The Top 10 stories from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023
MANILA (Philippines) - This year brought us one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 delivered in every aspect. Upsets, heroes, villains, records - it's all here, in the Top 10 stories from the World Cup, with one more chance to re-live the madness from Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
#10 Record-breaking engagement
We have entered a new era in terms of following a major competition. The old-school kind of reporting doesn't do an event of this scale justice, so we turned to social media to bring all of the fans some first-hand experience, along with the long-form stories, features, analysis and interviews on the official website.
The results speak for themselves. These numbers are hard to even write out in full, but that's how big the World Cup was in 2023, leaping the 2019 edition with ease.
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#9 Rondae becomes Kobe
Why is the World Cup so great? Because on a random Monday afternoon in Manila, Philippines, you could get more than 7,000 people in the arena to watch a game between Jordan and New Zealand and find a Kobe Bryant clone, prompting chants of "KOBE! KOBE!" from the stands by the end of the game.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was the reason why, Jordan's own Kobe, playing an unreal tournament and enjoying the love of the Filipino fans so much that he returned there after the World Cup to play for the TNT Tropang Giga in the local Philippines Basketball Association (PBA)
You wanna know if it's going well? Seven games into the new season, RHJ is averaging 33.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per outing. Oh, it's going well...
#8 Clarkson's four hot minutes
Back in 1995, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released an album called One Hot Minute. Jordan Clarkson could've released his own version of that album and call it Four Hot Minutes in 2023.
The Filipino superstar went on a hot streak like no other, igniting for 20 points in just four minutes of action, showing once again why he is considered one of the biggest stars in the Philippines. Not just in sports, but in life, generally.
#7 Luka's minutes in Classification Games
The usual mantra goes out something like, "Oh well, who cares about who finishes fifth or eighth." Luka Doncic cares.
Slovenia's leader did not play more than 32 minutes in any of his first six games, the ones that mattered in terms of the team potentially going through and reaching the medal battles. But once Slovenia lost the Quarter-Finals matchup, Doncic's minutes actually saw an increase.
He played 37 minutes against Lithuania in the 5-8 Semi-Finals, then followed it up with 38 minutes against Italy in the 7th Place Game. That's Luka for you. His averages in the last two games were 29.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals.
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#6 South Sudan to Paris 2024
What a tournament it was for the African teams! All five were battling for that elusive Olympic ticket, and it came down to South Sudan or Egypt on the last day of the competition. South Sudan emerged victorious in their game to finish at 3-2 and book a trip to the Olympic Games this summer, for the first time in the history of the nation.
Take it away, coach Royal Ivey:
#5 New awards introduced
The growth of the game meant the growth of the awards and honors after the tournament finished. Aside from the usual All-Star First Team (Dennis Schroder, Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Luka Doncic) and the MVP of the World Cup (Dennis Schroder), there were others with new items to add to their illustrious careers.
The Second Team was formed by Arturs Zagars, Simone Fontecchio, Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Milutinov and Franz Wagner. Josh Giddey got the Rising Star award, while Dillon Brooks was named the Best Defensive Player.
The Best Coach of the World Cup was Latvia's playcaller Luca Banchi.
#4 Zagars leads breakout stars
Nikola Jovic, Aleksa Avramovic, Andreas Obst, Andres Feliz, Rokas Jokubaitis... There were plenty of well-known names who leaped to the next level at the World Cup.
But one stood out the most. Latvia's sensational run to the Quarter-Finals was fueled by Arturs Zagars, who came into the summer as a free agent and went on to torture the defenses of Spain, France, Brazil, even Germany in the Quarter-Finals.
He later set a new FIBA Basketball World Cup record for most assists in a single game, dishing out 17 of them against Lithuania in the battle for fifth spot.
Unfortunately, his run of great games ended with another horrid injury, as his season ended already in October. Best of luck, Arturs! Hope to see you soon, especially in that beautiful three-stars jersey.
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#3 Everybody wished for USA v Canada
...and they got it. But not in the Final, because a certain Andreas Obst and a certain Bogdan Bogdanovic happened in the Semi-Finals, making it a Final between Germany and Serbia, pushing the two NBA-filled superteams to the Bronze Medal Game.
The battle for third was as intense as you can imagine. Our fingers cramp up trying to rewrite the stories of that day, with a sensational Mikal Bridges intentionally missed free throw, offensive rebound and a three-pointer to send the game to overtime, with a villain turned-hero transformation for Dillon Brooks who went off for 39 points against the United States, and a packed Mall of Asia Arena to witness the battle between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Edwards.
With months of fresh air, it's now even more baffling to think what we all witnessed that day. Just look at their current NBA seasons, everybody is having a great one, and we like to think that it was the intensity of the World Cup that gave them the head start to dominate in the NBA from day one of the new campaign.
It's a beautiful connection. It really is.
Nothing, and we mean NOTHING, will ever top the love for basketball in the Philippines. No other area of the world lives or breathes this sport as much, and since August 25, 2023, we now have an official confirmation of that love.
That's because 38 thousand and 115 fans attended the game between the Philippines and the Dominican Republic at the Philippine Arena, a record-breaking attendance. The previous record for attendance at the World Cup stood at 32,616 when the United States faced Russia in the Final in Canada in 1994.
That's the biggest story, isn't it? Germany and number 1 next to it. Coach Gordon Herbert created a monster, and we sort of called it just before the event, putting Germany at #2 in our last Power Rankings before the World Cup.
Did we expect Andreas Obst to destroy the United States with 24 points in the Semi-Finals and send his defender into another dimension with a shot fake for the clutch three for the win?
Did we expect Dennis Schroder to have a 4-of-26 shooting elimination game, but for Germany to still advance?
Did we expect Franz Wagner and Moritz Wagner to become the best brothers in the basketball world? Did we expect the two Johanneses, Thiemann and Voigtmann, to form an unbreakable defensive wall with Daniel Theis?
You get it. The answer to all of these questions is no. But at the same time, Germany put together a run so stunning, there will definitely be documentaries and books about this quest.
And look at the list of teams they beat on the way to the top: Australia, Finland and Japan in Japan, Georgia, Slovenia, Latvia, USA and Serbia.
Not only did they reach number 1, but the degree of difficulty on the way there is probably the highest one ever.
They say there's only one thing sweeter than winning a trophy - defending that trophy. See you in Qatar 2027, Germany!