FIBA’s humble beginning

By Henry Liao September 04,2019
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FIBA’s humble beginning

By Henry Liao September 04,2019 - 09:24 PM

SO sad … so sad as days go by.

After a pair of blowout debacles at the hands of Italy (108-62) and Serbia (126-67), the Philippines lost for a third straight time in a close one, dropping an 84-81 overtime decision to African power Angola in the 18th FIBA Basketball World Cup in the People’s Republic of China.

The Filipinos’ finished last in the four-team Group D preliminaries of the eight-group, 32-nation quadrennial tournament with a 0-3 record and were relegated along with the Angolans to the Classification Round that will determine the 17th to 32 places in the quadrennial global competitions.

Team Pilipinas’ sorry setback to Angola has huge implications as all preliminary-round results are carried over to the Classification Round (Groups M, N, O and P) as they are also for teams that have advanced to the top 16 teams in the round-robin second phase (Groups I, J, K and L).

The Philippines is in Group N with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tunisia and Angola. This means our boys will enter the CR with a 0-3 card while Angola will carry a 1-2 mark.

Based on the schedule, our boys will play Tunisia on Friday, September 6, and Iran on Sunday, September 8.

After that, two more games are in store for coach Yeng Guiao’s troops featuring a crossover pairing and final-placing assignment (based on the crossover results).

Of the six Asian countries (including host China but excluding Australia, which is a second-round qualifier, and New Zealand (1-1), which needs to beat Greece (1-1) in Group F today, September 5, to advance to Round 2, from Oceania), five have to advance past the prelims – the Philippines, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Jordan.

Only China was still alive, needing to beat Venezuela later last night.

The top two teams from both the Americas and Europe and the No. 1 team each in Asia, Africa and Oceania (Australia or New Zealand) in the FIBA World Cup plus host Japan will earn berths to the Japan Olympics next year.

The other four tickets to the 12-team Olympic men’s basketball competitions will be determined in four pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments in different sites early next year.

For the Philippines to have a potential wildcard invitation to any of the four qualifiers, it needs to beat Iran and other Asian countries in the Classification Round.

* * *
Not known to many, the FIBA Basketball World Cup — which was known as the FIBA World Basketball Championship from 1950 to 2010 — endured a humble beginning.

For one, powerhouse did not even take the so-called “Olympics of Basketball” seriously until 1994 when the Americans sent an all-National Basketball Association (NBA) squad for the first time ever in the quadrennial competitions.

For them, it’s the Olympics that is the No. 1 global attraction in basketball, sending the original Dream Team of NBAers for the maiden time during the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The entry of professionals became a reality when on April 7, 1989, in Munich, Germany, the FIBA overwhelmingly voted, 56-13, to invite both amateurs and pros to its international events under its “open basketball” policy.

Before that, the U.S. was represented by teams from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Athletes in Action or premier collegiate ranks.

The FIBA World Cup staged its inaugural competitions in Buenos Aires, Argentina from October 22 to November 3, 1950.

Argentina incidentally was FIBA’s only non-European charter member.

There was no television coverage and the games received limited journalistic ink. Even the venue of the games was far from state-of-the-art.
The 1st World Cup tournament was held at the old Luna Park sports hall with the playing court encased in a wired net cage to prevent the throwing of objects, such as bottles or cushions, by enraged or enthusiastic spectators.

At the time, only a few people knew that the American slang expression of “cagers” to denote basketball players was derived from the old practice of enclosing basketball courts with such wired nets perpendicular to the boundary lines to prevent the ball from going out of bounds.

A total of 10 countries took part in the inaugural tournament — United States, France, Brazil, Egypt, Chile, Spain, Peru, Yugoslavia, Ecuador and host Argentina.

The first ever game featured Peru and Yugoslavia. The Peruvians won, 33-27. The first point ever — a free throw — was scored by N. Popovic of Yugoslavia.

The winless Yugoslavs (0-5) were relegated to last place in the tournament for refusing to play against Spain in the classification round for seventh to 10th places.

They thus became the first team ever to forfeit a game in the Worlds and consequently were slapped a nine-month suspension from all international basketball activities by the FIBA.

In the gold medal game, Argentina, cheered by a home crowd of over 25,000 fans at the Lima Luna Park Arena, whipped the United States, 64-50. It was the tournament’s highest-scoring contest.

The Americans, who were represented by the AAU’s Denver Chevrolets, trailed by 10 points, 34-24, at halftime, and while they managed to close the gap to 40-37 in the second half, the Argentinians were never seriously threatened.

The finals turned out to be a free-throw shooting contest. Argentina connected on 32 charity shots (compared to the U.S.’s 14) as the Americans were whistled for 38 personal fouls even as seven of their players fouled out. The USA unit played with only four men for the final one-and-a-half minutes.

Argentina finished the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record while the U.S. settled for runner-up honors with a 5-1 ledger.

* * *
Did you know that no team in the four qualifying zones (Africa, Americas, Asia-Oceania and Europe) for the 18th FIBA World Cup in China swept their 12-game assignments?

Only Lithuania and Greece from Europe each went 11-1.

Registering 10-2 cards were the two-time defending gold medalist United States (composed of NBA G League players) and Canada from the Americas; Tunisia, Nigeria and Senegal from Africa; Australia, New Zealand and South Korea from Asia-Oceania; and Spain and world third-ranked France from Europe.

Japan, an automatic qualifier to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the host country, dropped its first four games in the Asian qualifiers before coming up with an eight-game winning streak heading to the World Cup proper.

The top two teams from both the Americas and Europe and the No. 1 team each from Asia, Africa and Oceania in the World Cup will join Japan in the Tokyo Olympiad next year.

The four other entries to the Tokyo Games will be determined through a qualifying tournament in four different venues with each tournament topnotcher earning a berth.

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