Previewing the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023: Highlights, Teams, and Players to Watch

Basketball is one of the most popular sports out there. There are approximately 450 million players in the world (FIBA survey), which actually exceeds soccer by a large margin. Coupled with the influence of popular content such as “Slam Dunk”, a movie that became a big hit in Japan, the attention of people who do not play basketball is increasing, and the “FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023” will be held in Japan from August 25th. If you know the highlights of this year’s World Cup, the notable players of the Japanese national team, and the most popular overseas teams, you should be able to enjoy watching the games even more. Therefore, we interviewed Mr. Chris Sasaki, a former basketball player and commentator, and asked him to answer questions that beginners are concerned about.

Snap during warm-up game with France. Chris Sasaki is on the left.

Q1. What kind of tournament is the basketball world cup that will be held soon? The pinnacle like soccer World Cup?

A. The Basketball World Cup is an important prelude to the Olympic Games.

The official name is “FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023”. FIBA stands for Basketball International Federation, and the World Cup held by FIBA ​​is positioned as an important competition for qualifying for the Olympics.

Japan’s main goal in this tournament is to win the right to participate in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. That is to get the highest ranking among Asian countries excluding Australia and New Zealand. If that happens, the right to participate in the Olympics will be guaranteed at the time of this World Cup. Also, unlike soccer, in the case of basketball, there is no age limit for participating in the Olympics, so the Olympics can be said to be the top competition by country.

However, while only 12 teams can participate in the Olympics, 32 countries can participate in the World Cup.

In the professional league, the American NBA champion is the number one trophy in the world.

Q2. Please tell us about the structure of your journey to victory.

A. They will have to work their way through two group rounds and a tournament to win.

First, group phase 1st round. A round robin will be played for each group determined by lottery. There are 4 teams x 8 groups from A to H. For example, Japan is in E group, so we will play 3 games with E1-4 vs. F1-4. As a result, the two teams with the highest scores in each group will advance to the 2nd round of the group phase.

In the Group Phase 2nd Round, the top two teams in Groups A and B advance to Group I, the top two teams in Groups C and D advance to Group J, and so on. We will fight against 2 teams from another group that didn’t exist. In other words, in Group K, Japan will play against the top two teams in Group F. Once the points are decided, the top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament, where the teams will be narrowed down to eight teams.

Next is the final phase. From here on, it’s a tournament system. It’s a one-shot game, and the winning team advances to the next game.

Finally, there will be a standings match. The top 2 teams from Europe and America and the top 1 team from Africa, Asia and Oceania will advance to the Olympics, so determining the final standings is very important. So even teams that didn’t advance to the 2nd phase of the group phase, for example the teams that lost in the semi-semifinals, will have two more matches to determine the ranks from 17th to 32nd.

Q3.What group does Japan belong to?

A.Group E is known as the “group of death” and is extremely fierce.

A diagram showing the structure of the group phase 1st round. Japan is in Group E.

Group E, in which Japan was selected this time, is an extremely fierce group called the “Group of Death” which includes Germany, Finland, and Australia, all of which are ranked higher than Japan in the world. At the moment, no Asian team has beaten the United States or Europe in either the Olympics or the World Cup, but if they do, I think it will be a feat comparable to their victory over South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Masu.

Q4. Why is this tournament being held in Japan (Okinawa), the Philippines, and Indonesia?

A. I think it’s to liven up the basketball fever in Asia.

The previous tournament in 2019 was held in Beijing, China, so it was the second consecutive tournament held in the Asian region. From this, I think you can see that FIBA ​​is focusing on Asia. It may be said that the selection was made to “enliven the passion for basketball in Asia”.

Basketball is one of the national sports in the Philippines, and it is so popular that 60% of the people answer that they are interested in basketball. What’s more, there are so many people in the world who actively use SNS, so there may be an aspect that makes it easier to liven things up. This “utilization of SNS” has become indispensable for the excitement of sports. More than 100 million people, half of the population of Indonesia, are under the age of 30. Since this is the age group that uses SNS on a daily basis, the topic of basketball will easily spread around the world.

On the other hand, in Japan, until the B League (Japan’s professional basketball league) was born in 2015, it was still difficult to say that basketball was booming in the country. However, in 2019, Japan is showing excitement as it participated in the World Cup on its own. FIBA has decided to allow Japan to participate in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as a host country, in order to provide a further tailwind. The reason why Japan was chosen as the venue for this year’s tournament must be because of the spirit of “Let’s further accelerate the basketball fever.”

Q5. Please tell us about the notable players of the Japanese national team.

A. Attention to Yuta Watanabe!

Rui Hachimura will not be participating in this tournament, but there are many other talented players. I think Watanabe is Japan’s heart and soul, and while the average NBA career is said to be four to five years, he is a wonderful player with five years of experience. He was never a player that attracted attention, so he survived “tryouts” such as summer leagues and training camps, and has been playing for almost five years, always on the edge of a cliff without being drafted. Including this mental strength, he can be said to be one of the indispensable players for the Japanese national team.

In the world of basketball, which is dominated by the United States and Europe, the Japanese national team’s battle at the World Cup is, in a sense, “lower rank” and a challenge. With Watanabe at the top of the list, I think it is important how we can unite and fight.

Q6. Which overseas team is likely to become the “eye of the storm” in this tournament?

A. After all, the American team!

Basketball became so popular around the world when the NBA’s all-star corps called the “Dream Team” formed in 1992 with Michael Jordan at the head of the team went straight to the Barcelona Olympics. Since then, the basketball world has rapidly developed and internationalized, so it will be interesting to see how the American team will compete in this tournament.

Also, since the Olympics are at the top of the list in the United States, there are many players who do not participate in the World Cup in the 1st and 2nd classes. On the other hand, players in their early twenties who are still in the 3rd and 4th army classes will be the main players of the team, although they will be the face of the NBA in the future. With this World Cup as a trigger, you can also enjoy the fun of finding players who will further climb the stardom of the NBA.

Nonetheless, as a player who is aiming for the NBA or who is trying to play an active part in the future, he may be worried about the possibility of suffering a serious injury that will affect the player’s life by participating in the World Cup. Under such circumstances, it is a fact that there are players who will withdraw from this World Cup.

Q7. Please tell us about the players of the overseas teams that are attracting attention.

A. Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic, Josh Guiddy.

Luka Doncic of Slovenia.

Anthony Edwards of the United States. He is a player who usually plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA, and although he is only 21 years old, he has already participated in the All-Star Game held on February 20, 2023. The All-Star Game is an exhibition game held in the NBA every February. Participating players are determined by fan votes and head coach recommendations, so being selected is proof of your ability.

That being said, we are still at a crossroads as to whether or not this will become the face of the NBA, so if the World Cup takes off at once, I think the fierce battles between NBA stars will accelerate and become a spectacle. I hope. After all, Anthony Edwards has overwhelming athletic ability and cool dunk shots, and is outstanding.

By the way, I remember that with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the match against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 20, 2021, Watanabe decided to dunk him, and the world’s attention was drawn to the play of both. Clear. After the game, he was asked, “Why did you go to block a player with such high jumping power in the first place when you can’t stop him in the first place?” If I can, I will definitely jump to the block,” said Watanabe, who was so cool! It was the moment when Watanabe’s stocks went up even though he got a super play.

Next is Luka Doncic of Slovenia. This player will come to Okinawa in the group phase. Anyway, it’s cool to play. He is already an MVP class player in the NBA. The possibility of Slovenia winning the championship under the leadership of Luka Doncic is also realistic.

Josh Guiddy of Australia, one of the favorites to win, is also paying attention. Although he is only 20 years old, he has a genius sense for handling passes. This player will come to Japan as well as Luka Doncic. Even if you don’t know the difficult rules, the play is artistic, so I think you can enjoy the artistic side of basketball just by watching.

For example, it should be interesting enough just to check the play of these players intensively and see how they play imaginatively in an instant.

Q8. Frankly, which team does Chris predict will win this tournament?

A. We are looking at the USA and France teams.

With the number of players withdrawing from the tournament increasing, it is quite difficult to predict who will win. France, the United States, Slovenia, Spain, and Australia have all been mentioned as favorites to win the championship, but there are a lot of NBA players in Canada too… There is a possibility that France and Slovenia will meet at an early stage, and if that happens, the aforementioned Luka Doncic and France, who won the silver medal at the Olympics, will collide. I think that this tournament will also have an upset performance, so it is difficult to narrow down the winning candidate to one!

Q9. If there are any rules or plays that even a super beginner would like to know, please let me know.

A. Know the “Paint Area” and “Shot Clock”.

There are plenty of game-changing plays, but those who haven’t watched basketball for a while may find it difficult to discern the technicalities.

First of all, don’t put too much effort into it. If you immerse yourself in watching the game, even if the venue seems to be excited, the play just now was amazing! Isn’t it felt? Basketball games are fast-paced, so the trick is to enjoy them as if you were on a roller coaster.

“Every play is a highlight”. It’s a highlight to work hard in defense, and it’s also a highlight to go get a ball that you don’t know whose ball it is. It’s a sport where both teams score 80 points or more, so when you look at the whole thing later, it’s possible that it was that loose ball that decided the game. With that in mind, let’s introduce two points that will be a lot of fun if you know them.

・Paint area

A small rectangular area near the goal on a basketball court. The process to carry the ball here is quite important.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that getting the ball into this area would have accomplished more than half of the offensive job. Whether or not the shot goes in, for example, if the ball goes in here, the opponent’s defense may also gather around the goal. Then, the space at the three-point point becomes empty and you may be able to shoot … and the game progresses dramatically like a domino toppling.

If you’re not sure which team dominates the game, you can use how many balls are in the paint area.

・Shot Clock

Now let’s talk about the “shot clock”. In basketball, there is a rule that the team in possession of the ball must shoot once every 24 seconds and hit the ball into the ring.

Since the 40-minute game is divided into 4 times, there is a clock that counts down 10 minutes per quarter (game clock) and a clock that counts down 24 seconds, that is, a shot clock, and they are running all the time during the game. .

This “24 seconds” can feel pressured depending on the player. If you run out of time and get impatient, it will visibly affect the player’s ability to carry the ball. Even if you don’t know why you hit a shot, there are many actions that you can understand if you know the concept of the shot clock.

It’s only been 8 seconds and he’s already hit the shot. Or, if this team has a big ace, is it not rushed even at the last minute of 24 seconds?

Q10. Are there any memorable scenes from past World Cups for Chris?

A.It is a match at the 2006 tournament held in Japan.

Stars like the young LeBron James, who has been the face of the NBA for 20 years until today, are all on the American national team, and the fact that such players will visit Japan has attracted attention. Ta. However, when I opened the lid, the American national team lost to the Greek national team. The content of the way to lose is also suitable for the expression “Kotenpan”. Look at the players of the American team who are confused about the Greek ball, what is this! I was shocked.

Looking back, when the American stars participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, they won every game by about 40 points. From there, the European team will catch up with America anyway! The momentum has increased. The results began to appear when Yugoslavia won the 2002 World Championships*, and Argentina won the 2004 Athens Olympics. Under such circumstances, the United States lost to Greece in 2006 and missed the championship, so I felt that the prestige of the United States had already been lost.

However, since 2008, the United States has put its prestige on the table for the Olympics, and has reorganized the team once more. . Because of this, the internationalization of basketball is progressing even within the NBA, and now more than 100 players, or nearly a quarter of all players, are from outside the United States. It’s become so borderless that it would be nice to enjoy the World Cup as a global event.

Next time, I think it will be interesting if an Asian country wins over Europe and the United States.

*The name before it was held under the name of the World Cup

Q11. Please let me know if there are any tools I should check to enjoy the World Cup!

A. It is recommended that you check the official website of the tournament and collect information according to your interest.

The official website operated by the tournament headquarters is recommended as it provides accurate information. After that, it’s best to check and see things that pique your curiosity as your interest dictates. We are also focusing on visuals and highlights for each country, so if you find a team you like, it would be a good idea to follow them on social media! It’s not about studying, so feel free to enjoy it and feel the excitement!

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Official Site
Japan National Team Official Twitter


Basketball Analyst / Chris Sasaki

Born in New York, raised in Tokyo. He experienced the number one university in Japan when he was enrolled at Aoyama Gakuin University. After working as a professional player for Chiba Jets and Tokyo Sunreves, he started NBA live commentary as an NBA analyst in 2013. Since 2017, he has served as an official analyst of the domestic B League, and has been a commentator on NHK and commercial broadcasters, while also presiding over “Eigo de Basketball”, which teaches children. He holds a Japan Basketball Association Class C coaching license. His book is “NBA Basketball Super Analysis ~ 50 New Common Senses You’ll Want to Talk About ~”.

Interview and text: @Living editorial department Photo courtesy: Japan Basketball Association

2023-08-24 00:43:41
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