Top 10 3x3 moments in Utsunomiya
With more anticipation than the belated release of Top Gun: Maverick, let's count down the days and build the excitement by looking back at the 10 best moments from Utsunomiya, the historical treasure in Japan and a favorite 3x3 destination.
Kilganon's impossible scorpion dunk (2016)
This just has to top the list of the sickest things ever seen in Utsunomiya. There's a good reason why this crazy Canadian is called'Mission Impossible'. Not even Tom Cruise would risk attempting this ridiculous stunt.
In a dunk off against Filipino Rey Guevarra, Kilganon had to take this to another level so he tapped into his signature slam - the scorpion dunk. As if jumping on a trampoline, he soared over two dudes then somehow twisted his arm around to complete a perfect dunk.
Oh and did I mention that he wasn't even looking at the rim. Does he have eyes at the back of his head? Maybe. It's the only logical explanation for how he pulled off a physically impossible dunk.
Novi Sad's heroics (2016)
3x3's GOAT team for many years were emperors in Utsunomiya. None better than in 2016 when they went supernova after a slow start when the Serbs were shocked by Doha in the opener.
With the Serbs facing elimination, Dusan Bulut put the cape on and teamed up with partner in crime Dejan Majstorovic aka 'the Maestro' as they combined for 17 points to get past Al Gharafa 21-17.
But the knockout stage is so often when Novi Sad puts the foot down. And they did exactly that on day 2 as they swept the field and easily beat Piran 21-13 in the final. Bulut might never have been better having hit game winners against Al Gharafa, Malaga in the quarters and Piran en route to an MVP.
And he rounded off his two-day winning spree by taking out the shoot-out contest.
It kick-started a memorable run for Novi Sad in Utsunomiya.
Savic plays hero in epic final (2017)
After their defeat in 2016, Piran were out for revenge in a re-match against their old rivals and they took Novi Sad to the brink in an epic final.
Ten minutes couldn't separate these two proud teams desperate for the W. So OT was needed and the Slovenians appeared in the box team to take the crown when Simon Finzgar aka ' the Sphinx' seemed set to launch an attempted game winner from behind the arc but he lost the ball.
He managed to save it from going out of bounds but Bulut desperately put his body on the line and dived on the court to gain a turnover. He then dished it to Marko Savic who had an open lane to the bucket and he clinched Novi Sad's title with a beautiful finger roll.
Savic went down on his knees, roared like a lion and soon was mobbed by his teammates while Piran couldn't quite believe it. Novi Sad again proved their greatness by going back-to-back in Utsunomiya.
Jordan Southerland melts down dunk contest (2018)
There is good reason why Jordan Southerland has been described as the best dunker in the world. For starters, his first name probably suggests he's destined for greatness.
And like MJ, this American high-flyer sets tongues wagging during dunk contests. None more so than in 2018 in Utsunomiya when he delivered a dunking masterclass.
His highlight reel included hanging on the rim while seemingly performing gymnastics, the scorpion dunk and bouncing the ball between his legs for a thunderous slam to outlast Brodie Stephens, whose amazing dunks of his own normally would have powered him to the title.
Words can't describe Southerland's insanity. Just hit play below and enjoy.
Liman's incredible comeback over Humpolec (2018)
We all know Liman are warriors and these dudes will fight to the death. No lead is safe against them. As poor old Humpolec found out the hard way during the quarter-finals in 2018. Not once, but twice.
The underdogs stormed out of the gates with a quick 11-3 lead before Liman came charging back. Not to worry, as Humpolec steadied and they were on the brink of a famous upset leading 20-16.
But you have to knockout Liman. Humpolec froze trying to hit the game winner and an ice cold Stefan Stojacic capitalized and reduced the deficit to 20-19 when he banked a two.
After forcing a turnover, Liman gave it to the reliable hands of Stojacic who drained the buzzer beater from two to pull off the biggest heist since the Joker in the beginning of The Dark Knight.
'Mr Robot' incredibly scored five points in 35 seconds as Liman delivered a comeback for the ages and almost inevitably their momentum carried them to one of their most memorable Masters titles.
Olympic Gala (2019)
This was a historic moment when on November 1, 2019, ahead of the season ending Utsunomiya Final, FIBA announced the four teams per gender directly qualified to the Tokyo Olympics during a gala ceremony.
FIBA President Hamane Niang, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis and former NBA star Andrei Kirilenko attended the gala which also featured several renowned Japanese performers.
3x3's Olympic debut, of course, had the be delayed by 12 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the wait was well worth it!
Novi Sad wins fourth World Tour Final (2019)
Never write off a champion. We all learned this the hard way in 2019 when Novi Sad came into the showpiece Utsunomiya Final under pressure after a patchy season.
They appeared set for an ugly exit after an opening thrashing at the hands of Princeton and were on the brink of elimination against Zemun before prevailing in OT.
But Novi Sad love nothing more than elimination games and in the nick of time they rediscovered the magic of old with victories over Sakiai and fellow power Riga, who were hoping to sit on the throne.
Setting up a re-match against Princeton, in a thrilling final, Novi Sad again proved they are all cash when the game is on the line to score the last five points to win 21-17 and claim the biggest prize on the World Tour.
Their record fourth World Tour Final victory capped a decade of dominance for Novi Sad, who were 3x3's undisputed best team in the 2010s.
Rivera upsets 'Smoove' to win dunk contest (2019)
There must be something in the air in Utsunomiya because there have been so many lit dunk contests overs the years.
Add this to the collection when Isaiah Rivera, nicknamed "baby face", shocked the field to upstage dunk legend Dmitry 'Smoove' Krivenko, who is one of the best to ever do it.
To beat 'Smoove', the 22-year-old needed a perfect performance and he delivered under pressure through his insane 46 inch vertical. He made 360 degree dunks between his legs and wrap around over a volunteer look easy to just pip 'Smoove' who had several outrageous dunks of his own in a battle royale.
Grab yourself some popcorn, relax and enjoy the show.
The World Tour is played in amazing places around the world. Some are famous or glitzy while others are historical and beautiful like in Utsunomiya, where the event is played at Futaarayama Jinja Shrine and starts with a truly memorable opening ceremony.
The highlight is the Mikoshi purification ceremony, which represents rites that help bring peace and harmony to the area.
It symbolises 3x3's embrace of different cultures as the World Tour journeys through some of the most inspiring places in the world.
Money Shot (2019)
You still haven't gotten this catchy song by RUN THE FLOOR out of your head, right? Rappers Awich and kZm stole the show with their hit 'Money Shot', which was the official song at the Utsunomiya Final and a celebration of 3x3.
Have a listen again but be warned you'll be humming the beat all day long!