FIBA World Championship

FIBA World Championship
FIBA World Championship
Sport Basketball
Founded 1950
No. of teams 24
Country(ies) FIBA members
Continent FIBA (International)
Most recent champion(s)  United States (4th title)
Most titles  Yugoslavia (5 titles)

The FIBA World Championship is an international basketball competition contested by the men's national teams of the members of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the sport's global governing body. The championship has been held every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1950, except for two occasions.

The tournament structure is similar, but not identical, to that of the FIFA World Cup; both of these international competitions have been played in the same year since 1970. A parallel event for women's teams, the FIBA World Championship for Women, is also held quadrennially, in the same year as the men's event, but in a different country. The current format of the tournament involves 24 teams competing for the title at venues within the host nation. The winning team receives the Naismith Trophy, first awarded in 1967. The current champions are the United States, who defeated Turkey in the final of the 2010 tournament.



The FIBA World Championship was conceived at a meeting of the FIBA World Congress at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.[1] Long-time FIBA Secretary-General Renato William Jones urged FIBA to adopt a World Championship, similar to the FIFA World Cup, to be held in every four years between Olympiads. The FIBA Congress, seeing how successful the 23-team Olympic tournament was that year, agreed to the proposal, beginning with a tournament in 1950. Argentina was selected as host, largely because they were the only country willing to take on the task.[2] Argentina took advantage of the host selection, winning all their games en route to becoming the first FIBA World Champion.

The first five tournaments were held in South America, and teams from the Americas dominated the tournament, winning eight of nine medals at the first three tournaments. By 1963, however, teams from Eastern Europe – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in particular – began to catch up to the teams from the American continents. Between 1963 and 1998, the tournament was dominated by the United States, the Soviet Union (and later Russia), Yugoslavia (and later Croatia and FR Yugoslavia), and Brazil accounted for every medal at the tournament.

In 1994, professional players participated in the tournament for the first time.[3] Although the United States initially dominated with NBA players, other nations eventually used professional players to finally catch up to the four powerhouse countries. In 2002, Argentina, led by four future NBA players, captured the silver medal, while NBA player and tournament MVP Dirk Nowitzki led Germany to the bronze, its first ever World Championship medal. Meanwhile, the United States' team, made up entirely of NBA players, struggled to a sixth place finish. In 2006, emerging powerhouse Spain beat Greece in the first appearance in the final for both teams. Spain became only the seventh team (Yugoslavia and FR Yugoslavia are counted separately in the FIBA records) to capture a World Championship gold. This new era of parity convinced FIBA to expand the tournament to 24 teams for both the 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament.[4] Currently FIBA expects to have 24 teams again at the 2014 FIBA World Championship, and is considering expanding to 32 teams for future events.[5]


The World Championship has used various forms of qualification throughout its history. The first five tournaments were held in South America and participation was dominated by teams from the Americas. At the first tournament, FIBA intended for the three Olympic medalists to compete, plus the host Argentina and two teams each from Europe, Asia, and South America. However, no Asian team was willing to travel to the event, so six of the ten teams were from the Americas. European powerhouse Soviet Union later made their first appearance in 1959 after missing the first two events.

In the tournament's early years, only Europe and South America had established continental tournaments, so participation in the tournament was largely by invitation. Later, Asia added a continental championship in 1960, followed by Africa in 1962, Central America in 1965, and Oceania in 1971, As a result of these changes, qualification became more formalized starting with the 1967 tournament. In that year, the Asian champion received an automatic berth in the tournament, joining the top European and South American teams. In 1970, the African and Oceanian champion each received a berth, while the Centrobasket champion and runner-up were each invited. For most of these years, the tournament host, defending World Champion, and top Olympic basketball tournament finishers also qualified for the event.

Since 1970, qualification has continued to be based on the continental competitions and the Olympic tournament. The only major change came in the 1990 FIBA World Championship, when the tournament started taking qualifiers from the newly redesigned FIBA Americas Championship rather than from North, Central, and South America individually. After the tournament expanded to 24 teams in 2006, the tournament has allocated qualification as follows:[6]

Each of the five continental championships also serves as qualification for the Olympics, so all are held every two years. The year immediately preceding the World Championship is used to determine the berths at the tournament. For example, all of the berths at the 2010 FIBA World Championship were determined by continental championships held in 2009. After the first twenty teams have qualified, FIBA then selects four wild card teams, based on sporting, economic, and governance criteria, as well as a required registration fee from each team to be considered by the FIBA board.[7] Of the four wild cards, only three can come from one continental zone. In each of the two tournaments that the wild card system has been in place, FIBA has selected the maximum three European teams to compete in the event.

Tournament format

The World Championship has existed in several different formats throughout the years as it has expanded and contracted between 10 and 24 teams. The first tournament in 1950 began with a ten-team double-elimination tournament followed by a six-team round robin round to determine the champion. Between 1954 and 1974, each tournament started with a group stage preliminary round; the top teams in each preliminary round group then moved on to a final round robin group to determine the champion. In 1978, FIBA added a gold medal game between the top two finishers in the final group and a bronze medal game between the third and fourth place teams. In each year between 1959 and 1982, the host team received a bye into the final group. Of the seven host teams in this era, only three medaled despite the head start. As a result, FIBA made the host team compete in the preliminary round starting in 1986.

In 1986, the tournament briefly expanded to 24 teams. Four groups of six teams each competed in the preliminary round group stage. The top three teams in each group then competed in the second group stage, followed by a four-team knockout tournament between the top two finishers in each group. The championship contracted back down to 16 teams for the 1990 tournament. The three tournaments between 1990 and 1998 each had two group stages followed by a four-team knockout tournament to determine the medalists. The 2002 tournament expanded the knockout round to eight teams.

In 2006, FIBA made the decision to expand back to 24 teams and introduced the format that is currently in place.[4] Under the current format, the teams are divided into four preliminary round groups of six teams each.[8] Should teams be tied at the end of the preliminary round, the ties are broken by the following criteria in order:

  1. Game results between tied teams
  2. Goal average between games of the tied teams
  3. Goal average for all games of the tied teams
  4. Drawing of lots

The top four teams in each group then advance to a sixteen-team single-elimination knockout round. It begins with the eighth finals, where the top teams in each group play the fourth-placed teams in another group and the second and third-placed teams in each group face off. This is followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final. The semifinal losers play in the bronze medal game, while the quarterfinal losers play in a consolation bracket to determine fifth through eighth places.

Naismith Trophy

Since 1967, the champion of each tournament has been awarded the Naismith Trophy, named for basketball inventor James Naismith. A trophy had been planned since the first World Championship in 1950, but did not come to fruition until FIBA finally commissioned a trophy in 1965 after receiving a US$1,000 donation. The original trophy was used from 1967 through 1994. An updated trophy was introduced for the 1998 FIBA World Championship and the original now sits at the Pedro Ferrándiz Foundation in Spain.[9]

The updated trophy is designed in an Egyptian-inspired lotus shape upon which there are carved maps of the continents and precious stones symbolizing the five continents (FIBA Americas represents both North America and South America). Dr. Naismith's name is engraved on all four sides in Latin, Arabic, Chinese, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. The trophy stands 47 centimeters (18.5 inches) tall and weighs nine kilograms (twenty pounds).[10]



Year Host (final location) Gold medal game Bronze medal game
Gold Score Silver Bronze Score Fourth place
1950  Argentina (Buenos Aires)
United States

1954  Brazil (Rio de Janeiro)
United States

1959  Chile (Santiago)
United States


1963  Brazil (Rio de Janeiro)

Soviet Union
United States
1967  Uruguay (Montevideo)
Soviet Union

United States
1970  Yugoslavia (Ljubljana)

Soviet Union
1974  Puerto Rico (San Juan)
Soviet Union

United States
1978  Philippines (Manila)

Soviet Union

1982  Colombia (Cali)
Soviet Union
United States

1986  Spain (Madrid)
United States
Soviet Union

1990  Argentina (Buenos Aires)
Soviet Union

United States

Puerto Rico
1994  Canada (Toronto)
United States

1998  Greece (Athens)
FR Yugoslavia

United States
2002  USA (Indianapolis)
FR Yugoslavia


New Zealand
2006  Japan (Saitama)

United States
2010  Turkey (Istanbul)
United States

2014  Spain (Madrid)

Medal table

The Spanish national team celebrating the championship in Saitama.

Note that FIBA considers the records of the Soviet Union distinct from Russia, while it allocates all records of all teams named Yugoslavia into Yugoslavia that eventually became Serbia and Montenegro;[12] although the Republic of Serbia is the legal successor of the Serbia and Montenegro/FR Yugoslavia team, it is unknown if FIBA will allocate the old Yugoslavia's records to Serbia's.

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Yugoslavia 5 3 2 10
2  United States 4 3 4 11
3  Soviet Union 3 3 2 8
4  Brazil 2 2 2 6
5  Argentina 1 1 0 2
6  Spain 1 0 0 1
7  Russia 0 2 0 2
8=  Greece 0 1 0 1
8=  Turkey 0 1 0 1
10  Chile 0 0 2 2
11=  Croatia 0 0 1 1
11=  Germany 0 0 1 1
11=  Lithuania 0 0 1 1
11=  Philippines 0 0 1 1

Records and statistics

For individuals, three players – Ubiratan Pereira Maciel and Marcel De Souza of Brazil and Phil Smyth of Australia – have appeared in five tournaments.[13] Six different players have won medals in four tournaments. Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt is the runaway all-time leading scorer, scoring 916 career points in four tournaments between 1978 and 1990. Nikos Galis of Greece is the all-time leading scorer for a single tournament, averaging 33.7 points per game for the Greeks at the 1986 FIBA World Championship. FIBA also names a Most Valuable Player for each tournament. Since the tournament opened to professionals in 1994, NBA players have won four of the last five MVP trophies – Shaquille O'Neal for the United States in 1994, Germany's Dirk Nowitzki in 2002, Spain's Pau Gasol in 2006, and the USA's Kevin Durant in 2010. The only exception was Dejan Bodiroga of Yugoslavia, the MVP of the 1998 tournament, when the NBA players were not able to participate, due to 1998–99 NBA lockout.

See also


  1. ^ "FIBA World Championship History (pdf)". FIBA. 1 January 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Kennedy, John (12 March 2008). "'El Primer Crack' of Argentine Basketball: Oscar Furlong". Society for Irish Latin American Studies (John Kennedy). Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  3. ^ McCallum, Jack (18 February 1991). "Lords of the Rings". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Secretary, FIBA (13 December 2005). "Press Release no. 42: "BAD Badtz-Maru" launched as official mascot for Japan 2006". FIBA (Geneva/Tokyo). Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Secretary, FIBA (5 May 2009). "ESP - Spain selected to host 2014 World Championship". FIBA (Geneva). Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "How they got there". Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "Wild cards for Turkey 2010". Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  8. ^ "System of Competition". FIBA. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  9. ^ "Ancient Egypt in basketball". 17 January 2006. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Naismith Trophy Unites Five Continents". Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n No final was played; teams played each other once in the final group round-robin; the best team with the best record wins the championship. The scores are the results of the games between the teams in the final group.
  12. ^ "Medal Count: FIBA World Championship". Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  13. ^ "FIFA World Championships Records". 1 January 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 

External links

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