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A Tournament of Global Proportions

The country that leads the world in accumulating international basketball championships will not win the next one.

That's because it's Yugoslavia, which international basketball's governing body still lists it as the number two team in the world...though it no longer exists.

When the line-up of competitors for the quadrennial Basketball World Championship that will transpire in Japan beginning next month was established, Serbia and Montenegro were included. Though now there is no longer a single entity called Serbia and Montenegro, Montenegro having decided to pursue a solo career in basketball among other areas, the two segments of the former Yugoslavia will presumably continue to shoot at the same basket when opening round action pits them against Argentina, France, Venezuela, and Lebanon...although the way things are going, who knows about Lebanon? Earlier this week, the members of the team from Lebanon weren't sure when — or if - they'd be able to get out of the country, since the roads and the airport were being bombed.

The coach for Lebanon's team, Paul Coughter, acknowledged that "nobody knows what will happen."

One of the teams tied for the second-most world championships in basketball is the U.S.A., which won the tournament in 1954, 1986, and 1994. For a spectacularly lopsided stretch between 1992 and 2000, the U.S. team won not only the World Championship but also three straight Olympic basketball golds. More recently, the U.S. has finished sixth and third in international competition.

This week, under the supervision of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and a collection of other NBA players will begin practicing in Las Vegas for the tournament that begins next month.

Already the sporting press in the U.S. has begun writing things like "anything less than gold will be deemed an unqualified downer."

It's easy to see how reporters, columnists, and others in the U.S. could view the tournament in those terms. Basketball once was ours. The fall from that height was sudden and precipitous.

On the other hand, given current circumstances, maybe we should view the World Basketball Championships as a success if each of the teams is able to get to Japan, and if none of the rest of the competing nations disintegrates before the medals ceremony. No matter who wins, maybe we should be celebrating the opportunity to play.The country that leads the world in accumulating international basketball championships will not win the next one.

That's because it's Yugoslavia, which international basketball's governing body still lists it as the number two team in the world...though it no longer exists.

When the line-up of competitors for the quadrennial Basketball World Championship that will transpire in Japan beginning next month was established, Serbia and Montenegro were included. Though now there is no longer a single entity called Serbia and Montenegro, Montenegro having decided to pursue a solo career in basketball among other areas, the two segments of the former Yugoslavia will presumably continue to shoot at the same basket when opening round action pits them against Argentina, France, Venezuela, and Lebanon...although the way things are going, who knows about Lebanon? Earlier this week, the members of the team from Lebanon weren't sure when — or if - they'd be able to get out of the country, since the roads and the airport were being bombed.

The coach for Lebanon's team, Paul Coughter, acknowledged that "nobody knows what will happen."

One of the teams tied for the second-most world championships in basketball is the U.S.A., which won the tournament in 1954, 1986, and 1994. For a spectacularly lopsided stretch between 1992 and 2000, the U.S. team won not only the World Championship but also three straight Olympic basketball golds. More recently, the U.S. has finished sixth and third in international competition.

This week, under the supervision of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and a collection of other NBA players will begin practicing in Las Vegas for the tournament that begins next month.

Already the sporting press in the U.S. has begun writing things like "anything less than gold will be deemed an unqualified downer."

It's easy to see how reporters, columnists, and others in the U.S. could view the tournament in those terms. Basketball once was ours. The fall from that height was sudden and precipitous.

On the other hand, given current circumstances, maybe we should view the World Basketball Championships as a success if each of the teams is able to get to Japan, and if none of the rest of the competing nations disintegrates before the medals ceremony. No matter who wins, maybe we should be celebrating the opportunity to play.

This program aired on July 20, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

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