MIES (Switzerland) - 2021 was an unforgettable year in 3x3 and we look back at 10 men who took the new Olympic discipline to another level.
Karlis Lasmanis (Riga, Latvian national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Olympic Gold medal, Abu Dhabi Masters, Mexico City Masters Personal Accolades: Abu Dhabi Masters MVP, Mexico City Masters MVP, FIBA 3x3 World Tour regular season MVP, No.1 World Tour top scorer, best player value, Team of the World Tour (Best Player Value) Age: 27 World Rank: 3
It will be known forever as 'The Shot'. The iconic moment that was seen worldwide and will always be part of Olympic history.
And, of course, it had to be Karlis Lasmanis aka 'Batman' who put on his cape and had nerves of steel to hit the winning two-piece to power Latvia to the first ever 3x3 Olympic Gold medal.
Lasmanis has been one of the very best 3x3 players for a while but it feels like he jumped a level in the backend of this season, where he had a hot streak that included back-to-back World Tour MVPs.
Nauris Miezis (Riga, Latvian national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Olympic Gold medal, Abu Dhabi Masters, Mexico City Masters Personal Accolades: Olympic Qualifying Tournament MVP, No.1 World Tour key assists Age: 30 World Rank: 2
Nauris Miezis aka 'Robin' gets plenty of love from the real ones. We all know Latvia wouldn't have won Olympic Gold without the brilliant Miezis, who is just as valuable as Lasmanis.
Miezis hasn't lost his step and can still fool defenders with his killer crossover and rip their souls by draining daggers.
And his long partnership with Lasmanis represents everything great about 3x3 with the duo so in sync that they can basically read each other's minds. He may not have received the glory that his fellow superhero did, but no one deserved Olympic Gold more than Nauris Miezis.
Angel Matias (San Juan PCI Group, Puerto Rican national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Lausanne Masters Personal Accolades: Lausanne Masters MVP, No.1 World Tour buzzer beaters Age: 29 World Rank: 23
3x3 pioneers Puerto Rico had long been an afterthought after a period in the wilderness until San Juan PCI Group came from nowhere to win the Lausanne Masters in one of the most surprising victories in years.
And that was just the start of their revival with San Juan proving it was no fluke as they became one of the best teams on the World Tour while Puerto Rico finished fourth at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup 2021.
Much of their remarkable comeback can be attributed to Angel Matias, who is a certified Bad Boy for life. The dude stands up in the big moments and his slew of Tissot Buzzer Beaters in Lausanne proved he's an assassin and should be considered to be the next James Bond.
Puerto Rican 3x3 roared back to life in 2021 largely thanks to the confidence and swagger of Angel Matias, who willed them back to relevance.
Thibaut Vervoort (Antwerp, Belgian national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Lipik Challenger, Riga Challenger, Poitiers Challenger Personal Accolades: Team of the World Tour (Player Value) Age: 24 World Rank: 6
The Belgian sniper emerged as the breakout star of 3x3 with an unforgettable debut season where he led Belgium into the Tokyo Olympics (where he scored an unbelievable 3 buzzer beaters) and fuelled surprise packets Antwerp's rise into a leading contender on the World Tour.
His nickname 'Must See TV' might have raised some eyebrows initially but it has stuck because you can't take your eyes off Vervoort every time he's on the court. The 6ft. 5in. (1.96m) bull can do it all whether it's dunking on sorry defenders or splashing from deep.
With his long blonde hair and friendly personality, Vervoort looms as a natural star and the best has yet to come.
Przemyslaw Zamojski (Warsaw, Polish national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Europe Cup Bronze Medal Personal Accolades: Europe Cup team of the tournament Age: 24 World Rank: 151
The Pole stole the show at the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2021 with one of the best solo performances of the season with an insane 46-point outburst, including the Tissot Buzzer Beater to win the bronze medal.
If he can start replicating those efforts on the World Tour, then Z will quickly move up the rankings.
Miroslav Pasajlic (Ub, Serbian national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Europe Cup Gold Medal, Debrecen Masters Personal Accolades: Europe Cup MVP, Debrecen Masters MVP Age: 26 World Rank: 16
Serbia is a rotation line of 3x3 stars and up stepped Miroslav Pasajlic from Dusan Bulut's giant shadow to become the country's latest wizardry ball handler.
The strong 6ft. 3in. (1.90m) Pasajlic made his mark in 2021 with eye-catching performances both on the World Tour and internationally. He was brilliant at the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2021 to be the star of stars for Serbia, while he led new sensation Ub to their breakthrough Masters victory in Debrecen.
Buckle up, Miroslav Pasajlic is just getting started.
Arvin Slagter (Amsterdam Talent&Pro, Dutch national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Doha Masters Personal Accolades: Doha Masters MVP, Olympic Qualifying Tournament team of the tournament Age: 36 World Rank: 14
Arvin Slagter kicked off the season with a lights out effort in Doha to announce himself and Amsterdam Talent&Pro as the real deal in 2021. The sniper is one of the best sharpshooters in 3x3 as he proved by winning the shoot-out contest at the Europe Cup.
There might not be a more terrifying sight for opponents than seeing Arvin Slagter wide open from deep.
Alexander Zuev (Gagarin, Russia/ROC national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Olympic Silver Medal Personal Accolades: No.7 overall scoring Olympics Age: 25 World Rank: 29
We know he's been more hyped than Spider-Man: No Way Home but we've tried to tell you for some time. Alexander Zuev is legit and the dude showed his skills on the biggest stage at the Tokyo Olympics to claim a silver medal.
The 25-year-old helped Gagarin make the leap with a terrific end to the season where they finished runners-up at the World Tour Final. The 'Russian Roulette' is the complete package but his growing maturity is what stood out.
You feel Alexander Zuev will use 2021 as a springboard to even greater things next year.
Strahinja Stojacic (Ub, Serbia national team) Trophy Cabinet in 2021: Debrecen Masters, Montreal Masters Personal Accolades: Montreal Masters MVP, No.1 World Tour Highlights, Dunks and Drives Age: 29 World Rank: 1
He's no little brother anymore. For years, Stojacic was overshadowed by big bro Stefan Stojacic aka 'Mr Robot' who lit up the World Tour for years for Liman.
But Stojacic has overtaken 'Mr Robot' after an incredible season where he played with such confidence he became a human a highlight reel and one of the most entertaining players on the circuit.
His increased bounce was notable as he showed by continually putting defenders in body bags. Stojacic's swagger powered Ub to the best win/loss ratio of the season with the promise of more to come in 2022.
Deservedly, the new No.1 ranked player sits on 3x3's throne to end 2021.
Marco Lehmann (Lausanne, Swiss national team) - He deserves to be mentioned for the courage to make his coming-out at the beginning of the year and also for inspiring unpredictable Lausanne to the knockout stages of the World Tour Final.
Keyonte George (USA) - The Insanely talented 18-year-old showed why he is destined for the NBA by winning MVP at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup 2021.