Patrick Reusse
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There would be good humor required to suggest there is a traditional form of 3-on-3 basketball, since the true source would be that six has been the perfect number for pickup games on playgrounds, YMCA/YWCAs and any other place where there's a hard surface and a hoop since Hank Luisetti started taking jump shots.

Yet, the form of 3x3 now set to be played as a medal sport in its second Olympics has proved to be something of an international sensation in this new century.

Countries that the U.S. men would be humbled to lose to in the five-player game are often worthy opponents in 3x3. The U.S. men did not qualify for the eight-team tournament in Tokyo in the summer of 2020, with Latvia winning the gold medal.

There was a recent piece here featuring Sean Sweeney, a Dallas Mavericks assistant and part of a three-gunner backcourt with Joe Mauer and Steve Sir for Cretin-Derham Hall in 2001.

We kept excellent track of Mauer in these parts. You know where Sir is these days?

He's the national coach and player development director for 3x3 basketball in Mongolia, men's and women's. He earned a big reputation in the three-player game in Canada. Now, at 41, he still plays on the World Tour with Mongolia.

Kareem Maddox, 34, works in basketball operations for the Timberwolves. When Sir was mentioned, Maddox said: "Everyone knows Steve. He's a 3x3 legend."

So is Maddox, a 6-foot-8 graduate of Princeton, where he played four years and was the Ivy League defensive player of the year as a senior in 2011.

Tim Connelly's brother Dan was an assistant coach there. When Tim was hired as the Wolves' basketball boss in 2022, he gave Maddox a job for "special projects."

The schedule for those duties has to be very flexible, since Maddox has been full bore on the 3x3 international circuit for a half-dozen years.

He was part of the four-man U.S. team that suffered a shocking loss to the Netherlands and missed the Tokyo Games.

Kareem Maddox, Team USA 3x3 player.
Kareem Maddox, Team USA 3x3 player.

Canyon Barry, Rick's youngest son, was also on the team. This year, Maddox and Barry teamed up with Jimmer Fredette, the legendary shooter from BYU, and Dylan Travis for their latest 3x3 effort. They cruised through qualifying and into the Paris Olympics with success in international tournaments.

The Olympic-style game is played half-court, with the ball coming back to the 22-foot arc for a reset. Field goals inside the arc and free throws are one point. A shot from behind the arc is two.

Games are played to 21 points, or 10 minutes, whichever comes first.

"With only three, a player has to be able to do everything — rebound, defend, shoot," Maddox said. "It is super physical. And with a 12-second shot clock, it can be exhausting."

One bench player available. That's it.

"My dad, Alan, has been a huge Olympics fan all his life," Maddox said. "He's gone to as many Olympics as possible. I picked that up from him. Being in Paris to compete, that's going to be a thrill for all of us."

Another Minnesota connection in Paris?

There was more 3x3 news announced last week when Napheesa Collier of the Lynx and Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty were announced as founders of "Unrivaled," a one-month league for WNBA players that would play in January in an arena being built in Miami.

Collier has played the Olympic version of 3x3, going back to when she was in Junior Olympics, but this is a different game.

"It will be with two baskets, but on a court about two-thirds the size of regulation," Collier said this week. "So much of our game in the WNBA is in the paint — 'Stew' and I think taking those two bodies out of there, it really will give some of the best players in the world a chance to showcase all our skills."

There are strong investors behind Unrivaled, and this will be a chance for WNBA players to earn high salaries without being required to go to Europe or Asia in the offseason.

"This is about basketball and also about [pay] equity," Collier said.

It's very likely that Collier also will be in Paris, although as a member of Cheryl Reeve's roster for the traditional Olympic team. The roster might not be announced until early July.

The U.S. women did win the first Olympic gold in 3x3 in Tokyo three years ago, led by Kelsey Plum. The 2024 Paris women's team also has yet to be announced.

"I really like playing 3x3, but not for Paris," Collier said. "I want to be on the final five [-player] team."