Players and coaches reflect on the legacy of Patrick Baumann, the man who played a pivotal role in bringing basketball 3x3 to the Olympic Games.
The preliminary rounds of the Buenos Aires 2018 3x3 basketball competitions may have continued as usual on Sunday but the mood around Parque Mujeres Argentinas was sombre as athletes and coaches mourned the sudden death of Patrick Baumann.
“I met him at so many events - the women’s national 3x3 championships in Italy, world championships - everyone knew him and what he had done for basketball,” said Andrea Capobianco, coach of Italy’s men’s 3x3 team at the Youth Olympic Games. “He was a shining light in the basketball community. It’s very sad news for everyone in the sporting world.”
He was a shining light in the basketball community. It’s very sad news for everyone in the sporting worldAndrea Capobianco Coach of Italy (men)
Baumann, 51, was a member of the International Olympic Committee and the secretary general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). He was heavily involved in launching and popularising the ‘urban’ 3x3 format.
Niks Salenieks, who is competing for Latvia’s men’s 3x3 team in Buenos Aires, described how Baumann’s influence had helped to introduce basketball to new communities in his country over the past few years.
“Back home, we call it ‘ghetto basket’ and every summer it’s now played by hundreds of people in Riga every Saturday,” Salenieks said. “So just in our country, his legacy is huge. I’ve only been playing this sport for three years and, without him, I would not be here at the Youth Olympics. It was a big shock when we heard the news this morning.”
Without him, I would not be here at the Youth OlympicsNiks Salenieks Latvia
Other athletes felt that one of Baumann’s biggest achievements was creating a format for the sport which opened basketball up to athletes of all body types and sizes.
“Everybody can play 3x3,” said Sam Hofman, who is competing for Belgium’s men’s 3x3 team at the YOG. “You don’t have to be seven feet tall. So having it as an international format has given so many more people the chance to play this sport at the highest level. And that’s opened it up to new countries too. Belgium’s not a big basketball nation, we’ve never been to the Olympics for this sport, but in 3x3 we’ve made some great strides. So while the news is incredibly sad, I think that’s an amazing legacy for him to have.”
Belgium’s not a big basketball nation, we’ve never been to the Olympics for this sport, but in 3x3 we’ve made some great strides. So while the news is incredibly sad, I think that’s an amazing legacy for him to haveSam Hofman Belgium
Some athletes admitted they are too young to realise the full scale of Baumann’s contributions to their sport. But it was unanimously felt that his biggest legacy of all will prove to be the role he played in bringing 3x3 basketball to the Olympic Games, beginning at Tokyo 2020.
“As teenagers, we were probably a bit naive, but just hearing today about the opportunities which he provided for us and future kids coming up in basketball, we’re so grateful,” said Suzi-Rose Deegan, who is competing for Australia’s women’s 3x3 side in Buenos Aires. “The legacy he’s left behind through getting this format into the Olympics will last for ever. He’s created another pathway to elite basketball, and given so many more kids the opportunities.”
Deegan said that Baumann’s vision was particularly revolutionary because 3x3 basketball allows youngsters who grow up playing basketball in the street to make the most of their unique skill sets.
The legacy he’s left behind through getting this format into the Olympics will last for ever. He’s created another pathway to elite basketball, and given so many more kids the opportunitiesSuzi-Rose Deegan Australia
“You can go down with your mates and play 3x3 because usually nobody has 10 players,” she said. “Because it’s a street ball, some styles just really suit it, the spatial awareness, the freedom to do what you want, and having it at the elite level is giving people with those skills, who maybe don’t really fit the structure of 5x5, the chances to make the most of what they’ve got and make it big. The future of 3x3 will be incredible, and that’s thanks to him. I think what he achieved was inspirational.”