Defending FIBA World Title Will Be No Easy Task For USA In 2014
In international basketball, the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Basketball World Cup (formerly known as the FIBA World Championship) is the diamond of international basketball competitions, and in 2014 the USA men’s team will be looking to successfully defend the crown it won in 2010.
Since the first World Championship was held in 1950, the USA has won 11 medals - four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all-time 114-27 record.
But as history has shown, capturing consecutive world titles is no easy chore.
Only two countries, Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (1998 and 2002), have earned back-to-back FIBA world titles since the event was initiated in 1950, and although the United States has won the world crown four times, it has never won consecutive titles. Having claimed the championship in Turkey in 2010, 2014 presents an opportunity for the U.S. to repeat for the first time.
“I've been privileged to be the head coach of the USA team at three previous FIBA World Championships, and this is an incredibly exciting and competitive championship that is not easy to win,” said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has compiled a 23-3 record as the USA head coach at the 1990, 2006, and 2010 World Championships.
“The format of the 2014 World Cup is exciting, and every game has significant meaning. While I'm confident the United States will field another competitive team that will represent our country proudly, winning the World Cup is no easy road.
“With teams around the world getting better each year, the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup promises to be one of the most competitive ever.”
The 2014 FIBA World Cup will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain. The U.S. and 23 other national teams have qualified to compete in the showdown for the world title.
“We have tremendous respect for every team competing in the 2014 World Cup, and as we’ve seen in the last couple of World Championships, any team is capable of beating any other team,” added Krzyzewski.
Sixty years ago, the U.S., represented by the AAU champ Peoria Caterpillars, won its first world title in 1954. The next World Championship was scheduled for the fall of 1958, but delays in constructing the arena in Santiago, Chile, forced it to be delayed to January 1959. The new dates were in the middle of the regular basketball seasons in the U.S., so unable to use collegians or AAU team members, the USA instead sent an Air Force select squad, which earned the silver medal after falling to gold medalist Brazil 81-67.
The USA’s next title didn’t come again until 1986, 32 years after winning its first title. Relying on relative unknowns from the college ranks, USA head coach Lute Olson and his 12-man team was considered a dark horse to win the title. But behind the play of future stars David Robinson, Charles Smith, Kenny Smith and Tyrone Bogues, the U.S. captured its first World Championship since 1954. Meeting a powerful USSR team in the ’86 gold medal contest, a Kenny Smith layup over Russia’s 7'2” star Arvidas Sabonis with 15 seconds left pushed the USA's lead to 87-83 and to its eventual 87-85 win.
Fielding a young and internationally inexperienced team that averaged just 20-years old, the 1990 USA team came up short in its quest to defend the World Championship gold medal and won bronze. Facing Yugoslavia in the semis, the favored Yugoslavian team, which featured five future NBA players, proved too much for the U.S. collegians as Yugoslavia earned a 99-91 victory.
Continuing the dominance displayed by the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, USA Basketball's 1994 World Championship Team, under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson and led by Shaquille O’Neal who was named MVP of the worlds, dominated opponents by an average of 37.7 points a game and rolled to an 8-0 record and the gold medal.
With NBA labor problems preventing the use of NBA players at the 1998 World Championship, this USA Team consisted of players who were playing professionally overseas, in the CBA, or who were in college. Under the direction of Rudy Tomjanovich, the USA surprised many but a last second loss to Russia in the semifinals forced the U.S. to settle for bronze.
After missing out on gold in 2002 and 2006, the 2010 USA team, without a single member of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team back in uniform, rolled over opponents to compile a 9-0 record and win the world title.
Meeting host and undefeated Turkey for the gold in 2010, in front of a sold-out, vocal and partisan crowd, Kevin Durant’s 28 points propelled the Americans to a dominating 81-64 victory and the USA’s first World Championship gold medal finish since 1994. Durant, who set USA World Cup scoring records with 205 points and a 22.8 points a game average, while adding 6.1 rebounds, and shooting 55.6 percent from the field, 45.6 percent from 3-point and 91.2 percent from the foul line, was named the MVP of the championship.
The 2014 USA World Cup Team will be selected from the USA Basketball National Team pool, which currently numbers 28 players.
“The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is being held in Spain and with 24 teams competing for the world title, including host Spain who we have had memorable games against in the last two Olympic gold medal games, we know it will be a challenge to repeat as world champions. Repeating will not be easy and it is a challenge we look forward to,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.
Members of the 2014-16 USA National Team include NBA stars LaMarcus Aldridge; Carmelo Anthony; Bradley Beal; Tyson Chandler; DeMarcus Cousins; Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis; Andre Drummond; Kevin Durant; Kenneth Faried; Paul George; Blake Griffin; James Harden; Gordon Hayward; Dwight Howard; Andre Iguodala; Kyrie Irving; LeBron James; Kyle Korver; David Lee; Kawhi Leonard; Damian Lillard; Kevin Love; Chris Paul; Derrick Rose; Klay Thompson; Russell Westbrook; and Deron Williams.
“Not too many people get the opportunity to represent their country and I want to do it proudly. I’m excited to play with some of the great players in the league and it should be a lot of fun,” said World Championship and Olympic gold medalist Durant.
What it means to represent the United States isn’t lost on Olympic gold medalist Davis either.
"(Wearing) USA means a lot. Those three letters on your chest, you represent the whole country. It's not about the name on the back, when you get that jersey on, it's more for the name on the front. No one cares about who scores, they just want to win. We don't want to settle for anything less. We only want gold."
2010 World Champion gold medalist and NBA All-Star Curry knows first-hand the honor and drama playing in the World Cup means. "Hopefully I'm back on that 12-man roster that heads to Spain and tries to defend our title. Anytime you play against the best in the world and lay it out on the line on the court, it's fun."