Gilas’ FIBA catastrophe

By Alex P. Vidal

“My focus is basketball, and that’s it.”— Kyrie Irving

HOSTING a World Cup is different from winning it.

Just like the World Olympic Games—summer and winter. Russia can bring home the title even if the Games is held in Athens, Greece; USA can win more golds even if the Games is hosted by Beijing.

For example, if the Philippines is the host of the FIFA World Cup and fails to win the championship, it’s no big deal since soccer is really the sphere of Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and France.

But, at least, as a host nation, the Pinoy booters should not end up winless in the group phase.

There is always dignity for any host nation even if it isn’t expected to emerge as the champion.

There were also instances when the host country in the global sports competitions wrapped up the overall championship based on the medal tally or team elimination format.

Like in the Southeast (SEA) Asian Games where the host nation normally dominates the competitions as it is allowed to field more athletes in extra events as part of the privileges as the host.

But let us focus on the FIBA Basketball World Cup or FIBA World Cup since the Philippines is this episode’s co-host with Japan and Indonesia.

And because the Gilas Pilipinas’ lackluster participation has generated so much frustrations and irritations from overzealous fans to the point of jeering and verbally abusing coach Chot Reyes in the aftermath of the host team’s catastrophic and heartbreaking setbacks to Dominican Republic, Angola, Italy, and South Sudan.


Again, it’s not a shocker that Gilas failed to roll past the visitors from Africa and Europe. It’s not Reyes’ “fault” alone. They were really the forces to reckon with in the game of basketball what with their towering and talented NBA back-up players.

Winning the FIBA World Cup is long shot and the fans understand the Gilas’ limitations, but at least, to give credence and splendor as the host team, Gilas should have registered a single or two victories. Not zero.

The fans ended up angry and frustrated because of too much expectations. Sometimes they thought the Gilas players were like Supermen.

An exception was when the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup took place in Argentina in 1950 with the host nation prevailing in the final against the United States of America (USA).

Since the first staging of the tournament in Buenos Aires where six teams did battle, the field has grown exponentially to feature the 24 best teams from around the world.

For the first time ever in 2019, the competition consisted of 32 teams.

While the USA captured their first crown in 1954, their dominance on the Olympic stage was not replicated and there were to be five different nations declared world champions across the first six editions of the event. Indeed the USA didn’t claim another world title for more than 30 years.


Brazil were the first to both claim two titles and to also successfully defend their title after triumphing in 1959 and 1963.

The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia then followed up with their first-ever appearances on the top of the podium.

The Soviet Union have won the competition three times, while Yugoslavia went on to win four further titles and still remain the most successful nation alongside USA, who have also won five times.

A true golden era for Yugoslavia came between 1990 and 2002, when they won three of four editions. They were able to capitalise on the contributions of stars such as Drazen Petrovic, Dejan Bodiroga and Predrag Stojakovic.

There was also storied glory for Spain in 2006, when they won their only world title to date as Pau Gasol propelled them to victory in Japan.

The USA finally claimed back-to-back titles, as they signed off the FIBA World Championship era by standing on the top step of the podium in Turkey in 2010 and then picking up where they left off by riding high in Spain four years later. (Source:

(The author, who is now based in News York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)