The Grand Place (French) or Grote Markt (Dutch) in Brussels, Belgium is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once a large marketplace for European traders. But on Sunday, March 31, the famous square became the center of the 3x3 basketball world for the 2019 Cartoon 3x3 Basketball Championship with 3,000 fans in attendance.
The championship had a local flavor because both teams were from the Benelux, as the hometown Brussels Smurfettes faced off against their rivals, B.C. Miffy from Utrecht, Netherlands.
In a best-of-three series, the Belgian ladies in blue defeated their Dutch rivals two games to one. The scores were 21-12, 15-21 and 21-19.
Game 1: All blue, all Belgian, all Smurfettes
The Smurfettes were the older, more experienced team than B.C. Miffy, and starters Smurfette, Smurfstorm and Smurfblossom raced to a quick 8-0 lead. Smurfette showed she was the sharpshooting specialist by draining three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, extending the lead further.
“I felt really good at shootaround this morning,” Smurfette said in a press conference after the championship. “Even though I was able to make my threes with ease, it wouldn’t be possible without Smurfstorm setting screens for me and blocking shots on defense. And Smurfblossom is one heck of a point guard. I love getting her passes. They were on point every time.”
Their Dutch opponents started Miffy, Melanie and Grunty, all of whom were surprised from the opening check. Miffy had trouble guarding Smurfblossom early in the contest and caused two early turnovers.
Melanie was routinely pushed around by Smurfstorm in the low post. Meanwhile, Grunty had problems catching up to Smurfette.
Grunty was also injured after she got caught by a hard screen from Smurfstorm when the score was 10-5. Grunty fell hard and hurt her left hand which forced her to miss the remainder of Game 1 and all of Game 2. B.C. Miffy fans loudly booed that Smurfstorm wasn’t given a technical foul for that hard screen.
Meanwhile, Miffy’s mom, Mother Bunny, was subbed into the game for Grunty. Though she scored six points in Game 1, her impact would truly be felt in Game 2.
Game 2: Mother Bunny dominates as B.C. Miffy’s fourth woman
After the initial shellacking in Game 1 in front of a mostly Belgian and pro-Smurfette crowd, B.C. Miffy regrouped with some key roles changes. Mother Bunny moved to point guard on offense, but kept an eye on Smurfwillow on defense, who replaced Smurfblossom in the second leg.
The strategy worked! Mother Bunny scored 12 points, including three three-pointers to lead B.C. Miffy to a key Game 2 victory over the Smurfettes. Mother Bunny also got two steals which quickly turned into B.C. Miffy baskets.
For much of this game, the Smurfettes put Smurfwillow, the leader of the once Lost Village, as a designated defender on Mother Bunny. But even she was just not enough.
“My prime must have passed me by,” Smurfwillow said after the game. “Mother Bunny just had my number.”
“Mommy taught me a lot about the game of basketball,” Miffy said afterward to reporters from NOS, a Dutch television network. “I’m glad she made a big impact on the court in a big game like this against the Smurfettes.”
At the end of Game 2, Mother Bunny tugged her jersey at B.C. Miffy fans, yelling, “Utrecht, this is for you!”
After the game, Mother Bunny said, “I wanted that performance to be in commemoration for the victims of the tram shooting in the city on March 18. This game and our championship berth are for them!”
Game 3: A wire-to-wire finale and an exciting comeback for the Smurfettes
For the final and deciding game, the Smurfettes and B.C. Miffy exchanged bucket after bucket. Neither team led by more than two points in the final match.
After missing all of Game 2 from getting a stinger from Smurfstorm’s hard screen, Grunty returned for B.C. Miffy. She scored 10 points in their comeback, including a 5-0 run by herself that gave her team a 19-18 lead. From there, Smurfblossom scored a driving layup and the series-clinching three to win it for the Smurfettes.
Postgame: Sportsmanship, chocolate and waffles
After the game, the Smurfettes and B.C. Miffy shook hands while fans of both teams gave them a standing ovation. Though their teams are rivals on the court, they still hold great respect for each other.
Yes, even though Smurfstorm is known to be a little short-tempered, she did ask Grunty if things were all right. Fortunately, Grunty replied, “I’m OK. You did what you had to do in Game 1. I did what I had to do to keep things interesting in Game 3.”
According to Le Soir, a Francophone newspaper in Brussels, Smurfette and Miffy were later spotted checking out some of the newest chocolate pralines at the original Neuhaus shop at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and ate some hot waffles there before saying goodbye.
Happy April Fools' Day!
Although the Smurfettes and B.C. Miffy didn’t actually play a game on Sunday, it is still really cool to imagine how our favorite cartoon characters would play on the court.
Coincidentally, the Smurfs are from the same country that Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman and guard Kim Mestdagh call home. The Smurfs were created by Peyo, a cartoonist from Brussels. Miffy was created by Dick Bruna, an author and illustrator from Utrecht, the same city Miami Hurricanes center Emese Hof is from.
There is also a Miffy museum in Utrecht.
Finally, this piece offers a chance to talk about formal 3x3 basketball which has some differences to the traditional game. It is a half-court game where games are played to a score of 21. However, two-point baskets are worth one point and three-point baskets are worth one point. The shot clock is set at 12 seconds instead of 24 and games last a total of just 10 minutes. When there are defensive rebounds, the defensive team must pass or dribble the ball behind the three-point line to regain possession.
FIBA has a video of the official rules here.
The 3x3 game is sanctioned internationally though FIBA, and it is gaining popularity in the United States, most notably with the BIG3 summer league.
3x3 basketball will be an Olympic sport in 2020.