The Top 10 Moments of 2020
MIES (Switzerland) - The 2020 basketball year endured long stoppages of play because of the coronavirus pandemic yet there were still plenty of incredible moments that reinforced our love for the game.
Here is our top ten, as selected by the FIBA.basketball editorial team.
Basketball returns after COVID-19 disruption
When basketball stopped in March while countries grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, the basketball community around the world worked tirelessly for its return, with FIBA playing a leading role. The #FIrstBAsket campaign promoted a positive message of hope with a series of videos, photos and mini-interviews with basketball stars, coaches and fans as everyone was preparing for the return to action. Basketball then returned as FIBA, having consulted the World Health Organization, used bubble formats for competition since they offered safe environments for all athletes, team members, referees and everyone else. Bubbles were used for FIBA Continental Cup Qualifiers, as well as club competitions like the Basketball Champions League, Basketball Champions League Americas and the EuroLeague Women, and also the 3x3 World Tour. It was an extraordinary effort by the international basketball community.
November Nirvana for the Danes
Don't tell us you saw this coming in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers! Denmark, No. 59 in the FIBA World Ranking, Presented by Nike, had a nirvana-like November when beating not only No. 8 Lithuania but also No. 9 Czech Republic to fuel hopes of a first EuroBasket appearance since 1955. Denmark (2-2) are second in Group C after Belgium (3-1), ahead of third-place Lithuania (2-2) and fourth-place Czechs Republic (1-3). With the Czechs qualified for the Final Round as hosts, the Belgians, Danes and Lithuanians are fighting for the other two qualifying spots. Denmark, who rose three spots in the rankings with their two wins, control their own destiny, with qualifying games against Belgium and Lithuania in the Vilnius bubble coming up in February.
Argentina's come-from-behind shock at Venezuela
Argentina flirted with a second straight defeat against Venezuela in February, the opening window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers, but stormed back for a stunning win. Venezuela led 60-38 late in the third quarter only for Argentina to outscore them 34-13 the rest of the way and capture a 73-72 victory.
Bird prepares to go for Olympic gold
At 40 years of age, fans could be forgiven for wondering if Sue Bird is ready to shut it down on the international stage. Stopping clearly isn't on her mind, though. Bird played in two of the USA's three wins at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade to show she has every intention of going after a fifth Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games. No point guard has been more important to her national team the past decade and a half than the American basketball icon.
The rapid ascent of San Pablo Burgos
How is this for hitting the ground running? In their first-ever European club season, which they had to go through the qualifying round just to take part, Hereda San Pablo Burgos ended up lifting the Basketball Champions League trophy. Burgos only played their first season in the Spanish Liga Endesa in the 2017-18 campaign! At the BCL Final Eight held in Athens, Burgos overcame Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem in the Quarter-Finals, JDA Dijon in Semi-Finals and then favorites AEK in the title showdown.
Puerto Rico edge Brazil, qualify for Tokyo
The Boricuas showed their appearance at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Spain was no fluke. At the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bourges, France, they clinched a spot in the Olympics for the first time. Their thrilling 91-89 win over FIBA Americas rivals Brazil on February 6 was the decisive triumph.
Unbelievable Uganda get two wins in Alexandria
Uganda's basketball team showed it's moving in the right direction with a couple of heart-stopping victories in the November FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers in Alexandria, Egypt. The team captured the imagination of fans watching back in Kampala by first stunning Morocco (94-90) and then Cape Verde (101-98). The riveting performances bolstered the country's chances of playing in African basketball's flagship event next year in Rwanda.
Syria stun Iran for biggest win in their history
The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 is going to be big. But the games teams have to play to make it that far are proving to be even bigger, at least for Syria, who sprung arguably the biggest upset in their basketball history with a 77-70 triumph over then world No. 22 Iran on November 30. Looking for a signature win to bolster their self-belief and inspire the young players in the country that dream of putting on the national team shirt one day, Syria trailed by as many as 10 points but never stopped battling. Two days earlier they lost a heart-breaker to Qatar but this time, the world No. 95 prevailed.
Quimsa capture first-ever Basketball Champions League Americas crown
A thrilling conclusion to the debut season of the Basketball Champions League Americas saw Quimsa come good late and lift the title with a 92-86 triumph over Flamengo on October 31. At the Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay, the team from Santiago del Estero, Argentina, trailed 68-63 with a quarter left but battled back and took the lead for good with three-pointers from Pablo Gramajo and Brandon Robinson.
Innovation and enlarging the FIBA Family
The coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of youth tournaments in 2020 so FIBA introduced U17 Skills Challenges, which let players represent their countries without having to travel internationally. These challenges took place during training camps run by National Federations. Mongolia won the FIBA U17 Skills Challenge 2020, while China celebrated success in the FIBA U17 Women's Skills Challenge 2020. The FIBA family also grew in 2020 with the first FIBA Esports Open 2020. Seventeen national teams from around the world took part in the three-day event in June. It was such a big hit that the FIBA Esports Open 2020 II was staged in November and December.