The Basketball World Cup - FIBA’s biggest tournament - started on Saturday morning, spread out across three countries for the first two rounds before all the biggest games get played in Manila to decide which nation will go home with gold medals and the Naismith Trophy.
Spain are the defending champions, having won in China four years ago. The United States were only seventh in that tournament; their worst-ever finish in a major international event. The Americans have high hopes, however, and enter as the tournament favourites.
The Tall Blacks begin their campaign against the United States on Sunday morning - the 12.40am tip-off will be a test for even our most hardcore hoops fans.
What are the Tall Blacks’ chances?
The New Zealand side find themselves in a tough group with the United States, Greece and Jordan. The US say they are wary of the Kiwis’ competitiveness, yet one would be naive to assume anything more than a starter’s chance for the Tall Blacks in their first outing of the tournament.
Greece at a glance would look again to be too talented to beat, but they will be without NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who withdrew from the tournament saying his medical advisers decided that he’s not ready to compete following knee surgery.
This therefore becomes a much more tantalising fixture for Tall Blacks fans. A win over the Greeks, however difficult it may be, would put the Kiwis in a strong position to make it out of their group.
Their final pool match is against Jordan, whom the Tall Blacks played twice in qualifying for the tournament, winning one and losing the second back in February. They’re a real chance in this one, depending on how the first two matches go, it could be a win-or-go-home scenario for the Men in Black.
According to FIBA, the US have the youngest team at the World Cup with an average age of 24.6. The oldest teams are Venezuela (32.3) and Cape Verde (32.2).
The oldest player on the final rosters is Brazilian guard Marcelinho Huertas, who turned 40 on May 25.
The youngest player is Khaman Maluach of South Sudan. He’s only 16, one of six teenagers in the field. The others are a trio of 19-year-olds — Eduardo Francisco of Angola, Miro Little of Finland and Juan Nunez of Spain — along with 18-year-olds Karim Elgizawy of Egypt and Mohammad Amini of Iran.
The final numbers are in and, officially, it’s an NBA-record 55 players who are part of this year’s World Cup. That only counts players currently under contract; it’s possible that by the time training camps start in a few weeks the number could rise.
The previous record was 54, set in China four years ago.
Add in former NBA players or NBA draftees, and the number rises to 106 for this tournament — another record, three more than the 2019 event.
The NBA teams with the most players at this World Cup are Orlando, Utah, Oklahoma City and Minnesota with five apiece.
What’s at stake?
Start with gold medals for the winners, possession of the Naismith Trophy, the chance to spend the next four years as the reigning World Cup champions. The gold medal game is in Manila on 10 September.
There are tournaments within the tournament, though - with another very big prize.
Out of this World Cup, seven teams will directly qualify for the Paris Olympics based on their finish. It’ll be the top two teams from the Americas Region, the top two from Europe, and one each from Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Spain, Argentina, France, Australia, the US, Nigeria and Iran were the seven nations that used World Cup finishes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
France has already qualified for the Olympics as the host nation. The seven teams that make it out of World Cup will be joined by four other nations - to be determined in July 2024 - as part of the 12-team field for Paris 2024.
How to watch:
Fans can watch all FIBA World Cup 2023 games on Courtside1891 and each Tall Blacks game with other big match-ups on TVNZ+ and Duke.
The US are overwhelming favourites to take the World Cup back stateside - priced at $1.72 on TAB
Canada and Australia come in next with the bookies at $6 and $8 respectively.
If you’re looking for value, NBA’s Luka Doncic and Slovenia are $12 for the title.
- with AP