By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
DONGGUAN – Back in 2006, when Greece without any active NBA player on its roster beat a US national team that included then NBA champion Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and more, it was an upset.
Today in Dongguan, France getting the “W” against this version of USA is exciting, but also something that most were waiting to happen. There was no outrage when Serbia was considered the main favorite to win the gold. There were questions from the get-go about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game and how it will translate to FIBA rules. And everyone was expecting at least a team from Africa to emerge.
While no African team delivered, the rest of the big issues raised before the tournament proved already to be the right ones. Basketball is becoming more and more a global game. Traditional powers can’t expect to roll over the competition unless they bring their A-game. And having NBA players on your roster is not enough. Just ask Germany…
The defeat of the USA by a superior French team can’t be considered a surprise. French players are known quantities, they play together for years, and they are supported by one of the best national federations. Their performance was not extraordinary, and despite the 5-0 record of the USA before the quarterfinals, it was evident that coach Gregg Popovich’s team was far from perfect.
Basketball is changing, and it only fits that the two most recent defeats of the USA have occurred on Asian ground, in Japan back in 2006 and now in China.
While Asia in the post-Yao-Ming era has not produced a really competitive national team, the gigantic arenas of China are one more testament to a new World Basketball Order.
There’s no denial at this point that basketball is growing all over the planet and any opponent can hurt you. Nobody should feel safe, especially after the start of the knock out games.
The defeats of both the USA and Serbia prove it beyond any doubt like also the blunder of Greece against Brazil in the first round, a one-point loss that practically pushed Giannis away of the quarterfinals.
And the bottom line is quite simple: While the new 32-team format and the exhausting schedule may need some tinkering, it’s just a matter of time for the World Cup to become the primary national team tournament, because, as the motto goes “the world got game”.
Photo credit: FIBA.Basketball