German former basketballer Dirk Nowitzki went into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and now his homeland stands atop the men’s international basketball world.
Dennis Schroder scored 28 points, Franz Wagner added 19 and Germany capped off an unbeaten run through the World Cup by holding off Serbia 83-77 in the final on Sunday night. It was Germany’s first World Cup title; before now, its top showing in the event was a bronze at Indianapolis in 2002.
Germany went 8-0 in the tournament, becoming the fifth consecutive champion to go unbeaten.
Aleksa Avramovic scored 21 and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 for Serbia, which lost the title game for the second time in the last three tournaments. It was routed by the US 129-92 in the 2014 gold-medal game, and little was expected of the team this summer - merely because its best player, Nikola Jokic of the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, decided not to play and instead opted to rest for the coming season.
But Serbia went on a surprise run, fueled by the inspiration the team took from the loss of reserve forward Borisa Simanic. He was fouled late in a first-round win against South Sudan, needed surgery that night for internal injuries and then a second surgery was required to remove one of his kidneys.
Simanic will get a medal. But it’ll be silver after Germany simply proved too tough.
A 22-10 run in the third quarter gave Germany all the breathing room it needed after a back-and-forth opening half, and Serbia couldn’t reclaim the lead down the stretch. It got within 79-77 after Marko Guduric made a pair of free throws with 39.5 seconds left, but Schroder blew past two defenders for a layup on the ensuing German possession to restore a four-point edge.
The notion of Germany being the world’s best in basketball was farfetched even when Nowitzki was the country’s best player.
No more. Germany came up with a plan to ask its best players for a three-year commitment to the national team, with eyes on this World Cup and the Paris Olympics. This was the second year of that plan, and a team that didn’t even get out of the opening round at any of the last three World Cups - finishing 17th in 2010, not qualifying in 2014 and finishing 18th in 2019 - now has the Naismith Trophy in its possession for the next four years.