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Top Ten FIBA World Championships app list

Someone should mark the year 2006 as monumental. Winter Olympics aside, you had the first staging of the World Baseball Classic, a locally well-supported FIFA World Cup, and now, the kickoff of the FIBA World Championships over the weekend.

The three world sporting events in a span of about eights months, and this would go on every four years, ad infinitum. This is a sports enthusiast’s dream calendar, not to mention two Olympic-type events to begin and end the year (Winter Olympics and Asian Games).

Anyway, returning to the point in hand. I just noticed something obtuse. For a sport that is alien to 80% of the country’s population, there were more casual fans that tuned into the World Cup, whereas it is only the hardcore basketball aficionados who are intently following the World Championships currently when we are basically a basketball-flooded country.

I know it is the offseason of pro cage leagues (and that most of Metro Manila is into the collegiate basketball fever), but I just don’t feel the same buzz generated by the World Cup. Then again, maybe I’m just speaking too soon. Attendance during the preliminaries was pretty much inconsistent except for games of South Korea and Germany.

Anyway, enough of the rant. Here are my top ten teams according to bias.

1. Argentina – One name: Manu Ginobilli. Then add in Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola into the equation. The kicker is that these guys could have played football instead and be bigger stars. Instead, they chose to become professionals in what could be considered as a second-class sport in that part of the world. In return, they won the gold in Athens as a unit while Ginobilli was the star of the 2005 NBA Finals and he was given celebrity status previously reserved for Diego Maradona. Crisp ball movement and accurate shooting are their strong points. Now, what is there not to like with Argentina?

2. China – More than being my token Asian team, I actually follow one of their players’ NBA career (no, not Wang Zhizhi, you dolt) despite the rest of the team being nameless to me. If only Yao would be available by uh… the third round in fantasy drafts. I just had to take Jermaine O’Neal and Steve Nash ahead of him.

3. USA – I just could not help it. As much as I would want to place another team in this spot, a regular Filipino would more or less follow team USA’s progress in this year’s World Championships. And I’m one of them. This actually puts me in a bind. I would like to see an American team with a program succeed but at the same time I want them to lose to keep their bloated heads in check. Besides, there is no Indiana Pacer in the lineup.

4. Lithuania – this is more of a sentimental pick. With Sarunas Jasikevicius not in the roster, there is no reason for me to put this team here. But then, historically, they have been a pain in team USA’s neck for the past six years.

5. Germany – David Hasselhoff... er, Dirk Nowitzki. I was betting on you on giving your squad their first ever NBA championship. What happened is that some guy named Wade gave his team their franchise’s first. I do hope that you could redeem yourself somewhat. You might say this is an offshoot of the energy I gave to supporting Germany during the World Cup.

6. Brazil – Here is an odd fact. I disdain Brazil’s football team as much as I dislike team USA. I did not hesitate putting Ronaldo and company in my hate list last June, although I had Ronaldhino in my top ten players (see blog entry). Going back, who would not recall Oscar Schmidt? He could have easily challenged Robert Jaworski’s longeivity record. A bald-headed Kareem Abdul Jabbar would not hold a candle to this sweet shooter who could hoist three-pointers with ease at the dusk of his career. Fast forward to the present, it helps that Leandrinho Barbosa is a Phoenix Sun and would be the future anchor of this team’s run and run game. Plus it is cool to note that Anderson Varejao and Carlito have the same hairstyle.

7. Spain – Have you seen Marko Gasol, Pau’s younger brother? He is bigger and with their combined long locks and bearded outlook, you have an intimidating frontline out there. And you are scared with Ben Wallace’s afro? Make it times two for Spain.

8. Senegal – A mere token African team in the list, I do not expect them to go that far. I just like the fact that in that part of the Sahara, they breed seven-footers there with quite regularity. If only they have a more established program to develop these beanpoles into hardcourt monsters that they are ought to be. Then maybe they would give Africa some respect and not just your complimentary world sport success story.

9. Japan – What, no Yuta Tabuse? Because of that I could have easily put defending champions Serbia and Montenegro here regardless if their “star” player is Darko Milicic. I prophesy that he would do better in Orlando Magic though. Going back to Japan, now this is what you call my token Asian team. Other than being hosts, I just could not pin my hopes on Lebanon.

10. France – Zidane headbutt mental images aside, despite having five players they are less preferred by the media over a resurgent USA squad, and China, Spain, and Germany with their respective recognizable big men. The pecking order in sports pages would go this way: USA, Argentina, China, and Spain and Germany in an even tie, then France. Unlike their senile football squad that represented them in the World Cup, their basketball lineup is made up of promising young guys with considerable big-time basketball exposure. Just because Ronny Turiaf rides the Lakers bench does not mean he is not worth his playing time in Les Bleus. A prime example is Carlos Arroyo.


2006 FIBA World Championships predictions

Here are the teams I predict would go on the Round of 16 (in random order):

Group A

Serbia and Montenegro

Group B

New Zealand

Group C


Group D


Here's a bold call: Argentina would win the championship.

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