NBA's 6-city tour lets US catch up in 3-on-3 basketball
ATLANTA (AP) Gary Payton believes the United States is behind other nations in organized 3-on-3 basketball.
A first step in catching up was Saturday's opening day of Dew NBA 3X, a six-city U.S. tour of 3-on-3 tournaments.
Payton is the NBA ambassador for the tour and he was joined Saturday by Los Angeles Lakers guard Lou Williams, an Atlanta native. Hall of Famers Dominique Wilkins and Isiah Thomas are scheduled to take part in Sunday's final day in Atlanta.
FIBA, basketball's governing body, has proclaimed 3-on-3 basketball to be the world's No. 1 urban team sport. It is promoting 3-on-3 as a way to get more players involved in the sport and failed in its bid to have the sport included in the 2016 Olympics.
The idea of growing the sport also appeals to the NBA.
''We realized this could become an Olympic sport and along with that we want to commit to growing the game, that's the focus,'' said Damon McDade, manager of events for the tournament.
Payton said he has seen the popularity of 3-on-3 basketball in his international travel.
''This is what they focus on, 3 on 3,'' Payton said. ''Most of their kids over there are in clubs and leagues. These guys here have just built teams. Those guys overseas are making a plan out of that. We need to make a brand like that over here so a lot of these kids can play with each other a lot and make a concept of it. This is a good way to start.''
The tour, organized by the NBA and Mountain Dew, also will include stops in Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. There are 32 men's teams and eight women's teams at each stop. Each team includes three starters and one substitute.
The winning teams in Los Angeles on Oct. 22-23 qualify for the 2017 USA Basketball 3×3 national tournament in August, 2017.
There were two outdoors courts set up near Philips Arena, home of the NBA Atlanta Hawks. There is one goal per court.
''That's how you learned how to play basketball, 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 in the driveway,'' Williams said.
Players, ages 18 and over, must be invited to participate. Williams looked around and immediately recognized several players.
''A lot of these guys are my peers,'' Williams said. ''This is my neighborhood, guys I grew up playing against in the summer leagues and high school and AAU circuit.''
Payton, 47, played 13 years with the Seattle SuperSonics and won a NBA championship with the Miami Heat. He was a nine-time selection to the NBA's all-defensive team, so it was no surprise he noticed that team play and defense were lacking in the games he saw on Saturday.
''Here you've got to concentrate on playing defense, not losing your man,'' Payton said.
''The only thing I don't like is they're shooting a lot of 3s. It should be an all-around game, go inside and outside.''
Payton says he anticipates 3-on-3 basketball growing. He even had two players from his era in mind to join him on a 3-on-3 Dream Team.
''Reggie Miller and Shaquille O'Neal,'' Payton said. ''Shaquille would post up one time and it would be real hard to stop him. He would back you up and dunk. Then I could kick it out to Reggie and he would make a lot of 3s.
''If they had this in my day, it would have been good because we could have had a lot of fun with this.''
On the web: www.dewnba3x.com