Spain has won two Basketball World Cup medals and both of them are gold medals captured in Asia. The first one was in Tokyo in 2006 and the second in Beijing earlier this week. Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez were members of both teams and there is a third man who had a role in both victories; Jorge Garbajosa was a player on the 2006 squad and is currently the president of the Spanish basketball federation. In 2006, Garbajosa was the joint-top scorer of the final along with Juan Carlos Navarro as Spain dumped Greece 70-47. Navarro and Garbajosa each scored 20 points. In Beijing, he won his first gold medal as president.
The final was one-sided – Spain was the better team and dominated all the way. Argentina lacked energy and ran out of gas in the most-decisive game, but the South Americans don't have to feel sad. They played an excellent tournament to earn the silver medal and confirmed that they have, once again, a good generation of players. It is not yet as the team led by Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola – the bridge between both generation, but Argentina is once again a world-class power.
Spain returned home with several individual awards, too. Ricky Rubio was chosen as the World Cup MVP and, of course, was a member of the All-Tournament team along with Bogdan Bogdanovic of Serbia (the competition’s top scorer at 22.9 points per game), Evan Fournier of France, Luis Scola of Argentina and Marc Gasol of Spain. It is not a coincidence that four of them played a big part of their careers with EuroLeague clubs and each of that foursome reached the EuroLeague Final Four, while two celebrated the title. Only Fournier did not play in the EuroLeague.
The next edition of the EuroLeague will feature several gold and silver medal winners from this year's World Cup: champions Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Victor Claver, Pierre Oriola, Pau Ribas and Quino Colom and runners-up Facundo Campazzo, Gabriel Deck, Nicolas Laprovittola, Luca Vildoza and Patricio Garino. Spain finished the tournament undefeated with impressive showings as individuals and as a team, all managed by an excellent coach. Sergio Scariolo won the NBA title with Toronto as the team’s assistant coach in June, is now a world champion with Spain as a head coach and his son Alessandro was a U18 European Champion with Spain, too. Supporting the national team, there is a federation that works well in many ways, and the results confirm that good work.
Argentina, led by Campazzo and Scola, winning the silver medal was a pleasant surprise. France won its second straight bronze medal and Australia, despite missing out on what would have been its first World Cup medal, confirmed it has a very good team.
Serbia was fifth, which is less than people expected. It had a brilliant first round, but was stuck on offense against Spain and Argentina. It played an inspired game against the United States and played well enough to beat the Czech Republic in the fifth-place game. The Czechs were sixth, which was also a pleasant surprise. Their leader is Tomas Satoransky, another former EuroLeague player with FC Barcelona, just like Bogdanovic, who played for Partizan Belgrade and won the championship with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. The United States was the biggest negative surprise; nobody expected them to finish seventh despite having many top players skip the championships. Despite its many absences, the U.S. team was not bad, but in my opinion, they lacked a little bit of imagination, improvisation and intelligence in their game. Basketball is not just rebounding, shooting and "run and fun." After this result in China, I assume that the USA will send a much more powerful team to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Poland was also a positive surprise, finishing eighth, unlike Lithuania and Italy, which were ninth and 10th, respectively. After the Italians, we find Greece, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Turkey… And at the very bottom of the standings, we have national teams according to their skills, traditions and players. In short, we saw a proper World Cup in terms of playing level, but it was not extraordinary. It is obvious that there is not enough talent to host 32 teams. The fact that the championship was played in such a big country as China, in eight different cities, made traveling tough not just for national teams, but also for media. Moreover, the working conditions were not the same for everyone – some traveled for one or two hours, but others eight and even more hours and needed to wake up quite early. It sounds like small details, but in a long competition, those small details are decisive and an extra day of rest may well be worth a medal.
Yao Ming, the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, handed the FIBA flag to the representatives of the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan, who will co-ordinate the next World Cup in 2023. It will be a new experiment, copying it from the last EuroBasket, which was played in four countries in its most recent edition. Until then, Spain will be the world champions of basketball for the next four years.