Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle of most players careers, so having the chance to represent a host nation during a major sporting event has to be something that most people dream of. Knowing that you have the full support of the crowd behind you is always a huge appeal to sports stars and when it comes to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, there are plenty of people that think Spain can go all the way. They will need to overcome the favourites to do so, Team USA still have the edge, but with a great team and plenty of vocal support from passionate basketball fans, there is no getting away from the fact that Spain may just triumph on home soil. This is why basketball players that can play for Spain will have been desperate to do so this summer.
This is why Nikola Mirotic may be feeling a little bit down at the moment. You may not have too many people feeling sorry for a player that was classed as the highest paid European rookie in the entire history of the NBA, but there is always a reason to feel sympathy for top sports stars. The Chicago Bulls player is going to miss out, and it is all down to the rule book.
FIBA rules meant Spain had a choice to make
FIBA rules indicate that teams are only allowed to include one naturalised player on the roster for the tournament. This meant that the Spanish selectors had to choose between Mirotic and Serge Ibaka. Given that Ibaka is a colossus of a player, it is no real shock or surprise to learn that he was the player who was given the nod. This is tough on Mirotic, who is definitely a top quality player that would have added something to the Spanish side, but when you have the rule book limiting what you can and cannot do, there is no real sense in getting too worked up.
Spain have plenty of other top quality players to call on
He will be a loss for Spain but with the quality of other players on show, you get the feeling that Spain will be alright. They have Marc Gasol, the powerful Grizzlies player, and they also have his brother Pau Gasol, a former NBA Champion who is another player for the Chicago Bulls. Ibaka plays for the Thunder and he will certainly help to bring the thunder in the stands when the host nation plays. Knowing that you have players playing in the biggest basketball league in the world is definitely going to be a massive encouragement for fans and even though Mirotic’s loss will limit some of the options open to Spain, the fact that the host nation can call on at least three players who have a height of at least 6’9” means that they will be well placed to muscle their opponents and give a strong showing. If they can do this, the crowd will get behind them and they may find that they build up a head of momentum that will ensure Spain become an unstoppable force along the way to host nation success.
The nature of the tournament and the way that it is set up means that if Spain are to meet Team USA, the only way they will be able to do so will be in the final. Spain are in Group A while the Americans are located in Group C. This means that if Spain do battle through, they know they have a winner takes all clash against the favourites and that may provide them with the impetus to push on and take the Gold medal. The roof may come off the arena if Spain triumphs over USA in the final!