55 Julie Allemand (BEL)
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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The day Belgium saved women's basketball

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - Something special happened at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife.

Let me rephrase that. Something very special happened - Belgium saved women's basketball. Sounds dramatic, right? Well it should. I can't stress enough what a landmark moment it was.

I have been watching and working on the women's game at all levels for more than a decade and lately, I have been more and more appalled at a number of things.

These include the ongoing death of the shooter, the inexplicable desire of everyone to be a small forward, everyone wanting to go 1 v 1, or too many players greedily executing pull-up jumpers time and time again when team-mates are open under the hoop (and coaches giving the green light).

In essence, things that are diluting everything that is special and distinct about the women's game and continuing to make it a potentially pale and poor comparison of men's basketball.

That is why when placed against this slightly depressing backdrop, what I witnessed from Belgium in that special game against France should prove to be a Eureka moment for everyone involved in the women's game. I mean absolutely everyone. From players, coaches, youngsters, Federations, FIBA, the media, the marketing people - yes, everyone.

I have rarely (if ever) seen basketball played quite so beautifully. Belgium basically destroyed France in the Quarter-Finals with perhaps the most breathtaking 20 minutes I have ever seen from a women's team.

I have evidence of how special it was because some colleagues who dislike the women's game came up to me with their eyes wide open and full of surprise and happiness. Not quite converted, but for once at least, seeing the possibilities that I (as a basketball warrior) try to promote every day.

Belgium played with so much flair and expression, with belief, strong fundamentals, freedom and collectively, it was poetry in motion. A kind of dream dose of exciting fresh air that we should all be thankful for.

With their beautiful basketball, Belgium defined themselves as the quintessential team. They opened everyone's imagination as to what women's basketball could and should be.

They saved women's basketball. Specifically, because this was not USA doing this. No disrespect, but it was Belgium.

This point is hugely important as very few Federations can now make excuses for continuing to pursue boring basketball philosophies and keeping the chains on talented players.

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🇧🇪 brought out the 💪 gun show tonight! . #FIBAWWC #BELFRA @basketbelgium @lilijo09

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 I appreciate that it is not easy to be replicate what Belgium did. It looked beautiful, but there was so much technical skill and delicate artistry to what they did on that floor in Tenerife. And it wasn't only in the Quarter-Finals by the way!

There was a tinge of irony that it was France they ripped apart. A nation I have been pressing for some time to loosen their robotic style and let some basketball love into their players' hearts. France deserve super credit for their accomplishments, their huge investment in women's basketball and impressive growth in terms of participation.

But surely they must look across to their noisy neighbors and wonder what excuses they have left for not expanding their approach. They have the talent and with some tweaks, could get on a similar page to Belgium and I would be their biggest fan. Some people think my comments on France are somehow born of a dislike - yet the opposite is true. I want them to reach their potential. But they have to imagine it, before trying it. 

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Who saw that coming? 😳🇧🇪 #FIBAWWC

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 Leaving the tangent and back to the matter in hand...

The most critical point of Belgium saving women's basketball is maybe that their team is made up of all different shapes and sizes. It is such an eclectic mix of players, both physically and skills-wise. But together, the fusion, chemistry, coaching and work of the players showed that stars are important, but the team trumps everything.

They delivered a blueprint that many others could follow - or at least aspire to.

They also provided a beacon of hope for me that having went from 5v5 to 3x3, we don't have to evolve to 1v1 at the 2028 Olympics with the 'next Lebron' going up against whoever else. Well seriously though, you wouldn't rule it out would you?

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Amazing Julie Allemand 🤩 handed out 13 assists against France to tie the All-Time record in the #FIBAWWC

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I can't ask each and everyone of you enough to push, push, push the cause and for what Belgium did for us and for the women's game. Please spread the word. I really do still get butterflies in my stomach and a tingling down my spine thinking about how they played.

And, when the wheels of the plane lifted up off the airport runway, I looked down on Tenerife and it was like some kind of holiday romance had just happened. Yes, I really did fall in love with women's basketball all over again.

Thank you for capturing my heart Belgium!

Paul Nilsen


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.