It’s not all mooncakes and lanterns for this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival; there’s a helping of world-class basketball too.
This holiday weekend, Beijing will welcome the best basketball teams in the world for the finals stages of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which kicked off on Aug 31. The semi-finals will be played this Friday and Saturday, Sep 13-14, with the grand final taking place on Sunday, Sep 15, at the Cadillac Center in Wukesong.
While the final may bring together the world’s best teams, they don’t necessarily include the world’s best players. Team USA, notably, will take to the court without LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, or James Harden – all of whom are either recovering from injuries or preparing for the next NBA season. With all of these missing players, some fans may be having flashbacks to the ‘Indianapolis nightmare’ of 2002 when America, the then so-called “best players in the world,” finished a miserable sixth place in the FIBA World Basketball Cup, with Yugoslavia going on to raise the trophy. Earlier this month, the team – now coached by the NBA legend Gregg Popovich – almost lost its first game since 2006 against Turkey before clawing back victory in extra time (93-92).
Despite the setbacks, Team USA, led by the NBA All-Stars Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton as well as several rising stars (Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell) remains undefeated in this World Cup and will face France tonight in the quarter-finals in Nanjing. Tonight’s game will be the first serious test for the Americans, and an opportunity for the French to secure their ticket for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo thanks to a new rule for this year’s FIBA World Cup which sees the top seven teams – one per continent for Asia, Oceana, and Africa, and two teams each for the Americas and Europe – automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
For now, USA and Argentina have qualified on behalf of the Americas, Nigeria for Africa, Australia for Oceania, and Iran for Asia. Having won the same number of games as China, Iran has now surpassed the Middle Kingdom with a better point-average; a rather embarrassing result for the host nation.
Yao Ming, the first true Chinese NBA superstar and current chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, apologized for the team’s poor record, saying: “It is me who disappointed the fans.” Yao and Chinese team captain and star player Yi Jianlian now have less than one year to prepare the Olympic qualification tournament and secure one of the remaining four spots available for the Tokyo Olympics. Furthermore, they will also need to play well to reassure their fan base after this disappointing 24th-place rank during “their” World Cup, the first-ever organized in China.
You can buy tickets for the upcoming games via the official Basketball World Cup Damai page here, and see details of the upcoming fixups below:
Wednesday, Sep 11
- USA vs. France, Dongguan Arena, 7pm
- Australia vs. Czech, Shanghai Oriental Sports Arena, 9pm.
Friday, Sep 13
- Argentina vs. winner of USA-France. Wukesong Arena, Beijing (time to be determined)
- Spain vs. winner of Australia-Czech, Wukesong Arena, Beijing (time to be determined)
- Teams to be determined, Wukesong Arena, Beijing, 8pm