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3x3 Basketball World Cup

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, the last time we spoke with our friend Kareem Maddox, the former public radio announcer was playing pro basketball for a team in Poland. He's also now a producer for Gimlet Media. And he is still shooting hoops this week at the 3x3 World Cup in Amsterdam. He joins us on the line. Kareem, good to talk to you again.

KAREEM MADDOX: Hey, you, too, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Three on three (ph) - you like to call it 3x3 - we'll explain is a half-court kind of basketball game. And it will debut as an Olympic sport in 2020. How is the game different?

MADDOX: Exactly. I mean, just how it sounds. You know, there's three guys on the court for each team, instead of five. I guess a close parallel might be what they did for the Olympics, bringing in beach volleyball to accompany, you know, regular volleyball. So it's a little bit like that.

SIMON: And you play outdoors, right?

MADDOX: Outdoors, yep, in some beautiful venues, too, yeah. Here in Amsterdam, we're outside the Rijksmuseum, you know, one of the biggest museums in Amsterdam.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. That's a beautiful museum.

MADDOX: It is. It is. And...

SIMON: Don't miss a shot and knock down a Rembrandt, OK?

MADDOX: Yeah. That's true. We're steering clear of the Van Gogh Museum, which is also right here.

SIMON: Yeah. Van Goff (ph) I think they say there. Listen; Kareem, you guys, the U.S. team, has been doing well, right?

MADDOX: We have been. We're 4-0 in full play, so undefeated so far in this World Cup.

SIMON: So South Korea you were able to defeat, and then the host, right?

MADDOX: Yeah, South Korea, the Netherlands. We played, you know, the reigning champs, Serbia, and we also played Turkey. So yeah. Yeah, we had a good four games of full play.

SIMON: I understand the French team looks strong.

MADDOX: They are strong. They're very good. There's a lot of good teams here. I mean, this is the highest level of 3x3 in the - 3 on 3 (ph) basketball there is around the world.

SIMON: Do you feel you're kind of in on the ground floor of a sport that's going to become more popular around the world?

MADDOX: I hope so. I mean, it's a lot of fun to watch. It's fun to play. It's very accessible. You know, you have less requirements. You don't need a full court. You can play with a half court. You need less players. You're not even allowed to have a coach on the floor with you.

So I think it's, you know, it's a great learning tool, and it's a great sport to play and be a part of. So you know, I hope we are on the ground floor and it just continues to gain popularity after the Olympic Games next year.

SIMON: When's your next game in this tournament, this World Cup?

MADDOX: In a few hours, actually. We play Slovenia at 7:30 your local time.

SIMON: Shouldn't you be napping or something, or carbo-loading?

MADDOX: I was just doing both of those things. But, you know, I had to wake up from a nap to chat with you, which I'm very happy to do.

SIMON: Oh, mercy. Well, I'm sorry. Well, OK, you have a big game coming up. I thank you very much for spending time with us. How are you going to go back to podcasting after you've been playing hoops in front of the Rijksmuseum?

MADDOX: You know, I don't know. I think it calls for a podcast about that very experience. But, you know, it's great. I love juggling both. As you know, I'm a radio guy, so I want to do both always.

SIMON: All right, well, it's wonderful to talk to you again. Good luck to you and your teammates and to everyone there.

MADDOX: Thank you. Appreciate that.

SIMON: Kareem Maddox speaking to us from Amsterdam, where he's been competing in the 3x3 World Cup.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORY WONG'S "THE OPTIMIST (LIVE IN MPLS)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.