And the wild cards for the 2010 World Championship go to … Germany, Lebanon, Lithuania and Russia.

And basketball’s ruling body FIBA made the best decision it could make from a basketball standpoint – though it did miss a chance to change at least somewhat the direction of the game.

First off, addressing the first point.

Looking at the talent level, FIBA made the correct choice in picking Germany, Lebanon, Lithuania and Russia.

Starting with Lithuania, FIBA had an easy choice in awarding Lithuania a wild card. Not only is Lithuania one of the biggest basketball nations in the world but it also will be hosting the EuroBasket 2011. It would have been shocking had FIBA not chosen the Lithuanians.

Germany meanwhile saved their chances of heading to Turkey next summer by coming up with a superb showing at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland with a young, exciting team, which will now get the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman to lead them in 2010. And the facts that Nowitzki is a lock to play in Turkey if he’s healthy and that he is so supportive of the national team made the decision easy for FIBA.

Now things started getting complicated.

Choosing Russia for a wild card is not really that much of a surprise. The Russians captured the 2007 EuroBasket title and had a strong showing at the 2009 EuroBasket without top stars such as Andrei Kirilenko, J.R. Holden, Viktor Khyrapa and Sasha Kaun. But head coach David Blatt showed, just like Germany, that there is more than just the stars. And a commitment from Kirilenko to play in Turkey also had an impact on FIBA’s decision – as did the storied history of basketball in Russia/Soviet Union.

FIBA however had a major decision to make in selecting which four nations will be awarded wild cards. Would it hand three of the four wild cards to European teams or just two?

Another strong candidate for a wild card would have been Great Britain, who will be hosting the 2012 Olympics.
FIBA also could have given a wild card to an African nation as both Cameroon and Nigeria would have been worthy participants. A wild card for either of those teams would have meant FIBA was more dedicated than ever to promoting the game in Africa.

But the FIBA board decided to award the fourth wild card to Asian powers Lebanon, who are more than a worthy choice. The Lebanese were regulars in international tournaments along with China. But they have fallen slightly behind Iran and were surprised by Jordan in the Asian qualifying tournament. Lebanon however have shown in the past that they are a strong team and FIBA acknowledged that with its selection.

All told, basketball fans throughout the world can be happy about the four wild card selections. Fans in Africa would have liked to have an additional spot. But now the Africans need to show in Turkey that they deserve a wild card from a basketball standpoint.

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