In The Sport’s Olympic Debut, USA Basketball Claims First-Ever 3x3 Gold Medal In Tokyo
by Kara Tanner
(L-R) Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Jackie Young and Stefanie Dolson on the podium after winning gold in women's 3x3 basketball at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Put their names in the history books.
In 3x3 basketball’s debut at the Olympic Games, Team USA made history defeating the Russian Olympic Committee, 18-15, in the gold medal game.
Armored with WNBA stars, Team USA’s Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces) and Jackie Young (Las Vegas Aces) took down Russia at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo Wednesday night.
"It is incredible," said Dolson. "Basketball runs deep in the USA and to pull this off and win gold is incredible.”
"An (Olympic) gold medal, that’s like top tier of my career," said Gray. "I think the only way to top this is to win another gold medal. I don’t think any other accomplishment of my career can top this. The gold medal sits at the very top.”
The No. 1 ranked urban team sport in the world is 3x3 basketball, and it’s now a part of the Olympic program.
Along with skateboarding, surfing, and climbing, 3x3 has been added to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in an effort engage the younger generation. With a 12-second shot clock and game time of just 10 minutes, 3x3 is fast, and it’s physical.
“This group has worked so hard and put a lot of time into learning this game,” said Plum. “This game is not easy…and I just think what a great sport to debut at the Olympics and we’re proud to bring home gold.”
But the journey to the gold medal game wasn’t easy for Team USA. Prior to Tuesday, the U.S. had gone undefeated in pool play.
On Tuesday, the U.S. fell to host Japan, 20-18, but the loss still earned them a bye into Wednesday’s semifinal game against France with their 6-1 record, good for first place.
In a hard-fought semifinal game against the French – USA came out victorious with a 18-16 win.
But France didn’t go down without a fight. Their opponents came out aggressive and physical, but the U.S. had too much on the line to let another loss and a gold medal slip through their fingers.
“We had some shots that didn't go in, some free throws that we missed,” said Dolson “So it was our defense that kind of kept us in the game and then, ultimately, won it for us.”
Gray and Plum were the team’s leading scorers in the semifinal game – both with six points. Dolson added five points and eight rebounds.
Just a few hours after their win over France, Team USA was back in action – this time for gold.
As the women walked out onto the court, the atmosphere was electric – literally. As flashes of lightening in the far distance lit up the sky, you could feel the excitement in the air.
This was it. These final 10 minutes would be the difference between gold and silver.
Dolson, or Big Mama Stef as many like to call her, led the team with seven points, including 4-of-6 from the free throw line and nine rebounds. Team USA converted eight of 11 free throws, which ended up putting the team in perfect position to earn the gold. Team USA defeated Russia 18-15.
“To win a gold medal for our country, it’s the goal we’ve looked to accomplish since we were kids,” said Dolson. “I’m proud of this team, and proud to be a part of this group of girls. I’m happy that we fought through it and were able to get the gold.”
For Plum, this moment meant something a little more.
“I didn’t think I would be here,” said Plum.
After tearing her Achilles in June 2020, Plum was sure her dreams of winning Olympic gold were over. But with the Games delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had time to recovery and come back in full force on the court.
“I fought my way back, and I just feel really grateful and blessed to have the opportunity,” said Plum. “USA Basketball, they could’ve quit on me. They could’ve taken somebody else, and they didn’t and I’m just really grateful.”
While this is USA Basketball’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games, it hopefully will not be their last.
The men’s and women’s 5x5 teams will continue their bid for gold through the remainder of the Olympic Games. The U.S. women’s team is aiming for history as they go for their seventh consecutive gold medal.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.
Kara Tanner is a sports journalist and creative based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is the head digital content manager and editor for TeamUSA.org.