Better not be late in getting those tickets.
Filipino hoops fans have a lot of reasons to be excited for the FIBA World Cup happening this year. For one, the Philippines is one of the hosts, alongside Japan and Indonesia. But the obvious and bigger reason for many is: Team USA is playing the entire tournament in the Pearl of the Orient.
That means seeing the stars of the NBA, a pro league traditionally dominated by Americans, in the flesh.
Coach Steve Kerr is already at work building his team for the August affair, and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum says it’s not just Team USA getting ready to call upon their hoop soldiers.
“But there will be… at least 60, probably more NBA players that are gonna be participating [in the FIBA World Cup],” Tatum told Cignal TV’s Boom Gonzalez on The Game.
The NBA and basketball itself have gone global, and more talent has risen outside of the United States in the past two decades.
USA is just ranked second in the FIBA world rankings, with defending World Cup champs Spain taking the top spot. Serbian Nikola Jokic is back-to-back reigning MVP in the NBA. This year, the contenders for his throne are former MVP and Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, Cameroon-born and French citizen Joel Embiid, and Slovenian Luka Doncic.
Tatum, who also sits on the FIBA executive committee, says this is going to pave the way for a better brand of basketball in the World Cup.
“I think the level of competition is going to be very, very competitive. Because you now have the Canadian team that has potential to stack 12 NBA players on their national team,” said Tatum. “You have the French team, you have the Australian team, you have the Spanish team, the Greek team. All these teams are gonna be stacked with NBA players.”
As for the Philippines, the long-time NBA executive says this is our chance as host to wield the power of basketball to inspire.
“My advice would be tell the stories. Tell the great, passionate stories of these players who have worked so hard all their lives to get to where they’ve gotten,” Tatum shared.
"It’s a unique opportunity to bring the world together,” he added.