All we learned from FIBA 3x3 World Tour Final 2021

JEDDAH (Saudi Arabia) - It was the fitting ending this spectacular FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2021 season deserved with the Jeddah Final leaving fans hungry for more. 

As we head into the off-season, let's unpack the 10th edition of the World Tour Final and what we learned from this season's showpiece event. 

Never write off Liman

Powerhouse Liman were unfancied coming into Jeddah. They hadn't won a title all season and never tasted success before at the World Tour Final.

Worryingly, the Serbs had appeared to have fallen back into the pack and perhaps, even worse, on the cusp of being overtaken by hungrier teams. 

But we should have known better. These dudes are 3x3 masters and warriors - remember they won the Debrecen Masters just two years ago without a sub. You just can't write them off even though perhaps they aren't as consistent as at their peak. 

Over two memorable days in Jeddah, Liman wound back the clock led by sharpshooter Stefan Kojic finding his target and MVP Mihailo Vasic being once again bigger and stronger than anyone else. 

They overcame the youthful exuberance of Gagarin in the final to end the season on the ultimate high and cancel out what had been a season of disappointment. 

Even though they appeared to be falling off, a rejuvenated Liman are still very much at the top of 3x3's tree.

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Look out, Gagarin are coming in 2022

Gagarin have been the Jekyll and Hyde team of 3x3. On one hand, they underachieve on the World Tour yet their players dominate in the international arena as underlined by a trio of them having Olympic silver medals. 

But maybe this enigma have finally found their feet on the World Tour. Their semi-final finish in Mexico City could have been just a flash in the pan but they consolidated on that by powering to the final in Jeddah. 

They claimed big scalps against favorite Riga (LAT) and Amsterdam Talent&Pro (NED) in pressure cooker of elimination games. The Russians were pushed to the brink each time yet threw the final punch. 

And they achieved all this despite star Alexander Zuev held scoreless in the final against Liman. His teammates impressively picked up the slack, especially Stanislav Sharov (who led the team in scoring in Jeddah) and Kirill Pisklov (who topped the team in player value).

It wasn't quite a changing of the guard moment because they fell short against Liman but the message is loud and clear.

Gagarin are legit and 2022 is set to be the year they take the World Tour by storm. 

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Antwerp have a semi-final curse

It was a remarkable debut season for Antwerp but throughout this season their goals have shifted. No longer were they satisfied with good performances.

It became quickly evident that they could match it with anyone but finding that first title is proving elusive. Antwerp reached four semis from six attempts on the World Tour this season but fell short on every occasion. 

In Jeddah they agonizingly lost to Liman in a defeat that they will brood over all off-season. In Nick Celis, who was the leading overall scorer in Jeddah, and Thibaut Vervoort the Belgians have a duo that can go toe-to-toe with any but their other two players need to step up.

Rafael Bogaerts and Bryan De Valck combined for just 19 points across 4 games making Antwerp short of firepower when they needed it the most. 

They need to overcome their hoodoo in 2022 otherwise it might start haunting one of 3x3's most exciting teams. 


Karlis Lasmanis is 3x3's best player despite Riga's early exit

Riga had a shock quarter-final exit in Jeddah but it wasn't the fault of Karlis Lasmanis aka 'Batman' who only enhanced his reputation with an insane average of 8.3ppg. 

The 27-year-old has been one of the very best 3x3 players for some time but he has gone up a level in 2021.

Perhaps the confidence he gained at the Tokyo Games, where he delivered a truly epic Olympic moment to clinch Gold for Latvia, has made him even stronger as underlined by his outburst at the backend of the season.

Lasmanis is unstoppable to guard when he's in attack mode with his quick first step able to blow by defenders with ease. But his 2-point stroke, which had always been streaky, is more reliable these days making him truly unguardable and the full package given his size and strength too. 

The regular season MVP finishes 2021 with the crown and his reign might last some time.

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The Pole who again stole the show 

Piotr 'Grabo' Grabowski is the undisputed dunk king after going back to back at the World Tour Final and prevailing in one of the greatest contests against American Brandon 'B-Ruff' Ruffin, who normally would have done enough to take home the title. 

But the Pole's first two dunks in the final were perfect scores as his insane vertical leap somehow looks like it's added another inch or two. 'Grabo' has given dunk contests a new measuring stick and his rivals need to plot something special in the off-season to match 3x3's dunk king. 

You just know 'Grabo' will be spending his time wisely and devising new dunks that will leave us all speechless. 

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