XI'AN－Four years ago at the 13th National Games, the 3x3 basketball competition was more like a half-court five-a-side competition.
Now at the Shaanxi National Games, fans can see no difference between the court inside the Xi'an Metropolitan Sports Park and the Olympic court at Tokyo 2020.
The success of Chinese teams in 3x3's Olympic debut in Tokyo has accelerated the game's growth in the world's most populous nation.
China won the bronze medal in the women's 3x3 tournament last month, the nation's first Olympic basketball medal in 29 years since the women's squad won silver at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
When 3x3 basketball was included in the National Games for the first time four years ago in Tianjin, the games were played on a half court of a typical indoor basketball stadium.
No booming music, no flashy stage lighting, and almost no spectators. Indeed, many people dismissed the event as an exercise, not a sport.
But this time in Xi'an, the 3x3 court features a waterproof roof and is set up in a sports park where DJs pump out hip-hop and pop music to enhance the action and create a more urban feel.
The court was constructed under the rules of international competition and organizers believe it could host any international 3x3 tournament in the future.
"The event attracted more teams, both professional and amateur, and 3x3 basketball has spread fast in China," said Yin Zhe, director of the 3x3 department of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
"We won a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020, and in 2019 we won the world championship. I think this is an opportunity for the event to become popular in China," Yin added.
The CBA, headed by basketball legend Yao Ming, on Sept 10 announced the establishment of a professional 3x3 basketball league, which is scheduled to tip off in 2022.
It will become China's third professional basketball league, alongside the CBA's men's and women's five-a-side competitions.
An amateur 3x3 league has been running since 2015, also under the supervision of the CBA, and the first 3x3 Basketball Championship was staged in China in 2014.
"We're only in the early stages of 3x3's development, but we're confident of attracting more fans and having better results at Paris 2024, which should ultimately result in getting more players onto 3x3 courts," Yin vowed.
Most 3x3 players are recruited from five-a-side teams, where they can earn a decent income. It's hoped the new 3x3 professional league will be able to support players enough financially so they can dedicate themselves to the sport.
"We will host the usual 3x3 Elite Club Championship in October to prepare for the professional league. We hope to have professional 3x3 players, teams and a league in the new system to find more talents for the sport," Yin said.
"Now we still need five-a-side basketball to find players, but I believe 3x3 will blossom to have its own future."