In a clash of the titans, a true El Clasico between the two best 3×3 basketball teams in the world, Ljubljana upset the heavy favorites Al Wahda in the final of Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger, final score 21-17, and won the trophy and the 4000 USD money prize.
Looking for their first success in a major tournament since the last year’s FIBA 3×3 World Tour Final in Abu Dhabi, Al Wahda showed no mercy in the past weeks, when playing in Abu Dhabi 3×3 Quest Final and Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger.
No matter if it was about the team of former NBA player Donte Greene, whom they beat in the Quest Tour or former World Tour teams like Kranj or Lodz, whom they demolished in the Challenger on their way to the final, Al Wahda players were ready to complete the mission.
But Ljubljana stood tall, about 2,14 meters tall – the height of the giant Blaz “The Birdman” Cresnar – who, together with his teammates Alex Kunc, Jasmin Hercegovac and Tomo Caic build a defensive wall against the sharp shooters Dejan Majstorovic and Bojan Davidovac and the slasher, aka Mr. Clutch, aka, the best player in the world, Dusan Bulut.
Not even the grinding defense of Marko Zdero, the usual “crime stopper” of the former champions, couldn’t help Al Wahda to prevent the first important loss in almost two years.
“We’ve put whole our energy and souls into this game, we gave 200 percent, we knew they are the best team in the world but we believed in our chances and we are the happy winners of this amazing tournament”, said in the end Jasmin Hercegovac, the captain of Ljubljana.
All the previous World Tour Final teams reached the semifinals in the Challenger from Abu Dhabi, proving their results from the last year and showing everybody that 3×3 basketball is a totally different discipline compared with his full court elder brother. Not even the former NBA star Donte Greene couldn’t breach the domination of the WT teams, as his team, Abu Dhabi finished 6th, behind the two finalists, Kolobrzeg, Kranj and Lodz.
The basketball show from Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger was completed by Da Move Crew, one of the best freestyle team in the world, who entertained the audience with a class act, involving basketball and football freestyle, dunking, drumming and also parkour.
The rising star on the dunk scene, the Ukrainian Vadym Piddubchenko showed some leaping abilities and handling skills that for sure will take him in the elite of the dunkers in the next years.
Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger was an excellent preview for the pinnacle event that is about to happen in Abu Dhabi at the end of October, 28-29, when the capital city of UAE will host for the second time in a row the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Final.
It will be a crucial year for 3×3 basketball, as based on this season a decision will be taking regarding the inclusion of this discipline in the schedule of the Olympic Games starting with the Tokyo 2020 edition. Top elite tournaments like Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger are heavily contributing to the support of this cause and to the development of 3×3 basketball at a global level.
Abu Dhabi 3×3 Challenger was organized by Abu Dhabi Sports Council together with UAE Basketball Association and was part of the Abu Dhabi Sports Festival 2016.