3x3 has been a basketball format long played in streets and gyms across the world, albeit in a less formal way. Starting in the late 1980s, three-on-three began to become standardized throughout the United States, most notably through the Gus Macker and Hoop It Up tournament series, which held large events across the country that invited teams and players from all skill levels. Since then, the number of 3x3 events and competitions has been steadily growing all around the world.

FIBA took the decision to first test 3x3 at the 2007 Asian Indoor Games. Yet, it was not until 2010 at the Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore when 3x3 made its worldwide competitive debut. The competition featured 20 teams in both boys' and girls' categories. The competition was held at the Youth Space, Singapore. Since then World Championships in both open and U18 categories are held on a regular basis. After the success in Singapore, FIBA launched a full programme to make 3x3 a standalone discipline with its own regular competitions. 3x3 is scheduled to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics.