It came down to Manny Pacquiao vs. Yao Ming.
Both men were in Tokyo for a FIBA vote on where to host the 2019 basketball World Cup, and the finalists were China — led by Yao — and the basketball-crazed Philippines with a bid led by Pacquiao.
Chalk one up for the tall guy. FIBA awarded the event to China.
“I know what it’s like to play a top-level basketball tournament in front of home fans because I played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” Yao said in a statement on the FIBA Web site. “Having the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will inspire a lot of people and particularly more young athletes to participate in basketball.”
If you’re thinking 2019 is an odd year to host — and just one year before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — you’d be right. The obvious answer is “welcome to FIBA, we’re trying to give FIFA a run for its money.”
The move is FIBA attempting to address concerns from the NBA (and other professional leagues around the globe) about wear and tear on their players performing in the summer in international tournaments. (Concerns that came up again with the ACL injury to Utah’s Dante Exum, which likely costs him next season.) By moving the World Cup to 2019 FIBA is putting the qualifying tournaments for the Olympics and World Cup in one event, rather than two. Of course, now their two biggest tournaments are in consecutive years, so… welcome to FIBA.
If you think all of this is going to make the NBA — and Mark Cuban — happy, guess again. The NBA league office and the competition committee is still discussing how to handle all of it (and much of this will need to be negotiated with the players’ union).
As for 2019, China will host the event spread across eight cities — Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan. In 2019, the format for the tournament will grow to include 32 teams from around the globe. That includes seven from North and South America combined, plus a dozen from Europe.
The USA has won the last two World Cups (it used to be called the FIBA World Championships).