The final game of the basketball world championship between Germany and Serbia (83:77) highlighted the journey of each newly crowned champion. This victory feels even more remarkable if you recall the odds given by bookmakers before the start of the competition. Most companies didn't even rank the Germans in the top 5. It's as if they played in the Pinup casino UZ and hit the jackpot.
Let's delve deeper into the main heroes of this triumph.
Dennis Schroder emerged as a mature leader
The man who seemingly peered into the abyss during the tournament (4 out of 26 in the quarterfinal against Latvia) played almost flawlessly in the last two games: whenever his team's offense faltered and needed points, the point guard transformed into the German Allen Iverson, producing miracles from his hat. His drive to the right against Aleksa Avramović in the final moments will be remembered as a signature moment of the entire tournament. Schroder defended against Bogdan Bogdanović, controlled Germany's game, and did not hog the ball - passing the initiative to others.
It's an incredible story of maturation – there's symbolism in the fact that the chip on his shoulder seems to have disappeared now. Schroder kicked Kleber off the national team before the world championship, had a peculiar altercation with Herber and Theis on the bench, stopped provoking everyone around, realized he didn't have to do everything... And by the end, he emerged as a seemingly different player, a true MVP.
Gordie Herbert achieved his first significant success
He's been involved in coaching for over 25 years and only once held a position for seven seasons. And not that he was leading clubs or national teams accustomed to regular victories. He was at "Honka", "Team Georgia", "Aris", "Alba", "Pau-Orthez", and "Obradoiro". Except for the Eurocup with "Frankfurt", he won nothing. His most recent club position was with "Avtodor", where he also didn't fit.
What the Canadian, who has settled in Europe, achieved with this German national team is impressive. Not so much for the results, but because with him, it's always the most attractive team on the international stage, extracting the most from witty modern basketball within the strict FIBA rules. He managed to make one of the most toxic and egocentric Europeans learn not to monopolize the ball and initiative, not to be jealous, and not to get anxious with the emergence of a young star. And at the same time, he unveiled almost everyone's potential for the national team.
Theis and Voigtmann had absurd seasons at the club level
Their instability makes them rejected and even written off, but in Germany, it works the other way around. Each of them is ready to unexpectedly jump out, being completely unstoppable - like Theis, trampling Americans left and right in the semi-finals, or Voigtmann, who closed down Milutinov and dissected the Serbian defense with his passes, shots, and drives.
The worst and best versions of both are well known, but for some reason, the front line of the German national team is fundamental - there are many performers, they are all very different, and their interchangeability, controlled by the coach, excludes individual failures.
Isaac Bonga was not needed in the NBA and returned to Germany last summer
Too clumsy a point guard, too limited a forward, Bonga under Herbert turned into one of the key figures - a hyper-athletic defender who both insured and took care of other opponents.
Andi Obst shocked the USA team
In real life, he's a modest guy from "Bavaria", who scores an average of 6.9 points in the EuroLeague and less than 50% from the field. But he's one of the best European snipers, for whom the perfect conditions have been created in the national team (several "bigs" with good screens on the court plus a culture of equal opportunities). Whenever opponents have problems on the weak side, Obst invariably highlights it.
Mo Wagner – the walking refutation of the theory that Team USA players lacked playoff experience
The center studied in an American college, and in the NBA, he traveled through the most hopeless clubs ("Lakers", "Washington", "Orlando"), but from the very first friendly match of Germany, he set a very high bar of toughness - FIBA doesn't have such statistics, but probably Mo was on the floor trying to catch the ball in any way more often than anyone else. For some reason, in his case, it seems much more curious than the line of 67% two-pointers and 47% three-pointers.
Franz Wagner – the unsung hero
And Franz Wagner, a 22-year-old forward, who radically raised the level of the entire national team. The young man did something quite unique during this tournament: it's rare for a player to get injured in the first match, then quickly recover and appear in the playoffs painlessly for both himself and the team as a whole. He managed to do that.
Somewhere he was not as effective beyond the arc, somewhere he lost the ball too much, somewhere he was too fussy, but in any case, he was the one who shared the title of the team's first star with Dennis Schroder, drawing the attention of the defense, pulling them into the final. "Orlando" is a mythical club that people only talk about, but don't fully understand the real capabilities of its players. But Germany is precisely the place where Wagner proves that he's ready to shine. Even too much – too often Franz Wagner tried to beat everyone.