Basketball's new World Champions
With apologies to Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets, that crown belongs to Dennis Schröder and Germany after a victory over Jokić-less Serbia
Dennis Schröder was in such control Sunday, so thorough in his orchestration of Germany's drive to FIBA World Cup supremacy, that he managed to hit send to announce his team's new status to the social media masses while the Germans were still on the court celebrating.
He's not wrong, either.
World Champions, like it or not, is a term reserved for international competitions. The NBA is the greatest basketball league in the world — and there really is no second place — but it's an exclusively North American operation. Soccer's Champions League oozes an even more regal quality, as the home to the most formidable club teams on the planet, but it's still a regional competition restricted to Europe's elite.
Olympic gold, meanwhile, remains the most prestigious prize in global basketball, but the new FIBA World Cup champions have the most credible claim to the title of World Champs until next summer's Paris Games. Instinct tells me NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokić will say the same when he’s asked about it soon at Nuggets training camp.
Schröder's Germany won this event as a true T-E-A-M, too, replete with size, shooting, physicality, playmaking, defenders and, yes, continuity that USA Basketball can only dream about.
Was there some fortune involved as well? Of course. There almost always is for any champions. Jokić took the summer off for Serbia and the Germans, with a nervy 83-77 win in Sunday's title game over Jokić's countrymen, took advantage.
That said ...
Remember the pre-tournament controversy between Schröder and Dallas' Maxi Kleber that led Kleber to remove himself from the squad? Franz Wagner's ankle injury in the tournament opener against Japan? The recent spat in the huddle between Schröder and coach Gordie Herbert that seemed like a potential tournament-derailing controversy?
Germany overcame all that to finish as the only unbeaten team at this World Cup at 8-0. The Sons of Nowitzki, as my fellow Substacker Mark Whicker dubbed them, made Dirk Nowitzki as proud as we've seen him for years.
It must be especially sweet for Schröder, who has heard little else in recent years apart from scorn for his decision to bypass on a reported contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2020-21 season worth in excess of $80 million. As recently as a year ago, Schröder was leading Germany to a third-place finish at EuroBasket without an NBA contract. He wound up re-signing with the Lakers entering last season for the veteran minimum.
Now look. Schröder will be joining the Toronto Raptors, his new team, as FIBA World Cup MVP. He and Serbia's Bogdan Bogdanović, like Australia's Patty Mills and France's Evan Fournier before them, tend to play much better for their country than they do in the NBA, but there seems to be a new appreciation for Schröder after what he did in this tournament.
FIBA Dennis and Co. are champions of the world.
And deservedly so.
We'll do the whole Where Team USA Goes From Here discussion in the Tuesday Newsletter Extravaganza. This is Germany's moment.
Read on, for now, for some fresh around-the-league notes to get a new week tipped off: