High drama in three countries, records broken, and a giant slayer at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
They say that you always remember your first.
Basketball lovers witnessed many firsts at the recently concluded FIBA World Cup, including a FIBA World Cup winner for the first time. The first FIBA World Cup spread across three countries. A record-breaking game and tournament attendance. And high drama all the way to the classification matches.
The 2023 FIBA World Cup will be remembered for these and more, and will serve as a benchmark for all future hosting from here on.
Hosts Philippines, Japan and Indonesia got what they wanted—an opportunity to host this world-class event, to expose their basketball programs to this level of basketball, and pull out all the stops to get a top-class rating that will help in future bids for similar events.
Tiny Latvia, with a population of 1.9 million or less than 1/6 of the total population of Metro Manila, finished fifth and gained a whole new level of respect after their shocking defeats of France, Spain, Brazil, Italy and Lithuania.
And the Philippines, under the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ watch, was gearing up for this for over a decade.
It began with the hosting of the 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup followed by the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup, and the 2015 FIBA Olympics Qualifiers. The learnings from the three events were distilled into the bid for FIBA’s premier event.
Following the failed hosting bid for the 2019 edition back in 2015 (China won the nod of FIBA), the Philippines quickly regrouped with an even better plan to host the next edition.
With the help of Indonesia and Japan, this time, the bid for the 2023 Fiba World was successful. And for the first time in 45 years, the FIBA world championship was back on Philippine soil.
This was the Thrilla in Manila 2.0. Class of 2023.
A FIBA World Cup winner for the first time
Germany are champions!
Say that again?
A country known to be one of the best in football with four FIFA World Cup titles to its name has annexed its first FIBA title.
Just how massive is this? First and foremost, they join Spain as the only country to win World Cups in football and basketball. And they defeated two of the old hoops powers en route to the trophy in Serbia and the United States.
Second, this will be as pivotal as the 1998 FIFA World Cup was for France. The multi-cultural lineup of France with its star Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian descent, was instrumental in the acceptance of the changing face of France.
Take a gander at this lineup of Germany: Isaac Bongo hails from the Congo. Though born in Berlin to a German mother, Maodo Lo’s father is Senegalese. FIBA World Cup Most Valuable Player Dennis Schroder was born in Braunschweig to a German father and a Gambian mother. David Kramer was born in Slovakia where his German father, Roman, was playing professional basketball and married a local. Johannes Thiemann is a German-born player to a Cameroonian father and a German mother.
That’s five key players who were part of head coach Gordie Herbert’s rotation.
It took Germany’s 113-111 semifinals win over the United States to put their football obsessed nation on notice.
No doubt, the success of the national team will inspire more in this football-mad country to take up basketball, including the sons and daughters of mixed marriages.
You think they are resting on their laurels? They promised a stronger lineup for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The first FIBA World Cup spread across three countries
We saw Japan and South Korea co-host the 2002 FIFA World Cup and, 21 years later, FIBA did their football cousins one better with the 2023 FIBA World Cup played in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan.
Of the three, Indonesia is the curious one. Indonesia is also a football country although they have a growing basketball scene. Their national team did not participate in this World Cup. They did not get the privilege of a team hosting the tournament.
Bringing non-ASEAN countries such as Spain, Brazil, Canada, France, and giant-slaying Latvia to Indonesian audiences was a stroke of genius. This did more than Indonesia’s participation in the ASEAN Basketball League. Furthermore, you can bet that this young generation of impressionable Indonesians were watching the Fiba World Cup.
With their basketball program on the rise, this was the push they sorely needed.
While Japan is no stranger to hosting world-level events such as the Olympics and the FIFA world Cup, this certainly puts basketball on their map; a map dominated by baseball and football.
There is no secret that basketball is the top sport in the Philippines with volleyball a far second and football an even further third. This was to draw more attention to the country as a top sports destination.
Aside from the FIBA events, the Philippines recently hosted the Asian Qualifiers for Taekwondo for the Rio Olympics—and now who knows?
The only downside was Gilas Pilipinas not advancing past the group stages and the classless booing of head coach Chot Reyes.
A record-breaking game and tournament attendance
This comes directly from FIBA’s website: “The attendance for the World Cup is expected to break the 700,000 mark with Okinawa averaging 85 percent occupancy and games in Jakarta being more than 60 percent filled. The final numbers for the games in the Philippines will come after the final games.”
FIBA Secretary-General Andreas Zagklis disclosed some broadcast market share figures such as the Japan versus Cape Verde game being the most-watched program—not sports program but any program—in Japan this year. There was more than 40 percent market share for Slovenia versus Canada, almost 35 percent market for South Sudan against Puerto Rico, and more than 25 percent market share for Lithuania versus Serbia.
Although one of the sore points was the high prices for tickets that kept fans away, the final numbers from the matches held in the Philippines are expected to breach the 700,000 attendance mark.
Added FIBA: “The engagement on FIBA’s social media accounts was spectacular. Through the penultimate day, there were more than 10 billion impressions—double the amount from China 2019. The engagement was also doubled at 260 million. The 2023 World Cup three tripled the video views.”
Zagklis elucidated as he noted that Fiba’s social media accounts saw the addition of two million new followers, “That is important because the images are what inspires the people and what makes the next generation want to grab a ball.”
Although one of the sore points was the high prices for tickets that kept fans away, the final numbers from the matches held in the Philippines are rolling in and the numbers are expected to breach the 700,000 attendance mark.
The high drama from the group stages all the way to the classification matches
Due to 2024 Olympic Qualification slots at stake, the matches had bearing all the way to the qualification matches. Eight countries qualified in spite of their sub-standard records to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be held early 2024.
The Philippines, which won its first FIBA World Cup match since defeating Angola in the 2014 edition by crushing nemesis China, 96-75, has one more chance to salvage its dream of returning to the Olympics.
Thirteen matches were decided by five points or less; although less than the 16-plus from the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the spectacular showing of some countries captivated fans.
Tiny Latvia, with a population of 1.9 million or less than 1/6 of the total population of Metro Manila, finished fifth in the 32-team field and gained a whole new level of respect after their shocking defeats of France, Spain, Brazil, Italy, and Lithuania. If there was giant killer in this tournament, it was Latvia.
There was not a more shocking performance than that of Germany, which is the fifth straight winner to sweep the tournament.
There was Lithuania’s 110-104 stunner of the United States that confirmed the Americans were indeed mortal after scares from Greece and Montenegro.
And this was their first ever participation in the FIBA World Cup. What a stunning debut!
There was Canada that finally joined the elite countries and their bronze medal win over neighbor, USA.
Lastly, there was not a more shocking performance than that of Germany, which is the fifth straight winner to sweep the tournament.
There is clearly more to German basketball than Dirk Nowitski who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2023.
Now, there’s a double celebration in Germany with football icons such as Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels, and Bastian Schweinsteiger offering hearty congratulatory remarks to the world champions.
Kroos, who plays for Spanish football giants Real Madrid, was succinct in his observation, “Dennis (Schroder), athlete of the year! No discussion necessary.”
Indeed. And to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “Whatever happens to the German team from hereon, they will always have Manila.”