A search on Google for the number of champions in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup would yield a pretty short list.
The tournament has had only four editions so far and Serbia, who’s won three of those, will be gunning for their fourth title this year in Bocaue, Bulacan. The European heavyweights are once again pegged as favorites to win it all for they’ll be bannering the four top-ranked 3×3 players in Dejan Majstorovic, Marko Savic, Dusan Domovic Bulut and Stefan Stojacic.
2014 was the only year that Serbia didn’t bag the trophy after Qatar eked out an 18-13 win in a physical finals matchup. The next two tournaments weren’t friendly for Qatar, though, as they were booted by the United States and Slovenia in the quarterfinals of the 2016 and 2017 Worlds.
Serbia raised the first Men’s 3×3 trophy ever in Greece after beating France, 16-13, in the final.
With the game on the line, the team turned to a red-hot Marko Savic. Tied at 12 with only 1:03 left in the game, Savic nailed a two-pointer off a pick-and-pop initiated by Bulut from the right side. After a missed two from France in the ensuing play, Savic again nailed a crucial basket after hitting a floater with 32 seconds left.
A turnover from their rivals and a crack in the middle enabled Savic to explode to the hoop and bank a tough layup, which proved to be the nail in the coffin.
A Qatar gold in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup was the first major international gold for the country, and it didn’t come easy for them. Serbia, which was bent on going back-to-back, retained its core of Savic, Bulut and Marko Zdero and brought current number #1 Dejan Majstorovic on board.
The underdogs, however, weren’t to be estimated. Despite being ranked 23rd out of 24 teams, they were able to advance out of Group B with a 3-2 record and they steamrolled past Estonia (18-10) and Czech Republic (21-17) while bucking a challenge from Lithuania (14-13) to face the defending champs in the final.
Both teams were tied at 12 with under 2:30 left until a reverse lay-in from Erfan Saeed off a pass on a pick-and-roll set from Boney Watson broke the deadlock. A minute later, Saeed shook his defender off in the post to nail a turnaround jumper for a two-point lead. Serbia kept firing blanks in their next possessions and with 58 seconds left, Watson drew a foul on his defender on a tough layup and knocked down a free throw for a three-point play.
A Bulut layup cut the lead to three, but Ismail Musa came back with a bucket of his own to put Qatar back up by four. Watson then sealed the deal by converting another layup over the outstretched arms of Bulut.
Clearly raring to bounce back from that shock defeat two years ago, Serbia retained their four-man lineup and barreled their way to the finals once more after they posted a 4-0 record in Group A, obliterated Netherlands in the quarterfinals (22-10) and fended off Spain (17-13) in the semifinals.
Faced against a physical and athletic United States squad, the Serbians relied on familiarity and fundamentals to book the win. A Bulut two off a broken play broke the tie and gave them a 15-13 lead with four minutes left in the game, then a long bomb from Majstorovic on the right arc with the shot clock running out put them up by four. Bulut then weaved a pass to a cutting Savic for an 18-13 lead.
US trimmed the deficit to just three, 19-16, after a Stefhon Hannah two, but that was the last time that the Americans scored. Serbia then had the possession and controlled the rock on the right side, with a bigger Myke Henry switched onto Bulut. That mismatch mattered little as he stepped back and splashed the two to finish the game. He was later crowned the tournament’s MVP.
“Superman wears Dusan Bulut pajamas to bed!”
Bulut scored the title-clinching shot for the second straight year as they edged the Netherlands, 21-18, in the championship game. Serbia was red-hot once more as they swept Group A, beat US in a rematch of the 2016 finals (17-14) and hammered France (22-11) in the semifinals.
The Netherlands, however, almost gave them a run for their money late in the title match. Serbia was up by five, 18-13, and their opponents were in penalty, giving them an even slighter edge. But a catch-and-shoot two and a wide-open lane for a layup by Joey Schelvis put the challengers within two. Majstorovic drove for a lay-in to hike the lead back to three, but another Schelvis two-pointer on a right-side isolation put Netherlands within one, 19-18.
A one-legged fadeaway from Majstorovic in the final gave Serbia a bit of cushion, then they forced a shot clock violation on the other end. This set the stage for Bulut, who crossed his defender on his way to the rack for the game-winner.