When Japan beat Europe for the first time in the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Sunday. The players and supporters were overcome with emotion.
Group E adversary Japan was eliminated from the 2023 tournament in front of its home audience in Okinawa. The co-hosts staged the largest comeback of the tournament to that time, coming back from an 18-point deficit to win 98-88.
Stars like Yuta Watanabe of the Phoenix Suns and Yudai Baba of the NBA G League were visibly moved to tears as the Japanese team made history, and many spectators in the stadium were similarly moved.
Japan’s first win came from American-born Josh Hawkinson’s 28 points and fan favorite Yuki Kawamura’s 19 boards.
Japan’s first World Cup win since 2006, when they defeated Panama as hosts of the FIBA World Cup. Japan finished last in its group with a 0–5 record at the rescheduled 2019 World Cup in China.
Japan is a basketball powerhouse in Asia but has had little success on the international stage.
Tom Hovasse, Japan’s head coach, hopes their “crazy game” against Finland, presently ranking 24th, will improve their 36th-ranked ranking.
“This is a major victory for us. Hovasse said at a press conference after the game, “We’re trying to create a new standard here for Japan, and this was definitely a big step in the right direction.”
The boys just kept going and going. The forecast was looking somewhat gloomy. In the previous three or four games, we have had trouble making shots. Amazing work by the fans.
With 17 points of his own, US college prospect Keisei Tominaga, once called the “Japanese Stephen Curry,” emphasized, “Even though we were down 18 points, we never gave up. We were confident that we would succeed. When it comes to each other, we have complete faith.
On Tuesday, Japan will play its final group game against Australia, now ranked third in the world. Whoever wins this round will most likely move on to the next. Germany, the group’s current leader, has already qualified.
Only two of the eight Asia and Oceania qualifiers—Japan and Australia—have won a game so far.
China, which naturalized NBA player Kyle Anderson last month in an effort to improve its World Cup hopes, fell to Serbia by a score of 42 points in its opening game, while the Philippines, which is also hosting the tournament, has suffered two defeats and is in disarray as a result.
For the first time, three countries instead of one will host the FIBA World Cup in 2023: the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
First time in World Cup history that hosts have not qualified, and Indonesia has hosted the event. This year’s FIBA World Cup will go until September 10.