Wilson Sporting Goods has committed long-term to FIBA, as the two companies have extended their partnership through 2028 with an eye on growing 3×3 basketball.
Already the number-one selling basketball in the U.S., Wilson sees 3×3 as an in-road into the global market, said Kevin Murphy, Wilson general manager of team sports. The two companies have been partners since 2015, but Murphy believes now is the time to deepen those ties even further now that 3×3 basketball will become an official Olympic sport beginning in the 2020 Tokyo games.
“While we’re number one in the U.S., we want to be number one globally,” he said. “This relationship with FIBA helps introduce us to the world. There’s not a region in the world [where] FIBA 3×3 isn’t being played.”
The fast-paced, half-court basketball game is already popular in Europe and Asia, and growing in the U.S. with tournaments like the 3X3U National Championship. Murphy believes the Tokyo Olympic Games will be a solid kick-start for 3×3 basketball globally but specifically in the Americas as more consumers are introduced to the sport.
“3×3 is the largest urban sport in the world and growing at a fast rate,” Wilson President Mike Dowse said in a statement. “This game is exciting to play and fun to watch, and we are thrilled to be at the center of the action for many more years to come.
“FIBA is a tremendous partner and we look forward to working with players and teams globally to look for more ways we can enhance their play through our products and services.”
Murphy credits the game’s rise due to its accessibility and quick pace, both of which are commodities in a world with countless options for entertainment.
“It’s easy to do. You can jump into a tournament, join a league,” Murphy said. “It’s really fun and not expensive to play. We’ve been with FIBA since 2015, and the world sure has changed a lot. People want 10 to 15 minutes of action, results quickly.
“FIBA’s vision is really coming true right now in how it resonates with consumers.”
One of the centerpieces of the new agreement is the FIBA 3×3 Game Ball, developed by Wilson’s innovation arm, Wilson LABS. The ball is engineered for the variety of climates and conditions the game can be played in, most notably open-air street courts. More specifically, Wilson innovators built the “Wave Triple Threat Technology” into the ball, which is 24 additional grooves for more grip points. That innovation plus a little extra weight is expected to improve control and shooting during the “quick and rough” games.
“3×3 is a different sport,” Murphy said. “It’s not played controlled conditions, per se. [It could be] playing in the streets. It could be dusty, rainy, windy. We developed a ball that players like to play with in basically any condition.”
According to FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis, product innovation has been an important aspect of the partnership with Wilson, who will also design a special-edition ball for Tokyo. FIBA held its first official 3×3 event a decade ago and has now grown it into a multi-million person community on social media.
“The Wilson Official FIBA 3×3 Game Ball has been an integral part of the tremendous growth of 3×3 basketball on the international stage,” Zagklis said in a release.
While the game differs in many ways from traditional five-on-five basketball, Wilson’s commitment to the 3×3 format won’t take away from the core game most popular in the U.S. Wilson is the official ball of the NCAA Tournament.
“We see it as an extension, a way to grow the sport overall,” Murphy said. “Overall, it’s growing globally, and we don’t see one more 3×3 player as one less five-on-five player. It’s probably incremental.”
With the extension taking the partnership through 2028, Wilson and FIBA will have three Olympic cycles to build the game and the Wilson basketball brand globally. Plans for Tokyo have yet to be finalized, Murphy said, but the long haul is definitely the focus.