The 2010 FIBA World Championship, scheduled for August 28-September 12, is set to feature the top 24 teams in the world. The U.S. basketball team, led by legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, will travel to host country Turkey, hoping for an encore of their golden performance at the Beijing Olympics. The U.S. team will look to improve on its semifinal loss in the 2006 tourney with a stronger showing at this year’s worlds. In this article, I will preview the 2010 FIBA World Championship and offer predictions.
The United States has been the dominant force in international basketball since pretty much the beginning. In point of fact, the team has won 13 gold medals out of the 16 Olympics it has competed in. Moreover, the U.S. has often won its gold medal in dominant fashion accompanied by very impressive winning margins. Yet, the team has not enjoyed the same level of success at worlds winning only 3 titles in 15 appearances. This is understandable as there is greater U.S. emphasis on the Olympics than on the world championships.
The U.S. traditionally fields a weaker team at the FIBA World Championship, and this year will be no different. Top American stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade have already excused themselves from the squad. Instead, the team will be led by veteran Chauncey Billups and newly minted star Kevin Durant. While this roster is lacking serious options, it does fit perfectly into Krzyzewski’s coaching philosophy. Coach K’s emphasis on teamwork over individual skills will surely be on full display. This style of basketball worked well at the Beijing Olympics; there is no reason why it could not work again.
Defending world champion Spain is expected to be the U.S. strongest challenger. The team is arguably the most successful non-American team in recent times, having won both world and European titles. Moreover, the squad that led the country to a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics is still mostly intact compared to a weakened US squad. This year’s Spanish team will be led by Ricky Rubio, the talented point guard who made quite an impression two years ago in Beijing as a 16-yr old phenom. The youngster has since blossomed into one of the best players in the highly competitive Euro League; he is definitely the player to watch at the 2010 World Championship.
Greece is another strong contender for the world title. The country is never known for having a plethora of great players. In fact, most of the players in the Greek team are unfamiliar to both U.S. and European audiences. Yet, Greece is one of the most successful teams in international play having won the 2002 Worlds and finished no less than the quarterfinal stage in most recent competitions. The team’s successes are almost entirely due to its boringly effective style of play. Greece is probably the strongest defensive team in the world; their sense of teamwork and collective play is quite remarkable. One should not be surprised if the Greeks were to add another world title to their list of accomplishments.
The dark horse at the 2010 Worlds is most likely Brazil. The Samba country, which is celebrated for its soccer prowess, looks poised to make its mark on basketball as well starting with this competition. This year’s Brazilian squad is probably the most talented group of basketball players the country has ever been able to put together. The roster is full of established NBA players, many of whom are key members of their respective teams. This year’s squad will be led by Leandro Barbosa (from the Phoenix Suns) and Nene (from the Denver Nuggets).
My predictions for the 2010 Men’s Basketball World Championship: The U.S. defeats Spain for the title; Brazil reaches the semifinal. Group play starts August 28 and the final is set for September 12. For viewers in the United States, the event will be broadcasted by ESPN and its sister network ESPN2.