Consequential basketball games in late August and September? FIBA bestows the sport's die-hard followers with the ultimate largesse every four years. The Summer Olympics fill in those two-year gaps. In the remaining summers, the organization uses regional clashes to determine the entrants for each competition.
Late summer hoops matches cure monotony and build the brand. The 2010 World Championship has provided a respite from the deluge of exhausted offseason debates.
How many more articles can Bleacher Report members publish about LeBron James' tarnished image, Kobe Bryant's legacy, where Andrew Bynum ranks among the top centers, and a projected Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat NBA Finals?
I shudder at the thought.
The final scores matter--unlike in Las Vegas, where what happens on the UNLV Campus stays there--and the tournament winner can call itself the "world champion" without sounding pompous or uninformed. The gold medalist secures an automatic berth in the next Olympics. The field of contenders in Turkey hoping for that lone guaranteed pass to London is deep and unpredictable.
The host nation, the U,S., Spain, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Serbia, and Lithuania will compete for three medals. Any of them, given the ideal elimination round path and a string of torrid shooting nights, could leave Istanbul with gold. American Idol's judging panel search would not be dicier if producers selected a replacement for Simon Cowell with a game of darts.
Tournament viewership also offers additional welfare to Americans and other pro basketball fanatics: the chance to watch some future NBA contributors hustle on the hardwood. Does your team of choice need a steady point guard with a stellar assist-to-turnover ratio? How about a seven-foot glass hound who espouses physicality?
A number of international participants signed with NBA clubs this summer and could impact the postseason and championship chases. Turkish center Omer Asik will back up Joakim Noah in Chicago. Turkish center Semih Erden figures to play spot minutes in Boston. Russian center Timofey Mozgov inked a three-year deal to tackle a reserve role in New York.
No overseas signee matters more than Brazilian forward-center Tiago Splitter. After a three-year wait, the two-time ACB League MVP decided to trade his Caja Laboral gig in Spain for one in San Antonio. The 2007 first-round draft pick will provide Tim Duncan with his finest frontcourt assistance since David Robinson.
A slew of national team standouts could join Asik, Erden, Mosgov, and Splitter in a few years. Ricky Rubio, the NBA prospect with the most intrigue, can abandon his F.C. Barcelona deal in 2011 and make the NBA jump. New York Times Reporter Pete Thamel called him "Spanish basketball's answer to Justin Bieber" in a piece on his popularity there.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected the 19-year-old prodigious point guard with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft. Will he warm up Minneapolis, will GM David Kahn trade his rights before 2011, or will he play possum again and avoid the mega transition once more?
He earned the name "La Pistola" for his Pete Maravich-like craftiness with the rock. His ball-hawking defense has drawn rave reviews from Kahn, Kevin Durant, scouts, and his Spanish coaches. His playmaking has stupefied witnesses and hypnotized opponents.
Rubio's sheepish five-point, six-assist, three-rebound tournament average shows he's still a work in progress. He must learn to be more demonstrative and dominant in the endgame, and his jumpshot is shakier than a wooden ladder infested with termites. A player with a polished repertoire of off-the-dribble moves should also get to the line more.
His best game this week came against New Zealand: eight points, 11 assists, and three steals. Spain won that tussle 101-84.
Here are 10 other ballers who might crash the NBA's hardwoods before the end of the decade. This list does not include players with previous league experience a la Vassilis Spanoulis, Jackson Vroman, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Roko Ukic.