted to be good at basketball.

Roughly from then on, Cloud has led his life around the game and measured his progress by where he played. In the unpretentious neighborhood where he grew up, where basketball courts served as asphalt oases between gray buildings, this meant proving his worth in a hierarchy of ball courts, each with older, better players than the last.

The 35-year-old Bulut is now widely accepted as the greatest player in the emerging sport. three-on-three basketball, which did Olympic debut Saturday. Consider his record: since 2012 FIBA ​​has held six World Cup tournaments in 3×3 basketball as the game is officially known; Bulut and his Serbian teammates won four on courts in Greece, China, France and the Philippines. He spent most of his career as: number 1 three-on-three player In the world.

Bulut’s career progresses parallel to the rise of the game. On Saturday, he took the field in Tokyo, leading Serbia to a win against China in their first game, showing just one part of his fascinating skill set: long-range, assists from behind; a fake Eurostep scheme; and a step back game winner. It was a show befitting the game’s biggest, most successful star.

These are relative terms, of course. Bulut is unknown to the vast majority of sports fans around the world, and the idea that three-on-three basketball is an organized, international competition still casts doubt in a choir. But a big stage, a flamboyant performance and a gold medal can change things.

“We deserve this the most,” said Bulut for the Olympic championship. “No one will be satisfied with anything else.”

Since 2017 when basketball was three on three Added to Tokyo Olympic programThe sport’s players, officials, and commentators have spent considerable energy trying to explain exactly what the sport is, dispel common misconceptions, and in some cases justify its existence.

It was ten and a half years ago when FIBA ​​took up three-on-three basketball as a project, established a universal set of rules, held test events, and most importantly, brought together part of many existing tournaments around the world. pyramidal network under the umbrella of management.

The initiative surprised some traditional basketball fans. Why bother with something good, one of the most popular sports in the world?

But FIBA’s motivation was clear: he hoped the leaner, faster three-on-three gameplay would engage a younger generation of audiences who, in his opinion, enjoy the endless options for entertainment and have, in his opinion, shorter attention spans. The sport was also seen as a way to lower the barrier to entry to international competition for basketball-loving nations that could not match the resources or talent pools of powerful nations such as the United States that dominated previous Olympic tournaments.

Most importantly, three-on-three also fits in with broader Olympic efforts to squeeze youth-oriented, non-traditional sports like skateboarding, BMX, and rock climbing among its more traditional events.

“I think beach volleyball is a lot like regular volleyball: it’s a really cool spin on a really popular sport,” said Robbie Hummel, a member of the US men’s three-on-three basketball team. Tokyo Games.

The short-term intensity, then, is three on the main attraction of the three. Matches go to 21, points are scored in 1s and 2s, and the shot clock goes down ominously from 12. With fewer players on the field, free space encourages movement and creativity. There are no coaches and very few breaks in the game. Players say the game is much more physical than traditional basketball, allowing for a closer level of contact from the referees to the playing field rather than the professional arena.

“You’re getting away with a lot more fouls than you’ve won at five-on-five,” said Allisha Gray, who plays for the WNBA Dallas Wings and will represent the United States in Tokyo.

Cloud has never been the fastest, strongest, or tallest on the field. He has a well-deserved reputation as a flamboyant actor, but said he believes his main gifts are stamina, versatility and a willingness to work. He is appreciated for his arrogance as well as his pretentiousness.

Part of that mentality comes from his father, a sports journalist who often tells him to have a “short blanket” on the field.

“It’s hard to translate into English,” said Bulut laughing. “It means you’re always bothering someone. If you pull up, your legs will get cold. If you let him go, your arms will get cold.”

Cloud distracts players with a series of abstract skills (foresight, timing, geometric awareness) and a series of daring tricks.

Four years ago, at a competition in Amsterdam, a Shammgod gear — a one-handed, inside-out, diagonal dribble invented by ex-NBA player God Shammgod — on the way from an opponent’s open legs to a game-winning layup, weaves together what many see as the highlight of the three on the brief history of the three.

“As we said here, he’s a dog,” said Kyle Montgomery, a commentator from Los Angeles. “The dog is a man with a heart, relentless, who likes to seize the moment. He plays with pride. He’s a winner.”

After the initial spark of “White Men Can’t Jump”, Bulut started following the careers of actors like Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson. He read Slam and Dime Magazine whenever he could get his hands on it. spent hours watching clips. AND1 Mixed Cassette Round.

He took these effects and restated them in courts outside his circle. Everyone hung out there – “mothers with kids, alcoholics and drug addicts, nerds” – and the easiest way to get people’s attention, win their respect, was to make a fancy move or a flashy pass.

Those instincts didn’t serve Bulut either, when he started his professional career as a five-on-five player, bouncing between teams in Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia and Macedonia. He disliked the program, which had a numbing flow of anonymous cities and villages, and hardened against the suffocating systems of his coaches.

As a release, he focused most of his energy on playing in three-on-three tournaments and everything just clicked. As he and his teammates watched the prize money pile up and sponsorship opportunities began to emerge, they began to dedicate themselves to the game full-time. FIBAs Marketing materials He regularly mentions Bulut as GOAT – the greatest of all time.

“He is a great example and his team is a great example that if you put every effort and every single time into 3×3, you can have an outstanding career with him,” said Michael Linklater, a Canadian former player who will comment on the Olympics. This month for national broadcaster CBC. “They have their own facilities. They train other teams. They sort of figured out how to play the game.”

Bulut pointed out that most of the players in the Serbian national team are from the Novi Sad region. He said his humble beginnings and challenging environments remained a motivating force.

“This game is always hard. It’s always irritating, there’s always someone breathing down your neck, they want to beat you up, they want to cheat on you,” he said. “That’s why we’re good at this. We’ll go and earn money and we can live here properly. But let’s take guys from Canada, Sweden, and even Qatar, for example. If they win a tournament, they still get paid less than if they worked at a bank or elsewhere.”

“For us,” he added, “it’s a matter of survival.”

The question of money may determine the future of three-on-three basketball. If the sport’s profile and reward grows with Olympic support, more players may see it as an outlet for their skills, for example as an alternative to working in a bank.

In this context, the non-qualification of the American men’s team represented a missed opportunity to introduce more people to the game from the United States, the world’s largest surplus of basketball talent. But Kareem Maddox, who represented the USA men’s team in the qualifying process, said he thinks American players will be drawn to it soon.

“Not to take anything from us. We’re pretty good basketball players, but we do other things too,” Maddox said with a laugh. As this changes, some of the best talent from the United States will emerge and we will continue to dominate all forms of basketball.”

It could be like that, one day. But so far the only dominant force in 3×3 has been Bulut, who has a chance to triumph on a ballpark he’s never played before.

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