The FIBA World Cup hardly gets any attention in the USA, but around the world it is a growing phenomenon that hopes to match its football counterpart in terms of popularity one day .
With basketball continuing to become a more global game as the years go by, the level of play across the continents has caught up as well. The recently concluded fourth window of the World Cup qualifiers held in various locations featured some of the best players in basketball today going head-to-head for one of 32 slots in next year’s tournament.
Four national teams–Cote d’Ivoire, Finland, Lebanon, and New Zealand–secured their slots on merit last week while Japan and the Philippines are already assured of theirs as next year’s joint hosts.
The European Qualifiers were particularly competitive given the high number of NBA players participating, though there were memorable performances seen across the globe as highlighted below.
Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo square off in a battle of giants
These two players are the owners of the four latest NBA Most Valuable Player awards and their match-up did not disappoint.
Jokic had 29 points, eight rebounds, and six assists to lead Serbia past Greece in overtime, 100-94. They managed to survive a heroic performance from Antetokounmpo who dropped 40 points to set a new European Qualifiers record along with eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
Both teams are in Europe’s Group I and the loss drops Greece to a 4-2 win-loss record that puts them at second plce. Meanwhile, Serbia kept its hopes alive with the win which moved them to 3-3. They are currently tied with Belgium for third place.
A bearded Kristaps Porzingis carries Latvia
Porzingis flashed his top form–and a new beard–in Latvia’s two wins in this window of the European Qualifiers that has them on the cusp of qualifying for next year’s World Cup. They currently lead the region’s Group I with a 5-1 record, notably above Greece and Serbia.
The Washington Wizards’ forward had 22 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and six blocks in a victory over Turkey and followed it up with 29 points and 14 rebounds as they defeated Great Britain.
Lauri Markkanen secure’s Finland’s World Cup ticket
Finland will be making their second appearance in the World Cup next year after two more wins in last week’s European Qualifiers. Their lone active NBA player Markkanen of the Cleveland Cavaliers led the way for them, highlighted by a 28-point performance in their 79-73 win against Israel.
The 25-year-old forward is averaging 21.8 points, nine rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for his national team in four qualifying games so far.
Germany’s team effort outlasts Luka Doncic
Germany pulled off an impressive 90-71 win over Slovenia with a balanced effort led by Dennis Schroder. Currently one of the top remaining free agents in the NBA, the 28-year-old point guard scored 17 points–all in the second half–and handed out 10 assists.
Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner added 16 while EuroLeague veterans Johannes Voigtmann and Andreas Obst had 14 and 13 points, respectively. Germany is currently 7-1 and running second in Europe’s Group J behind just Finland.
Doncic was limited to just 23 points on six-of-16 field goal shooting and he made only six of his 11 free throw attempts. It was the superstar’s first defeat with the Slovenian national team this summer. Slovenia is right behind Germany in Group J with a 5-3 record.
Wael Arakji outduels Jordan Clarkson in Lebanon
The FIBA Asia Cup 2022 Most Valuable Player Arakji powered Lebanon to a thrilling 85-81 win over the Philippines at Beirut. Arakji had 24 points, two rebounds, and three assists, highlighted by a seven-point outburst in the last minute of the fourth period that broke a 78-all tie and swung the match in their favor. Amir Saoud also added 17 points for Lebanon.
The win helped spoil the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Clarkson’s long-awaited debut for the Philippines who are one of the hosts for next year’s World Cup. The Utah Jazz veteran finished with 27 points, six rebounds, and seven assists while his backcourt partner Dwight Ramos had 18 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and six steals.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tows Canada past Argentina
The Oklahoma City Thunder star led the way for Canada in their 99-87 win with 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds, a steal, and two blocks. Kelly Olynyk added 21 points and seven rebounds while fellow NBA veteran Dwight Powell chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Argentina was carried by its backcourt against Canada, with Nicolas Laprovittola scoring 30 points and Facundo Campazzo tallying 17 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists.