Meriting global recognition, the game of basketball entails cohesion and circuitry. Its fluency detects across borders rooted in the classic five-on-five matchup striking a balance between offensive and defensive possession. Slated as the mecca for fostering elite-basketball talent, the National Basketball Association (NBA) draws its roots from all the corners of the globe—many of whom are preparing to suit up for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
With the coveted Naismith silverware in sight, 32 countries prepare for tip-off, with half of the teams undergoing group-stage matchups in the Philippines through brackets A-D.
It is something to want to be and play like them, although witnessing their generational talent firsthand connotes a different experience—and there are notable NBA stars who will potentially arrive in Manila for the FIBA World Cup’s Round of 32, seeking global dominance for their motherland.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 23rd
Notable player/s: Chris Duarte (Indiana Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Al Horford (Boston Celtics)
Settling as the 23rd-ranked team, Dominican Republic breathes craftiness and elusiveness, making their fourth appearance on the global stage. Overthrowing European powerhouse Argentina in the regional qualifiers, the Dominicans braved the competition with a 9-3 record, securing their ticket to the FIBA World Cup. The national roster sees the participation of second-year Indiana Pacer Chris Duarte as a piece in the rotation, with hopeful additions of stretch-five veterans Karl-Anthony Towns and Al Horford to provide the necessary size and space.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 40th
Notable player/s: Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz)
Recognized as an underdog, the Philippines qualifies as one of the three host nations of the quadrennial festival of basketball. Their undeniable heart makes the basketball-bred nation a favorite, filled with the hope of reaching the round of 16 for the first time in 45 years. Making three straight appearances, Gilas Pilipinas’ local-bred talent is fortified with international experience—sourcing from the NBA, B.League, and KBL. Looking to return to Gilas’ arsenal is former the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson, after his captivating display at the recent Asian qualifiers.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 10th
Notable player/s: Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic), Danilo Gallinari (Boston Celtics), Donte DiVincenzo (Golden State Warriors)
The Azzuri remain a threat in Southern Europe, making their second FIBA World Cup appearance in a row. Provided an early second-round exit in the hands of Spain and Puerto Rico in 2019, the dynamic composition of the Italian squad meshes experience with youth—speculating on the availability of Boston Celtics’ veteran forward Danilo Gallinari and Rookie of the Year candidate Paolo Banchero. With the 2022 first overall selection still unsure of his participation, Italy may look to acquire Donte DiVincenzo, providing versatility on the wings.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 62nd
Notable player/s: Bol Bol (Orlando Magic), Wenyen Gabriel (Los Angeles Lakers), JT Thor (Charlotte Hornets)
South Sudan seeks to extend their Cinderella-esque run at the FIBA World Cup, capturing 11 wins at the African qualifying window. The nation’s eligibility commemorates their first appearance in the tournament behind the tutelage of head coach, federation president, and former NBA All-Star Luol Deng. Given the towering height of its cagers, possible additions to the squad include Bol Bol, Wenyen Gabriel, and JT Thor, supplying the size and experience mirrored by their competition at the highest level.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 6th
Notable player/s: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Bogdan Bogdanovic (Atlanta Hawks), Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
The Serbian force garnered a runner-up finish in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, only to fall short in the Quarter Finals in 2019. Award-winning coach Svetislav Pesic harnesses the mantle for Serbia, coming out second in Group I of the European Qualifiers. Back-to-back Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic’s facilitating and Boban Marjanovic’s gargantuan frame comprise the frontcourt’s brick wall threat. Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic is another essential piece of the Serbian puzzle, recognized for his shot-creating ability and prowess from outside the arc.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 20th
Notable player/s: Jose Alvarado (New Orleans Pelicans)
Puerto Rico enters the tournament with its 10th straight appearance since 1986, securing their slot at this year’s FIBA World Cup. A resounding game-winning upset from Tremont Waters against South American powerhouse Brazil, and an eight-point victory over Columbia, booked the Puerto Rican’s flight to Manila in August. Known for his defensive expertise, Grand Theft Alvarado speculates a return to the national roster after a premature ending to his season with a stress reaction to his right tibia.
United States of America
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 2nd
Notable player/s: TBD
Three months before the commencement of the tourney, the United States of America (USA) has not released an official roster—though it would undoubtedly be star-studded (filled with elite role-players at best). With nine-time NBA Champion Steve Kerr on the wheel, Team USA seeks redemption for their 2019 quarter-finals finish. Witnessing all-stars such as Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, and Bam Adebayo don the stars-and-stripes in 2019, managing director Grant Hill will procure an ensemble suitable for the task at hand.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 9th
Notable player/s: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Accommodating the eventual clash of the Titans, the Mall of Asia Arena houses the star-studded Team USA against the Hellas on August 28, 2023. The Antetokounmpo-trio leads Greece’s world cup campaign, looking to overthrow the basketball juggernaut in a rematch from 2019. All eyes are on the two-time MVP awardee, Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the freak on the court would have to move mountains for Greece’s contention for the title.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 31st
Notable player/s: Juan Toscano-Anderson (Utah Jazz)
2023 marks the return of the 12 Guerreros to the coveted tournament, making their last appearance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The Mexican squad secured their slot, surpassing a gruesome final window with convincing wins against Columbia and Uruguay. Former national team captain and Head coach Omar Quintero look to the experienced Juan Toscano-Anderson—coming off a championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2022.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 18th
Notable player/s: Nikola Vucevic (Chicago Bulls), Marko Simonović (Chicago Bulls), JaVonte Green (Chicago Bulls)
The Montenegrin squad shows signs of promise, coming out as the third seed in Group K of the FIBA European Qualifiers. Finishing with a 7-5 record, the World Cup group stage matchup against Lithuania presents a notable rematch from the previous sweep on the Balkans. The chemistry-driven Chicago Bull trio of Nikola Vucevic, Marko Simonović, and JaVonte Green are candidates to pave the way for Montenegro gearing for a deep and memorable tournament run.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Rank: 8th
Notable player/s: Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings), Jonas Valančiūnas (New Orleans Pelicans)
Eighth-seeded Lithuania is no stranger to international competition, constantly finishing within the top-10 window. The Lithuanians came out second in Group K, bowing to France in the second round and Czech Republic in the first. Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas are undoubtedly the infallible core of the national squad, as it would not come as a surprise to be able to meet expectations, possibly eyeing a podium finish.