Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (August 15, 2010)—The inaugural Nike World Basketball Festival concluded today with an entertaining doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. Before a sellout crowd of 19,763, Team USA easily beat France, 86-55, and Puerto Rico defeated China, 92 to 76.
"First time I've been in the Garden and the people have been cheering for me," quipped former Detroit Pistons star Chauncey Billups, chosen as the USA vs. France match MVP. Billups is usually booed by the pro-Knicks MSG crowd for his exploits against the Knicks during his Pistons days.
Rudy Gay scored 19 points, Billups added 17, and Rajon Rondo had six assists. Danny Granger played poorly, did not score, and fouled out of the game. He could be the last cut the team makes before playing in the FIBA World Championship.
France played without NBA star Tony Parker, who chose not to play for Les Bleus, but was on site and watched the game with his celebrity wife, Eva Longoria-Parker.
Beyond the games at MSG and Rucker Park in Harlem, the Nike World Basketball Festival penetrated every aspect of the powerful NYC media and grassroots promotional platform.
The always creative and cutting edge Nike event branding and images were splattered all over Manhattan and much of the five boroughs. With the presence of NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo on Team USA, and Nike stars making promotional appearances, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the Nike publicity machine was in full gear.
The message was carried out way beyond the confines of the media capital of the world by the live, on-site coverage of the event by news media professionals from every corner of the globe.
Bottom line: The event achieved its goal of generating terrific buzz and excitement around international basketball and creating significant interest in the upcoming FIBA World Championship.
Nike did it again.
The six day event was well worth the “media circus and the distractions,” said U.S. National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski to LatinoTop10.com Saturday following the team's last training session prior to the match against France. “It was hard for the team to fully focus on training and getting mentally prepared for the game, but Nike ought to be congratulated for celebrating the [basketball] world game.”
Regarding the on field play, Coach K said that this team is very different from the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” that featured Jordan, Malone, Ewing, and many other stars. With this version of the Team USA, “there is not as much room for error,” he said. “Like a loose ball, the wrong foul when the other team is in the bonus. Little things like that. This team will have to use its coupons and go for sales a little bit. The Olympic team didn’t have to do that as much,” he added. “We are still trying to create a team here.”
He said that he realizes that rebounding is a weakness as the team is relatively small in height. He said that he is emphasizing that rebounding must be a team effort and that all players must work hard to get their share of rebounds.
Krzyzewski went on to say that it “would be an honor” to someday host the FIBA World Championship in the United States. Asked about which U.S. City would be the best venue, he said: “Why not host it in the city that started the whole thing [New York City]. The city is a world city. Like Chicago, New York is like a United Nations. From the languages spoken, the food, the music, everything about [New York] has an international flavor.”
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo has said publicly that the federation does not, currently, have plans to submit a bid to host the FIBA event.
The US team departs Monday for Madrid and a four day training camp that starts on Tuesday. The team will play exhibition games against Lithuania, Spain, and Greece before they open the world tournament in Turkey against Croatia on August 28.
The Americans have not won the world crown since 1994 at Toronto. The team took home the bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics and earned the gold in 2008 at Beijing.