A team organized by USA Basketball and made up of many of the NBA’s brightest stars will represent the United States in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Basketball Championship, an international competition among basketball teams representing various countries. The competition will begin August 28 and run through September 12 with games in various international jurisdictions. As in other sports at the international level, this competition is a world championship outside the Olympics.

In preparation for the competition, USA Basketball organized it’s inaugural New York World Basketball Festival, a series of inter-squad scrimmage and national team exhibition games matched with live musical performances in venues around the City of New York. The festival will be staged every two years, and was created by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Nike president Charlie Denson to serve as a send off for the USA team

To kick off the festival on Thursday August 12, the United States team held one last televised scrimmage to test a talented roster in front of a sold-out crowd at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The scrimmage was played on a makeshift court with a concert stage-type setting, a different venue from what the NBA stars were normally accustomed. A performance by rap mogul Jay-Z capped the scrimmage as a treat for fans.

The action was brief but entertaining, as the Blue Team scored a 49-47-overtime victory over the White squad. Two 12-minute halves ended with a Tyson Chandler dunk in an unusual sudden death situation.

The team’s roster is all but set, and includes stars such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Lamar Odom, Chandler and Andre Iguodala, who was named MVP of the scrimmage game with 15 points and six rebounds.

With 15 players currently scrimmaging with the team, but only 12 available spots on the team’s final roster, Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee is among the fringe stars circling the roster for the right to represent the United States.

McGee failed to stand out in Thursday’s game but his length and shot blocking ability automatically makes him a likely candidate to make the team. Other prominent players angling to make the roster are Stephen Curry, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook.

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is also among the team’s more established players but Rose, Westbrook and 13-year veteran Chauncey Billups represent a logjam at the lead guard position.

The action planned for August 14 was designed to create even more buzz in New York. The schedule included an open-air practice at the city’s legendary Rucker Park, featuring national teams from France, Brazil and Puerto Rico. NBA TV was also scheduled to stream live Basketball Hall of Fame inductions from Springfield, Mass which will include six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen.

Team USA is to conclude its weekend action against the French team on August 15 in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO