Team USA entered the 2023 FIBA World Cup, as it always does, as the minus-money favorite to win gold. Instead, for the second consecutive tournament, Team USA will leave without a medal of any variety. The Americans faced Canada for bronze on Sunday, and in one of the most exciting games of the tournament, Canada prevailed in overtime by a score of 127-118.
Canada led for most of the game after making six first-quarter 3-pointers, but Team USA wouldn’t go down without a fight. Despite trailing by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, they managed to fight back and tie it around halfway through the final frame. Canada regained control from there, but Mikal Bridges made one of the great plays of his career to force overtime. After making his first free throw to cut the deficit to three points with roughly four seconds left, Bridges intentionally missed his second attempt to the right side, rebounded it himself, scampered behind the 3-point line and drilled a jumper to tie the game at 111 with a fraction of a second remaining in regulation.
Team USA just couldn’t maintain that momentum into overtime, though, as Canada, behind a dominant outing from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31 points) and Dillon Brooks (39 points, which would be a career-high for him even in the NBA), outscored the Americans 16-7 in overtime to secure the bronze. It is Canada’s first World Cup medal, and only the second medal Canada has ever earned in global competition. Its first was a silver medal all the way back in 1936 at the Olympics.
Just as Canada’s stock rises, Team USA’s falls. The world’s leading basketball superpower has now gone consecutive World Cups without medaling for the first time since a disappointment three-tournament run from 1963 through 1970. In six World Cup appearances this century, Team USA has taken gold only twice. Both came with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, but like Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and George Karl before him, even the legendary Duke coach failed to earn gold in his first World Cup appearance, taking home bronze in 2006. After starting the World Cup 4-0, Team USA lost three of its last four games to Lithuania, Germany and Canada en-route to its fourth-place finish.
Now Team USA will have to do what it so often does on the international stage: dust itself off and prepare to redeem itself at the Olympics. Team USA’s last two World Cup failures in 2006 and 2019 both led to gold medals at the following Olympics. If Kerr plans to make it three in a row, he’ll have to seriously revamp his roster in the next year.