The FIBA World Cup and the Team USA Crisis


Wu Hong

Harrison Barnes pridefully celebrates after an emphatic dunk against Turkey.

Alexander Tabares, Staff Writer

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) sets up a global basketball tournament called the FIBA Basketball World Cup. The tournament is held on a four year cycle. However, it has been five years since the last tournament was held in order to reset the cycle so that it does not coincide with the world’s most renowned international soccer tournament, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup.

The United States (U.S.) men’s national basketball team is competing in the 2019 World Cup after defeating Serbia in the 2014 championship to win the Naismith Trophy.

The dominant team that the US team once was in 2014 has slowly faded after five years. The new team has very little squad-depth and has struggled to win games during the tournament. The 2019 US squad has very little experience playing with one another, and the players are having trouble adjusting to each others’ styles.

Many players have dropped out of the squad for a myriad of reasons. Whether players are sitting out to focus on their teams or improving their craft, players aren’t seeing the World Cup as a priority. Basketball superstars like James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love have declined invites to the tournament.

Despite the disappointment behind the lack of participation in the World Cup, there is a valid reason for these players to drop out. Players want to remain as healthy as possible. They want to stay injury-free and remain prepared for when the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season begins in October.

Though this has discouraged most All-Star players from competing in the World Cup, All-Stars Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton are leading the charge for Team USA. Kemba Walker has definitely shined in this environment, and was the top performer in the team’s tight victory over Turkey’s national team.

Rising stars Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown have also shared the spotlight, performing at a high level in their win over the Czech Republic and Japan. Mitchell and Brown are both young players with limited experience, so this does not exactly sit well with fans.

“The 2019 U.S. national team has relatively little experience, especially when compared to previous U.S. national teams. The team is just so young and the players need time to mesh together,” freshman Arcenio Seballos said.

Although the Team USA members are not used to playing together, they are still among the favorites to win the Naismith Trophy along with Serbia and Greece. No matter how favored they may be, they have cast doubt into many fans’ minds, especially with their performance against Turkey.

Pullquote Photo

The fact that a team like Turkey can push the United States into overtime shows the state of the talent on the team.

— Brian Matute

The game was evenly matched, and both sides were extremely physical throughout the game. Turkey is not recognized as a basketball power, but the way that they played against the United States was mesmerizing. Every point that the U.S. scored, Turkey matched. They were always hot on the Americans’ heels. The game went into overtime, since the score was tied at the end of the last quarter.

In extra time, the teams remained pretty even. The deciding moment was when Khris Middleton sunk both of his free-throws to lift Team USA 93-92. Turkey’s leader, Ersan Ilyasova, shot a buzzer-beating three-point shot with two seconds left only for it to bounce on the edge of the rim. This would have won Turkey the game.

As previously stated, Turkey is not a regarded as a powerful team in basketball. The fact that they were one shot away from beating the United States shows how necessary the All-Star players are to this superteam.

The United States’ national team lacks the experience and star-power to play at the same level that the world is used to seeing. We will have to see though, as the United States has proceeded into the second round of the competition while remaining undefeated. They could still win the competition, but if their game against Turkey is any indication, the Team USA men’s basketball team is treading on thin ice.