Recently we are seeing the playing out of qualifiers for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup which will be held in Spain this time next year (Aug-Sept 2014). It currently moves on a 4 year cycle but after 2014 it will be held on a 5 year cycle to avoid a clash with FIFA Football World Cup. In this article we will look a little closer at the tournament, its history and the impact it can have in spreading a love of the game around the world.
2014 will be the 17th edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup since its inauguration in 1950. So far Yugoslavia (now FYR Serbia) tops the leaderboard with 5 titles, followed by the United States with 4 and Soviet Union (Russia) with 3. The current holders are the United States having defeated host country Turkey in the 2010 edition. The winner receives the Naismith trophy, named after basketball inventor James Naismith. In 2006 the number of teams represented in the finals of the tournament was revised up to 24 from 16 in 2002. Qualifiers are played on all continents in continental championships (e.g. FIBA Eurobasket for Euope, FIBA Asia Championship for Asia) in an attempt to secure one of these final 24 slots.
FIBA 2014 currently slots in the finals are allocated as follows;
- FIBA Eurobasket – 6 slots
- FIBA Americas Championship – 4 slots
- FIBA Africa Championship – 3 slots
- FIBA Asia Championship – 3 slots
- FIBA Oceania Championship – 2 slots
- Host team – 1 slot
- Defending Olympic Champion – 1 slot
- FIBA-selected Wild-cards – 4 slots
Some have the slots for the 2014 Finals have already been decided with qualifiers from the Oceania Championship (Australia and New Zealand) and the qualifiers from the Asia Championship (Iran, Philippines and Korea) joining host country Spain and Olympics Champions United States as confirmed participants so far. The Eurobasket, Africa and Americas Championships as well as Wildcards are yet to be determined.
One of the beautiful aspects of competitions like this is that it leaves the door open for new nations to unveil themselves as superstars and for minnow basketball countries to exceed expectation and cause upsets. In this modern era of professional basketball where the United States is renowned as home to the greatest basketball players of the age there is a surprising degree of competition when it comes to the FIBA Basketball Finals.
In 2002 the finals were held in Indianapolis, United States. The host country with its team of professional NBA players was expected to dominate with only Yugoslavia and Russia providing any real competition. Despite starting the tournament well with five wins,
Argentina stunned the host country with a 87-80 defeat in the final group game of the second stage, ending what had been a 58-game winning run which the USA had totaled in international basketball matches in which professional players had participated. The United States were then defeated by Yugoslavia and Spain to finish a poor sixth place, with Yugoslavia going on to take the championship. New Zealand and Germany established themselves as new powers in the same tournament. In 2006 only the United States could stop host country Turkeys dream-run towards the title, with Lithuania taking 3rd place and ensuring that 2 new teams would be taken seriously in future events.
Qualification for the FIBA finals can be an uplifting experience for some countries which experience less glory in team events. In 2010 Jordan made their first appearance in the FIBA finals. While finishing bottom of their group and not achieving a victory, they turned in a competitive performance against powerhouses Argentina, eventually losing by 88-79.
In 2014 Philippines will make their first performance since 1978 at the FIBA finals. In the recent Asia Championship, the entire nation was encapsulated by their teams Cinderella-run defeating many fancied nations before going down to Iran in the final. But second place was enough to secure their qualification and now fans can look forward to Spain 2014.
FIBA offers much competition and excitement but for young people all around the world it offers inspiration to be the best that they can be. It offers kids the inspiration to emulate their own national heroes and it may make them dream more easily.