Puneet Varma (Editor)

FIBA Basketball World Cup

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Sport  Basketball
Inaugural season  1950
Countries  FIBA members
Founded  1950
No. of teams  32
Continent  FIBA (International)
FIBA Basketball World Cup

The FIBA Basketball World Cup, also known as the FIBA World Cup of Basketball or simply the FIBA World Cup, between 1950 and 2010 known as 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. It is considered to be the flagship event of the International Basketball Federation. The world championship is considered to be just as prestigious as the olympic basketball gold medal, tournament of COI International Olympic Committee. 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 were played in the same year from 1970 through 2014. A parallel event for women's teams, now known as the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, is also held quadrennially. From 1986 through 2014, the men's and women's championships were held in the same year, though in different countries. 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 Serbia in the final of the 2014 tournament.

Following the 2014 FIBA championships for men and women, the men's World Cup was scheduled on a new four-year cycle to avoid conflict with the FIFA World Cup. The next men's World Cup will be held in 2019, in the year following the FIFA World Cup. The women's championship, which was renamed from "FIBA World Championship for Women" to "FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup" after its 2014 edition, will remain on the previous four-year cycle, with championships in the same year as the FIFA World Cup.

The 1994 FIBA World Championship was the first FIBA World Cup tournament in which currently active American NBA players, that had also already played in an official NBA regular season game were allowed to participate. All FIBA World Championship/World Cup tournaments from the 1994 edition onward, are thus considered as fully professional level tournaments.


The FIBA Basketball World Cup was conceived at a meeting of the FIBA World Congress at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. 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 it was the only country willing to take on the task. 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 Southeast Europe (Yugoslavia), in particular – began to catch up to the teams from the American continents. Between 1963 and 1990, the tournament was dominated by the United States, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Brazil who together accounted for every medal at the tournament.

The 1994 FIBA World Championship marked the beginning of a new era - as currently active American NBA players participated in the tournament for the first time, while the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia split into many new states. United States dominated that year and won gold, while former states of USSR and Yugoslavia - Russia and Croatia - won Silver and Bronze. The 1998 FIBA World Championship, held in Greece (Athens and Piraeus), lost some of its luster when the 1998–99 NBA lockout prevented the American professional players from participating. New Yugoslavian team, now consisting of the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro, won the gold medal over Russia, while USA, playing with amateur players, finished third.

In 2002 other nations eventually caught up to the four powerhouse countries and their successor states. FR Yugoslavia, led by Peja Stojaković of the Sacramento Kings and Dejan Bodiroga of FC Barcelona won the final game against Argentina, while 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. This new era of parity convinced FIBA to expand the tournament to 24 teams for 2006, 2010 and 2014 editions of the tournament.

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. The USA, who lost to Greece in a semifinal, beat Argentina in 3rd place match and claimed bronze.

In 2010 FIBA World Championship final the USA beat Turkey and won gold for first time in 16 years, while Lithuania beat Serbia and won bronze. The United States became the third country to defend the championship, winning against Serbia in 2014. France defeated Lithuania in the bronze medal game.

After the 2014 edition, FIBA instituted significant changes to the World Cup. The final competition will expand from 24 to 32 teams. Also, for the first time since 1967, the competition will not overlap with the FIFA World Cup. To accommodate this change, the 2014 World Cup will be followed by a 2019 edition.


The Basketball World Cup 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:

  • FIBA EuroBasket (Europe) – 6 berths
  • FIBA Africa Championship (Africa) – 3 berths
  • FIBA Asia Championship (Asia)  – 3 berths
  • FIBA Americas Championship (North, Central, and South America) – 5 berths
  • FIBA Oceania Championship (Oceania) – 2 berths
  • Defending Olympic Champion – 1 berth, removed from the zone of the Olympic champion
  • Host team – 1 berth
  • FIBA-selected wild cards – 4 berths
  • 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. 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.

    Starting in 2017, FIBA will institute major changes to its competition calendar and the qualifying process for both the World Cup and Olympics.

    First, the continental championships will be held once every four years, specifically in years that immediately follow the Summer Olympics. The continental championships will no longer play a role in qualifying for either the World Cup or Olympics.

    The 2019 World Cup qualifying process, which will begin in 2017, will be the first under a new format. Qualifying will take place over a two-year cycle, involving six windows of play. Qualifying zones will mirror the FIBA continental zones, except that FIBA Asia and FIBA Oceania will be combined into a single Asia-Pacific qualifying zone. In each qualifying zone, nations will be divided into Division A and Division B, with promotion and relegation between the two. FIBA has not determined full details of the new process, but has announced that at least in opening phases, it will feature groups of three or four teams, playing home-and-away within the group.

    Tournament format

    The Basketball World Cup 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. Under the current format, the teams are divided into four preliminary round groups of six teams each. 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.

    In 2019, the final tournament will expand to 32 teams.

    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.

    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).

    Medal table

    In the most current medal table released by FIBA as seen on the FIBA archive website, the 2014 championship is taken into account, and the records of SFR Yugoslavia and FR Yugoslavia are combined under "Yugoslavia".

    Previously, FIBA had a medal table from 1950 to 2006, and another medal table that included results from 1950 to 2006, that separated the results of SFR Yugoslavia and FR Yugoslavia/Serbia and Montenegro respectively into "Yugoslavia" and either "Serbia and Montenegro" or "Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)". The ranking of teams between the latter two medal tables are different, with the FIBA.com ranking by number of total medals, while the FIBA World Cup website's ranking is by number of gold medals. The number of medals won by the United States differs between the latter two medal tables, despite encompassing the same period. The latter two medal tables also do not include the results of the 2010 and 2014 championships.

    Finally, a FIBA.com PDF linked from the FIBA.com history section that documents the championships from 1950 to 2002 also has a medal table that included tournaments from 1950 to 1998, which also separated pre-breakup Yugoslavia, called as "Yusgoslavia" [sic] from the post-breakup Yugoslavia, called as "Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)", and ranked the teams by the number of total medals.

    The FIBA archive also lists the achievements of each national team, separating it per IOC codes. The national team representing Serbia's first international tournament is listed as 2007, Serbia and Montenegro's tournament participation lasted from 2003 to 2006, and Yugoslavia's participation was from 1947 to 2002. Chinese Taipei was listed not to have participated in the World Cup, indeed its first participation in any FIBA tournament started in 1986; a team called "Taiwan" participated from 1960 to 1973, and a "Formosa" team joined from 1954 to 1959.

    Below is the FIBA table as seen from the FIBA archive website. The records of teams bearing the "Yugoslavia" name are separate from Serbia's records. In the case of the Soviet Union, their records also didn't carry over to Russia.

    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. Six different players have won medals in four tournaments. Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt is the runaway all-time leading scorer, scoring 843 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 five of the six MVP trophies awarded – Shaquille O'Neal for the United States in 1994, Germany's Dirk Nowitzki in 2002, Spain's Pau Gasol in 2006, Kevin Durant for the United States in 2010, and Kyrie Irving for the United States in 2014. 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.

    Tournament growth

    The 2010 FIBA World Championship had reached a global TV audience of 800 million people across 171 countries, with the official website having 30 million views during the tournament. Both numbers broke the records set in 2006 and in EuroBasket 2009. Three of the games involving Lithuania were among the highest rated programs in that country.65 million Chinese watched their team's game against Greece in the preliminary round. This was an improvement from the 2006 FIBA World Championship, which was held in Japan and was shown in 150 countries. This meant that games aired in the morning in Europe and at night in the Americas; despite this, audiences broke records, with Italy's game against Slovenia achieving a 20% viewing share in Italy, Serbia's game against Nigeria netting a 33% share in Serbia, and a 600,000-audience in the USA on their team's game against Puerto Rico at 1 a.m.

    Before the 2010 championship started in Turkey, FIBA had already sold 350,000 tickets, for a revenue of between US$8 to 10 million. The number of tickets sold is 10% higher than 2006, although the revenue was less than 2006's US$18 million, which was widely attributed to the strong Japanese yen. Meanwhile, FIBA got two-thirds of marketing rights revenue, of which one-third or about US$8 million, went to the local organizers. FIBA had also successfully negotiated TV rights deals, which all goes to FIBA, worth US$25 million, including a TV rights deal with ESPN. In 2006, the Japanese organizers were targeting to sell 180,000 tickets, mostly to a Japanese audience; as for the overseas audience, the Japanese organizers didn't "expect them in great numbers". This was seen as a big improvement from 2002, which was a financial loss for USA Basketball and Indianapolis, in which all games were held in one city. This led to the Japanese organizers to hold games throughout the country instead of just in a single city.

    At the most recent championship, which was rebranded as the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, FIBA reported impressive ratings from nations which are participating in the tournament during the first week of the group phase. Most games involving European teams had a market share of at least 20%, including a 40% market share in Finland against their team's game against the Dominican Republic. The TV ratings in the United States beat out the 2014 US Open (tennis), but was still described as Americans not caring about the FIBA Basketball World Cup. In the Philippines, the entire tournament had an average reach of 67.8%.


    FIBA Basketball World Cup Wikipedia