December 02, 2023

One for the books: Top 10 FIBA World Cup moments

One for the books: Top 10 FIBA World Cup moments
Art by Royce Nicdao

And so, it ends.

The FIBA World Cup has concluded in magnificent fashion with Germany claiming their first-ever title. This edition of the tournament will go down as one of the most important with a lot of tightly contested games played. Perhaps it's one of the most unforgettable too.

Here are 10 of the most memorable moments from the FIBA World Cup.

Germany beats Team USA then completes unbeaten run

FIBA ranked Germany second behind Team USA in its pre-tournament power rankings, calling the squad "a complete package." Fast forward to the FIBA World Cup's ending and Germany has surpassed that by not only eliminating America in the semifinals, but also completing its immaculate run with a historic victory over Serbia. Two FIBA World Cups ago, Germany wasn't even qualified. In the last edition, Germany didn't even make the second round. Now, they are world champions.

Supernova Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson saved the best for last in his FIBA World Cup debut. On the tail end of a disheartening campaign, JC gave Pinoy fans something to celebrate with a third quarter explosion against China that will go down as one of the best moments in Gilas history. Clarkson unloaded 24 points, sinking five straight threes in an unconscious rally.

Philippines sets FIBA record attendance

A total of 700,665 fans watched the 92 games in the FIBA World Cup and 38,115 of those came from a record-setting opening day crowd at the Philippine Arena when Gilas Pilipinas battled the Karl-Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic. Pilipinas ultimately lost the game, but the record crowd once again proved to the world how passionate Filipinos are with basketball. Thousands singing Lupang Hinirang with all their hearts will always be goosebumps-inducing no matter the event.

Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates with fans

Speaking of Towns, the Dominican Republic made his mark in his FIBA World Cup debut after leading his country to a first-round sweep. What the Minnesota Timberwolves superstar did after elevated that experience to unforgettable status. KAT celebrated with his countrymen inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum, jumping and hugging while shouting "Dominicana" repeatedly.

Dillon Brooks embracing the villain tag

Dillon Brooks fully embraced the villain tag and he got the last laugh in the end. Even after taking in boos from the crowd, the Houston Rockets forward did not waver from his persona, even using it as a fuel. Brooks was vital in Canada's first-ever podium finish in the FIBA World Cup beating and eliminating the previous champions Spain, Luka Doncic and Slovenia, and Team USA in the process. Also, this Brooks boxing gloves moment is GOATed. Never believe anything else.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's Kobe comparison

From the jersey number, to his shoes, basketball moves, and even the looks, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a spitting image of the late great Kobe Bryant during his stint with Jordan in the FIBA World Cup. RHJ's 39 points against New Zealand is Mamba-esque and it won't be a surprise if he gets a call for a return trip to the NBA soon.

AJ Edu immediately claims place in Gilas

AJ Edu "only" scored 7 points in his official debut in a Gilas Pilipinas uniform, but his tenacity on defense earned him a praise from non-other than NBA superstar Towns. After harrowing years of enduring knee injuries, the Pilipinas big man immediately claimed his place as one of the present and future cornerstones of Gilas.

Japan's historic first win against Europe

In one of the most emotional wins in the tournament, Japan completed a comeback and a massive upset against Finland for the Akatsuki Five's first-ever victory against any European nation. What made it more sweet was the completion of the 18-point come-from-behind win in front of their home crowd in Okinawa. By the end of the first round, only Japan has a victory among Asian teams in the tournament, and that confidence-boosting win against Finland propelled Japan to ultimately finish as the best team in the continent to claim the automatic spot in the Paris Olympics.

Latvia debuts with flying colors

What made this year's FIBA World Cup extra-special is the stellar play of debutants including Latvia who many would say exceeded expectations by a mile. The Latvians, who played without their most notable NBA veteran in Kristaps Porzingis, reached the quarterfinals. They lost to eventual champions Germany by just two points in the knockout stage but secured the fifth-place finish with a win over Italy. Top five in the world in your debut in the FIBA World Cup? Now that says a lot about Latvia's program.

South Sudan's more than basketball moment

Remember when traffic and crime significantly diminish in the Philippines whenever Manny Pacquiao has a mega fight? That's the kind of effect South Sudan's basketball team has on their nation in their debut in the FIBA World Cup. The South African squad had a mission bigger than basketball because as coach Royal Ivey said, "When we play basketball, everything ceases, violence stops." Now the nation of South Sudan will have more reasons to unite as their team qualified for the Paris Olympics next year.


This year's FIBA World Cup is indeed one for the books, not just the Filipino fans who enjoyed world-class basketball, but for the players and federations who all took part in it.