By Juan Calvillo
Sports fans watched fast-paced three-on-three basketball while esports fans watched Super Smash Brothers Ultimate players compete on Friday and Saturday at the Los Angeles Street Festival. The event was created in partnership between the LA Times and the International Basketball Federation, FIBA. It is a callback to the original name the association started with, and its role is to govern international competition in basketball. The LA Street Festival had a variety of booths, half-court areas for play and even a section for an esports tournament.
The LA Times joined with FIBA in showcasing the three-on-three basketball game at the festival to introduce the newest Olympic sport to the masses. Myra Marayag, vice president of partnerships at the LA Times, said that the sport has been officially included into the lineup of sports that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would present. She said that the LA Times wanted to help highlight the sport by co-hosting the FIBA World Tour Los Angeles Masters event.
Marayag said that the event is the only one being held in the United States. The majority of the world-wide event was being held in 11 other locations. The three-on-three sport is different than normal basketball, with the game being played on a half-court and each team consisting of four players. Three players are active while one is on the bench.
The game is played to either the regulation 10-minute mark or until one team amasses 21 points. Being added to the Olympics in 2017 as an official sport has made it highly competitive. Players accumulate points specifically for their countries during games that are used for qualification for Olympic teams. The game for the LA Masters ended with the American Princeton three-on-three team clenching victory and becoming the first World Tour Los Angeles Masters winners.
Basketball and three-on-three are both sports that require technique and practice, but they are as different as night and day. The same can be said about traditional sports and what has become the current sensation of esports. The festival had an entire section that was dedicated to esports. Esports Arena, a company that is dedicated to creating arenas that can house and promote esports events, held a Super Smash Brothers Ultimate tournament during the festival. This event had some of the best players from across the country competing for a cash prize of up to 5,000 dollars.
Frank Kelley, director of operations, said that Esports Arena has 8 locations as of now and plan to create close to 50 soon. These are stand-alone arenas, two of which are already in operation in California, and in-store areas that they have created through their association with Wal-Mart. Kelley said the reason these work is because of gamers’ mindsets. “[It’s] about playing games with each other,” said Kelley. He said that when gamers get together, playing becomes about the mutual love of gaming, a sentiment that traditional and esports players seem to embody.
The festival had areas for attendees to polish their basketball skills throughout the grounds. Warm-ups and drills were done for those that wanted to participate in quick games. The LA Kings and the LA Galaxy were even on-hand to round out the sports themed weekend.