Germany on cusp of first Fiba World Cup trophy
A successful basketball program is often built on players who act as cogs to a well-oiled machine.
In Germany’s case, there are no cogs. There is just the machine. There is simply Die Mannschaft.
“I can’t take credit for it. The credit goes to the players,” Germany coach Gordon Herbert told reporters, deadpan, on the heels of a 113-111 upset of fancied United States on Friday night in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup that put the Mannschaft on the precipice of history.
“You know, we talked about having a three-year plan. We wanted the guys to commit for three years. This is year two,” Herbert added. “Commitment is one thing but before that, it’s caring. We have players who care about each other. They pull for each other, they fight for each other. So it’s a special group with a lot of special players and even better human beings.”
In that span, the Germans moved from placing eighth in the Olympic Games in Tokyo to winning a bronze medal in the EuroBasket. On Sunday, the Germans could win their first-ever World Cup gold.
No clear stars
There are no clear stars in this squad that features four standouts—Dennis Schröder, Franz and Moritz Wagner, and Daniel Theis—plying their trade in the National Basketball Association (NBA). On Friday night, it was Andreas Obst who led the upset of the United States.
“This is not just a one-year thing. We are all very aware that this is a body of work over a bunch of years and that’s what it takes, and I’m very happy to be a part of that,” said Moritz Wagner.
“We are a very, very deep team. I think we have a lot of confidence. Everybody accepts their roles, and everybody is excited for each other since we just want to win,” he added.
That long commitment has worked wonders for Germany and gets further highlighted when ranged against the results of hastily assembled squads like the United States and the Philippines, which failed in their bid to reach the second round.
The Americans began practicing at full strength only on Aug. 3. The Philippines, meanwhile, had a core training for months, with Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto—two of the program’s biggest names—reporting to training barely two weeks before the World Cup kicked off.
Carmelo Anthony, Team USA’s most decorated player, said on Saturday it’s time basketball officials “respect the game a lot more.”
“We can’t overlook these guys that are out here right now, working hard and competing,” he said of the field. “Win, lose or draw, they’re still out here.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the very few top-flight NBA players who opted to represent their roots in the World Cup, made an even firmer declaration.
“The game is international. Some of the best players now in the NBA are all obviously international,” alluding to the likes of Most Valuable Player awardees Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Obviously, the world is bigger than just America, when you see the games in the NBA. There are a lot of amazing players that just don’t get the chance to be one of the 450 [NBA players],” the Dominican Republic ace said.