It might surprise some that the World Championship, (or, um, the World Cup title) won yesterday by USA is only the 5th-ever title for the Americans in the 17-year history of the event. And, that that only ties USA for most titles with Yugoslavia. The good news for USA is that YUG doesn't exist anymore, so the road is clear for USA to move firmly clear atop the history books. And there really shouldn't be any concern yet for the USA, provided they maintain focus and take these tournaments seriously. When they do - thanks to Jerry Colangelo and the current USA Basketball mantra, there really isn't much competition. At this tournament, for example, it must have been disheartening a bit for other nations to see such depth of the Americans, as a couple of months before the start, USA was in a bit of turmoil with injury depletions and players dropping out. In fact, only two players on the World Cup team were carry-overs from the Olympic team in 2012. Spain and others must have been drooling at the prospect of grabbing a title while USA was sleeping. But, while other countries were fielding their 'A' teams in that goal, USA was probably a 'B+' at best, and yet still cruised to the title. How do the other countries counter? We'll see in a couple of years in Rio what adjustments, if any, the top contenders ESP, SRB, FRA and maybe others can make. Otherwise, Rio looks to be another USA coronation. But behind the U.S., it may be a toss-up, as the sport really is a global game. From '94 on, 11 different nations aside from USA have won a medal - and the silver and bronze medalists in '14 are completely different from '10 (SRB and FRA vs TUR and LTU). Furthermore, most pundits expected Spain to cruise into the final against USA, yet ESP found themselves upset by old rivals FRA in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, SRB was a surprise finalist after finishing third in their round-robin group and upsetting FRA in the semifinals. There is obviously some good basketball being played over in Europe. That competitive balance and popularity of the sport is certainly what helped drive FIBA to re-brand the tournament as a 'World Cup' vs a 'World Championship', with an eye toward marketing the sports as a significant global interest. But to really make it matter and to really make it compelling, there needs to be a good, consistent chance going into it that other one or more teams can knock off the USA. Time will tell if that can happen.
Above: Athens' Kallimarmaro, the site of the 1896 Summer Olympics
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