Ranking the 10 biggest threats to Team USA at 2023 FIBA World Cup

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 18: Rudy Fernandez of Spain celebrates with teammates while holding The Nikolai Semashko Trophy on the podium following their victory in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 final match between Spain v France at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 18, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 18: Rudy Fernandez of Spain celebrates with teammates while holding The Nikolai Semashko Trophy on the podium following their victory in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 final match between Spain v France at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 18, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images) /
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BERLIN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 18: Rudy Fernandez of Spain celebrates with teammates while holding The Nikolai Semashko Trophy on the podium following their victory in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 final match between Spain v France at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 18, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 18: Rudy Fernandez of Spain celebrates with teammates while holding The Nikolai Semashko Trophy on the podium following their victory in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 final match between Spain v France at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 18, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images) /

1. Spain

Who else but Spain? The Spaniards have been the golden standard of those who can take the United States to task on the basketball stage. Once again, the collective unity of the squad will pose the biggest challenge to Team USA.

Spain is the most recent winner of the FIBA World Cup and also took home the title back in 2006. They are the No. 1 ranked team in FIBA – one spot higher than the Americans. The team is also coming off a championship at EuroBasket 2022. If Team USA is the prohibitive favorite at this event, Spain isn’t far behind.

Despite some really tight games, however, Spain hasn’t been particularly successful going head-to-head against Team USA. In 32 contests, the United States has only lost four times. Spain hasn’t actually defeated the Americans in 21 years.

If they’re going to defeat America this year, they’ll have to do so with only two players in the NBA, Santi Aldama and Usman Garuba. Spain legend Ricky Rubio was on the roster but withdrew recently to take care of his mental health.

Still, there are plenty of names that should prove familiar to NBA fans. Among those: Alex Abrines, Rudy Fernandez, Victor Claver, and the Hernangomez brothers.

There’s a collective feeling that this era of Spanish basketball may be coming to a close soon. The Gasols are gone and Fernandez plans to call it quits after the next Olympics. Real Madrid legend Sergio Llull, who has won five gold medals across competitions for Spain, is about to turn 36 years old.

If there’s one thing this generation of Spaniards is missing, it’s a victory over Team USA. The medals and titles are important, undoubtedly, but a win over the United States would be icing on the cake. Spain should have time to warm up to that confrontation. The other members of the team’s group are Brazil, Iran, and Côte D’Ivoire. Spain should run through those first three games.

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A clash between Team USA and Spain could give the Americans the best run for their money, as well as provide the best moment of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.