2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain
by John Bascombe on Thursday, August 28, 2014
From August 30 to September 14, 2014, the 17th FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held in Spain. Over the course of 15 days, 24 teams that have qualified to represent their country will try to win the Naismith Cup (named in honor of the inventor of the sport, James Naismith) in one of the most important global sporting events.
The World Cup will be held at different venues throughout Spain that will host up to 78 games between the various teams. Seville, Bilbao (where the US will play its first round), Gran Canaria and Granada (where Spain will play its first round games) will all host games during the first round of the Championship. Madrid and Barcelona will be the host cities for the sweet sixteen, the quarter and semi-finals. The finals will be disputed in Madrid.
History of the Basketball World Cup
The Basketball World Cup or Mundobasket, as it is known in Latin America, has a long history of providing moments filled with passion, controversy and even some political intrigue. Yugoslavia (winning under different denominations) is the country with most championships (5), followed by the United States (4) and the USSR (3). During the Cold War, both superpowers projected their differences on the court and produced some epic moments. The United States, with non-professional university players of the likes of Doc Rivers and Alonzo Mourning weren't able to beat the Yugoslav team with Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc. The Americans were able to beat an older and more experienced Soviet team with Arvidas Sabonis, Belosteny and Tkachenko in 1986 in an 87-85 nail biter.
Up until 1994, these three teams along with the much respected Brazil team were the undisputed basketball superpowers. 1994 was the year that saw, for the first time in a World Cup, the participation of American NBA players. With the presence of Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller and Kevin Durant, the Americans were finally able to show the world their true basketball potential.
With the participation of more international players in the NBA, the quality of national teams around the world has risen. This growth in quality has meant the United States has suffered some surprising defeats in championship play like losses against Argentina, Yugoslavia (with players like Stojakovic and Bodiroga), Greece and Germany. Although the Americans have shown they are not invincible in international play, they are usually considered to be the favorites going into any tournament. In this year's World Cup, young stars like Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose and Kyle Irving will try to prove their supremacy by playing their typically spectacular style of fast and physical play.
It will not be easy for the United States to repeat as champions since other countries like Argentina, with Ginobli and Scola, as well as a rejuvenated Brazil (with quality NBA veterans) are ready to take the trophy from the Americans. European teams are also looking to steal the title like the present European champions—France, Croatia, Lithuania, Greece and Serbia. The Americans will also be challenged from within since many of their best players are staying away from the World Cup due to pressure from their teams and the fear of off-season injury.
Basketball in Spain
As for the host country, Spain will be looking to defeat their main competitor—the United States. Spain, known as the ÑBA, is looking to win their third World Cup title (they won in 2006 and the Junior World Cup in 1998) at home as a way sending off their best generation of players by giving them the opportunity to leave on top of the basketball world in what will certainly be the last great tournament for most of them.
Curiously, Spain has had a love-hate relationship with Basketball. There have been some great teams in the past (in the 80's they won World Cup Bronze and Olympic silver) as well as some embarrassing losses like those in the 90's, but today Spain has enjoyed their best run ever. European champs in 2009 and 2011, World Cup champs in 2006 and two Olympic silvers in 2008 and 2012 (losing both times to the US in the final). Spain, whether winning or losing, has been a difficult adversary in these tournaments and over the years has given us some of the best games in basketball history.
Pau Gasol (two-time NBA champion and presently playing for the Chicago Bulls) has been the star of the national team dating back to his junior years in 2001 and will lead this year's team in the championship. His brother, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies (the best defender in the NBA), will also participate along with other Spanish NBA players Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma Thunder), José Manuel Calderón (NY Knicks) and Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves). The rest of the Spanish team plays professionally in the competitive Spanish league (the ACB) with teams like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Players like Juan Carlos Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez (the Euro league MVP), Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez will provide important support for the Spanish World Cup challenge. Interestingly, many of these players have NBA experience and since they have played so long together there is a deep sense of friendship and camaraderie that is rarely seen in other national teams.
As you can see, Spain will be the center of attention in the basketball world for the next two weeks. Spain will hope to demonstrate its capacity to successfully host an important international sporting event by leveraging its strengths as top global tourist destination and the warmth of its people. On September 14, 2014, Madrid will provide the backdrop to the crowning of a new basketball world champion in what will most certainly be one of the most followed and exciting sporting events of the year.
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