By Johnny Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in 1978, the eighth edition of the FIBA World Cup then referred to as FIBA World Championship, was held in the Philippines. The first World Championship in Asia. Fast forward to 2023, the flagship tournament of FIBA returns to the country located in Southeast Asia.
Eurohoops looks back on the tournament played in 1978, ahead of the World Cup set to be enshrined in the next chapter of basketball history over the next few weeks.
The sport has evolved. For starters, from 14 national teams traveling to the Philippines in 1978, 32 are landing in the three hosting countries of Asia this time around. Apart from more countries in international tournaments, more fans are following across multiple platforms, most nonexistent in 1978. Certainly, a completely different situation.
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Perhaps the Philippines is the lone link between the 1978 and 2023 editions of the World Cup.
The championship game spills into overtime
In 1978, a final to determine the recipients of the gold medals was held for the first time, following seven World Championships with finalists navigating a round-robin schedule at the conclusion of the tournament. And it proved the best game of the entire tournament, featuring five extra minutes as Yugoslavia edged out the Soviet Union, 82-81, with tournament MVP Drazen Dalipagic pouring in a game-high 21 points.
Legendary Aca Nikolic was in charge as Yugoslavia emerged as the third two-time winner, after the Soviet Union and Brazil.
In Manila for the preliminary round, the former country then dominating the Balkan Peninsula launched an unbeaten streak. Making short work of both Senegal and South Korea, Yugoslavia also defeated Canada. In Quezon City for the semifinal round, the Philippines, Italy, the USA, the Soviet Union, Brazil, and Australia were the next victims. The Soviet Union ranking second with a 6-1 record earned a second chance but failed to stop the run.
1978 World Championship rankings
2. Soviet Union
10. Puerto Rico
12. Dominican Republic
13. South Korea
Oscar Schmidt debuts on the world stage
Besides MVP Dalipagic highlighting an extremely strong squad to represent Yugoslavia, notable participating players stretch to Oscar Schmidt, who went on to become the player with the most points in the history of the World Cup. One year after his international debut, representing Brazil in the 1977 FIBA South American Championship, his first World Championship appearance was combined with his country’s last podium to date, capturing bronze in the Philippines.
Schmidt was named to the All-Tournament team alongside gold medalists Dalipagic, Dragan Kicanovic, Kresimir Cosic, and Soviet Union’s towering center Vladimir Tkachenko.
The member of both the FIBA Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, famously opting in favor of playing for Brazil instead of expanding his career into the NBA, went on to earn 326 international caps and score 7,693 points for Brazil. Appearances were spread out to five Olympic Games and four World Championships.
More players stepping up for their respective countries in the 1978 World Championship were Canada’s Leo Rautins, transitioning into a broadcasting career following playing and coaching days, and Italy’s legend Dino Meneghin.
Back to the Philippines
The connection between the Philippines and basketball goes way back, from participating in the 1936 Olympic Games to the PBA being the oldest league in Asia and of course the deeply invested fans. The next world champion to be crowned in the country surfaces unprecedented excitement.
Slovenia and Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic emerging as the most recognizable player sets up exciting action in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia across the preliminary states and specifically in Philippines’ Pasay in the knockout stage, despite multiple household names opting to skip the tournament.
A long ride from improving the game clock to much more adjustments leads to the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Do it like 1978 actually completes a cycle, featuring the exhilarating efforts to successfully globalize basketball, thus creating strong emotions with the World Cup finally returning to the Philippines.