The 10 most memorable underdog stories in 3x3 World Tour history

21 Aug 2020

MIES (Switzerland) - You know what is so great about 3x3? Underdogs can go all the way due to the 21-point game's short time frame and inherent craziness. Lower ranked teams can often end up holding the trophy and we've seen that happen plenty of times before on the World Tour.

Let's celebrate the top 10 best underdog stories in World Tour history.

10) Sakiai Gulbele (#7 seed) - World Tour Montreal Masters 2019

Everyone knew the Lithuanians had talent but few expected them to go all the way in Canada and clinch their first-ever Masters. They started with a gut-wrenching 21-20 loss against powerhouse Liman and survived early elimination with an overtime victory over Sao Paulo.

The events on a dramatic opening day strengthened them with a dazzling knockout run. They breezed past Zemun in the quarters but were major underdogs against world No.1 Novi Sad in the semis.

The one-two punch of MVP Marijus Uzupis and Paulius Beliavicius sunk the Serbs and also stunned crowd favorites Edmonton in a one-sided final.


9) Edmonton (#7 seed) - World Tour Nanjing Masters 2019

The new Canadian team might be the best seventh seed in history. No one was really shocked when they triumphed in China because Edmonton had been dangerous all season but frustratingly kept stumbling at the knockout stages.

In a loaded Nanjing Masters - where most of the world's top teams competed - Edmonton defeated powerhouse Riga Ghetto in the semis before beating 6th seed Sakiai Gulbele in the final to gain revenge for the heartbreaking home loss in Montreal. They rode the hot shooting of MVP Steve Sir who was shouting "yessirrr" all tournament from deep.

A North American powerhouse had truly emerged.


8) Sao Paulo DC (#7 seed) – World Tour Rio de Janeiro Masters 2014

Playing in their home country surely helped, but was no guarantee to provide victory for Sao Paulo DC with six of the 12 teams in the event from Brazil.

They were still utterly dominant and swept aside opponents until the semis when they faced a grudge game against arch-rival Sao Paulo. It didn't disappoint and turned out to be a classic - one that will forever be known as the 'Diguinho game'.

Rodrigo Diguinho Del'arco, Brazil’s No.1 3x3 player at the time, was unstoppable with 12 points as DC won a thriller 19-17. It was the only time they were tested with Sao Paulo DC clinching the title with an easy 21-12 victory over Santos as Diguinho somehow got better with 14 points, including six two-pieces.


7) Trbovlje aka Piran (#7 seed) - World Tour Lausanne Masters 2014

Few could have predicted Trbovlje (now known as Piran)'s fairy-tale run when they lost to No.2 seed Kranj first up in a tight 20-18 result. But the result strengthened the Slovenians, who won a tough quarterfinal against Belgrade 17-15 with Gasper Ovnik aka 'the teacher' schooling opponents before thrashing Marburg 21-9 in the semis.

In a Slovenian showdown rematch, Trbovlje gained revenge with a dramatic 17-16 victory. The teams couldn't be split after regulation but Simon Finzgar was the hero with a brilliant off-balance two-pointer to spark scenes of jubilation for Trbovlje.

It was not the last time Finzgar provided heroics on the World Tour.


6) Jakarta (#9 seed) - World Tour Tokyo Masters 2013

The first World Tour event of 2013 proved one of the most dramatic with Jakarta coming from the lowly seed of nine to claim glory. It was initially hard pressed to see the Indonesians making much noise after losing their final group game to limp into the knockout stages.

Then they turned it on and squeezed past Beirut 14-12 in the quarters with sharpshooter Fandi Ramadhani hitting some timely buckets before quieting the local fans by knocking out Kawasaki in the semis.

They continued to play party pooper in the final with a tense 16-15 victory over Nagoya. In one of the most dramatic finishes imaginable, Wijaya Saputra missed two free throws attempting to clinch the title for Jakarta but made up for it with a spectacular block on the buzzer - following a huge rejection by Effendi - as Jakarta defied all the odds in the beautiful venue that will be showcased during next year's Olympic Games.


5) NY Staten (#9 seed) - World Tour San Juan Masters 2013

As has been the case with many of these underdog triumphs, there was a road bump early. NY Staten sandwiched two comprehensive victories with a loss to Saskatoon but still qualified to the knockout stages.

They produced scintillating performances when it mattered most by easily beating compatriots Denver and Philadelphia to storm into the final. In a rematch against Saskatoon, NY Staten had all the answers this time around to run away with a convincing 21-15 victory led by monster efforts from physical marvels Julius Coles and Zaire Taylor.

It wrapped up a decisive tournament triumph and make a mockery of their low seeding.


4) Caguas (#10 seed) - World Tour Mexico City Masters 2016

There hasn't been many more emotional moments on the World Tour than this. The Puerto Rican team dedicated their performance to Andy Ortiz Jr, who died the previous year following a car accident.

He was part of Sam Juan's victory at the World Tour 2012 Final alongside Jonathan Garcia, who played in Mexico City. With so much to play for, a Garcia-led Caguas were inspired in Mexico City and survived some tight games against NY Harlem (group stage) and Minnesota (quarters) to storm into the final.

Once again pitted against the New Yorkers, Caguas might have had some divine intervention when Luis Martinez hit a tough contested corner two-pointer to win his team the title and prove dreams do come true.

"It was like an angel was here," García said after the game.

Those who watched will never forget courageous Caguas' magical run in Mexico City.


3) Manila West (#10 seed) - World Tour Manila Masters 2014

Buoyed by their hoops-crazy fans, Manila West produced one of the most memorable underdog efforts. They did it the hard way after losing in the pool stage to No.2 Doha before momentum built in the knockout stages culminating with a semifinal upset over top-ranked Jakarta where excitement machine Terrence Romeo electrified the fans.

Once again meeting Doha, there would be no stopping Manila West who were possessed in the final by possibly the loudest crowd ever seen on the World Tour. A two-point barrage from the Filipino team made the fans louder than karaoke night to fuel Manila West's 21-17 victory and kick-start scenes of ecstasy.

The party in Manila lasted long into the night.


2) Chicago (#11 seed) - World Tour Americas 2016

This wasn't really a shock with the supremely talented Chicago boasting future NBA players and human highlight reels Alfonzo McKinnie and Myke Henry.

Chicago came into the event red hot with a perfect 17-0 record in the US since debuting just a few months earlier. They had to work hard first up against Rio Preto to keep the streak going but the 21-19 victory was the most they were pushed during an absolutely dominant run.

They edged No.5 seed Joinville 20-16 in the semi before raising their game to perfection in the decider to easily beat top seed Sao Paulo 21-13 with MVP Henry completely unstoppable at the basket.


1) Wukesong (#11 seed) – World Tour Beijing 2014

The Chinese team set the underdog standard on the World Tour with a memorable unbeaten campaign to claim the title on home soil. They stormed through to the semis untroubled until facing top seed Yokohama.

Their golden run on several occasions looked over but the dynamic Chris Reaves was unstoppable and produced a spectacular defensive sequence in the dying seconds followed by the dime to Cong Wang at the buzzer for the 13-12 win.

Reaves had a two-piece party in the final en route to a 14-point onslaught as Wukesong won the title with a 21-10 thrashing of No.2 seed Nagoya.

Six years on, Wukesong's giant killing run has not been surpassed on the World Tour.

Not yet.