EuroBasket is not just a random, one-off tournament, it is THE European basketball event of the year, going beyond the radar of international basketball junkies like Fran Fraschilla and Mark Perner and wannabes like myself. MVPs, All-Stars and future saviors of the 76ers franchise will take the court during EuroBasket 2015 in the hopes of capturing a championship for their home country. Here's a guide to the big tourney:
What is EuroBasket?
EuroBasket is a 24-team tournament comprised of national teams from throughout Europe that will take place across the continent in September, beginning with group play tomorrow and ending with the championship game on September 20. The top-two finishers will receive automatic births in next summer's Olympic basketball competition in Brazil.
What teams are in EuroBasket?
The 24 teams are as follows: France, Serbia, Croatia, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Belgium, Georgia, Finland, Turkey, Russia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Netherlands, The Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, Israel and Iceland.
If you didn't take AP European History in high school (I scored a three on the test; not showing off, not falling behind), you may want to take a look at a map and refresh yourself on the geopolitical boundaries of Europe.
What NBA players are in EuroBasket?
Big-name players such as Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Pau Gasol (Spain), Danilo Gallinari (Italy), Tony Parker (France), Nikola Mirotic (Spain) and Rudy Gobert (France) will suit up for their respective countries, as well as Sixers big man Furkan Aldemir (Turkey) and some guy they own the rights to named Dario Saric (Croatia).
What team do I root for?
If you're not rooting for Croatia and Dario, log off forever. The Croats, armed with Saric and former future Sixer Mario Hezonja, actually have a decent chance at winning the whole tournament itself, falling just behind perennial European powers France and Spain in who I'd expect to take home the title. Despite never stepping foot in the country and tracing zero parts of my ancestry to the Balkans, I have actually become an adopted citizen of Croatia since the Sixers drafted Saric last summer (Editor's note: No he hasn't).
If you're so used to following the Sixers and want to root for a lovable team who won't win anything, you can get behind Turkey and Furkan Aldemir, as he rebounds everything in sight and screens his way into Europe's heart. If you're a rugged, handsome man who rocks a killer beard, Turkey might be the team for you as well:
When you realize you were separated at birth from your Turkish, offensive-rebounding twin: pic.twitter.com/XFioHVmp0l— Shamus (@shamus_clancy) May 13, 2015
Should I start tweeting Dario pictures all day?
Yes. Max Rappaport and I can't do it alone.
What's Dario like in international competition?
He's fun. I've written a lot about his play with Anadolu Efes this past season, but the last major tournament Saric has played in with Croatia was last year's FIBA World Cup. Here's what I wrote about Saric's play early in that tournament for the Philadelphia Daily News: