The FIBA World Cup is a lot more than just lifting the Naismith Trophy on September 10.
It also paves a path to the Paris 2024 Olympics and such is the joy of what has been witnessed so far, the so-called underdogs will have their day in the French capital in what many say is the sport’s most prestigious event.
Two teams from the Americas and Europe will book their spot via the World Cup with one spot allocated for Africa, Asia and Oceania. Despite a poor tournament, France are a lock as tournament hosts.
Australia have pipped New Zealand – as many people expected – on the Oceania side but it’s a dawning of a new era in Asia and Africa.
Japan rise for Asia
For many years, China has been the dominant force in Asia, but over the last five years, there has been a challenger to their throne.
And after an 80-71 win over Cape Verde, Japan now sits on top of Asian basketball and they will head to the Paris Olympics.
“We’re going to Paris,” said head coach Tom Hovasse shortly after the victory.
“These are the moments where you really get a chance to prove yourself, but also improve yourself. That’s the mindset all of our guys have. We’ve got some young guys that really stepped up.”
“It was great to win and get the Paris Olympics ticket,” added Keisei Tominaga, who finished with 22 points on 6 three-pointers in the win over a tough Cape Verde side on their FIBA World Cup debut.
South Sudan doin’ it for Africa
No doubt one of basketball’s greatest fairytales will have yet another chapter in Paris.
The story’s main character is South Sudan and they will fly the flag proudly in their first ever Olympics, next summer.
They took advantage of Egypt’s loss to New Zealand by hammering long-time African kings Angola 101-78 to finish the FIBA World Cup as the top-ranked African nation.
South Sudan’s rise to the World Cup has been well documented but this feat is even beyond their wildest hopes and dreams.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream come true. We became an independent country in 2011. No one ever imagined or dreamed of being in this position,” Nuni Omot said.
“And now we’re going to have the chance to walk across the Olympic stage with our flag. It’s unbelievable everything that’s happened.
“Obviously, this is one of the most… I’m so emotional right now. It’s one of the best stories, sports stories that’s that’s came out in a long time. So I’m just I’m just very blessed to be a part of this.”
There are four more automatic Olympic births up for grabs in this incredible FIBA World Cup saga.
For more information on qualification to the Olympic Games next year, click here.