As we all witness over the summer, the USWNT soccer team had a stellar performance in the 2019 FIBA Women’s World Cup in France. Their dominance sparked attention for the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States. It also ignited legal actions in the United States by pushing for equal pay amongst the Mens’ and Womens’ national soccer teams, since the women’s team is much more productive than the men’s.
But the United States has also been making headlines in global competition in basketball. Surely the favorites had the best Americans played, a subpar Team USA finished 7th in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, which wrapped up last week. Spain came away with their second championship.
Instead of having to wait four years for international competition at the Olympics, FIBA World Cups provides competition in between those four years to keep global competition alive. The NBA is such a large organization that aren’t able to play overseas in front of their international fans. This gives a chance for basketball fans to see their favorite athletes on their home turf.
What is the American Way? To win all the time. To be better than everybody else, at everything. It’s been this way since the Cold War and the Space Race. We’ve developed a culture where it feels un-American to lose. Ever since the Olympic Dream Team in 1992, it’s been a custom that American basketball is better than every other country. But now in 2019, times have changed. Critics are starting to think that the rest of the globe has finally caught up.
This year’s USA roster consisted of several B-List NBA Superstars: Harrison Barnes (SAC Kings), Jaylen Brown (BOS Celtics), Joe Harris (BKN Nets), Brook Lopez (MIL Bucks), Khris Middleton (MIL Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (UTH Jazz), Mason Plumlee (DEN Nuggets), Marcus Smart (BOS Celtics), Jayson Tatum (BOS Celtics), Myles Turner (IND Pacers), Kemba Walker (BOS Celtics) and Derrick White (SA Spurs). Some of these names aren’t on ESPN every day, but they are key players of their franchise. It’s not nearly as loaded as previous USA teams that we’ve seen put together with future Hall of Famers like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant, but this is what USA Basketball put together.
In the first group stage, Team USA defeated Czech Republic, 88-67, and in a close knit fourth quarter, USA was able to pull off the victory against Turkey, 93-92. Turkey missed four late free throws in a row, which was just enough for Team USA to pull off the win. After that, USA was able to coast past Japan, 98-45. In the second group stage, Team USA bested the NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Greece, 69-53 then defeated Brazil, 89-73. In the final round, everything went downhill for Team USA. Evan Fournier and Rude Gobert put on a show to give Team USA their first loss, 79-89. It got ugly early in Team USA’s matchup against Serbia, as the final score in the end of the first quarter was 32-7. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jokic made sure they did not give enough breathing room for Team USA to get back into the game, as Serbia ended on top 94-89. Team USA was able to finish with a win over Poland for 7thplace in the tournament. Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol made their country proud and brough home the FIBA trophy back to Spain. The championship game looked like a breeze for Spain as they defeated Argentina, 95-75. Ricky Rubio’s 20 points and Marc Gasol’s 14 points were the top performers for Spain in their final matchup. Argentina finished in second place and France finished in third. Not a single American made the FIBA Basketball World Cup All-Tournament Team for the first time since 2002, which featured the likes of NBA legends Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming. Hopefully next year, this can spark NBA players to consider playing international basketball again.