After nearly all the stars dropped out, USA Basketball sent an awkwardly constructed, ill-prepared team to the 2002 FIBA World Championship. The best point guard was Andre Miller. The best centers were Jermaine O’Neal and Ben Wallace. The leading scorer was Paul Pierce. The team depended on a 37-year-old Reggie Miller and some dudes who were pretty new to the league.
This is the story not only of their startling run in the tournament, but of their opponent in the knockout round: Yugoslavia. After decades of being truly “Yugoslavian” — a multi-ethnic basketball powerhouse — the team calling itself by that name was by 2002 only composed of Serbian and Montenegrin players. Those included one star holdover from the old days (Vlade Divac), plus some promising youngsters like Peja Stojakovic.
Check out this episode of REWINDER to see what went down, and how these two teams with very different trajectories got to that point. Check out more episodes here.