#CourtsideStories with Connor Sports: Day 6 - Top 'Where Champions Play' Teams

4 years ago

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It isn't every day that you get to watch teams at the highest level of play, to see how they interact...what pushes them forward. Today, we are honoring the three teams that best embody the spirit of Where Champions Play. They show spirit win or loss and drive the sport and the community to a higher level. 


FINLAND | #1 Team of Group Phase of FIBA Basketball World Cup

Without a doubt it would be Finland.  8000 fans cheering on their team was an incredible sight to see not only in the arena, but in the streets of Bilbao. Their spirit was contagious.  It all started against team USA.  Even losing by 60 points didn’t stop their enthusiasm whenever their team scored.

They were just as loud as at the start.  95% had some kind of white and blue jersey on.  Most had a 6 as they consider themselves the 6th man and they have a huge flag they roll out to prove it.

They were all so friendly when you ran into them in the streets.  They rented a huge tent in the city next to their main base hotel and partied every night till the sun came up.

When they got their first win the next day, you felt the sense of pride that they belonged in this tournament and would be a force to reckon with.They suffered two heartbreaking losses which they should have won.  Their spirit truly embodied Where Champions Play.

I will leave you with what the Finnish Basketball Federation President told me when I congratulated him on their first ever World Cup victory.

He said, “No, this is our second.  Our first was having 8,000 of our countrymen here against the USA.  That put us on the basketball map.”

It most certainly did.  The Wolfpack is on the prowl!!

SPAIN | #2 Team of Group Phase of FIBA Basketball World Cup

With Fan Passion, Good Sportsmanship and Winning...Spain comes in at number 2. Spain sees this as THEIR World Cup, this is the end of a long run for a generation of players lead by Pau Gasol, and they want to go out on top.  They are prepared, they are motivated, and they want to win it all. 

But more importantly, the fans love them and they show appreciation and respect to the fans and other teams. They are gracious hosts and winners.

Every game there is some little kid (under age 5) that delivered the game ball to centre court, and the whole Spanish team lines up to high five the kid.  The first time it was totally improvised, now they all seem to look forward to it. 

It is this type of enthusiasm and respect for play on and off the court that brings to life #WhereChampionsPlay. 

Spain in 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Where Champions PlaySpain high fiving the game ball girl

SENEGAL | #3 Team of Group Phase of FIBA Basketball World Cup

It isn’t every day that you have a Cinderella story in international basketball competition. This week we had the pleasure of watching the Senegal team who in warm-ups looked like a bunch of oversized kids. By the time Day 2 rolled around played together as well seasoned professionals that had caught a desire for a World Cup win.

As we watched them win against teams we thought would have crushed them…we were energized. The thought of a group of men from a place where basketball is your way out…who once had a legacy on the world stage for producing championship basketball teams…could be back was thrilling.

Today Cinderella showed up again…pushing the Philippines into overtime…where victory just slipped away. That said, we will never forget their smiles, their celebration and your small, but energized fan group. You embodied the spirit of the World Cup. You brought the hopes of a nation on your shoulders to the world’s stage and showed them what victory feels like. We hope you continue taking the #WhereChampionsPlay mentality to the next level. 


BILBAO | USA, Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Turkey

GRAN CANARIA | Mexico, Slovenia, Lithuania, Australia

GRANADA | France, Spain, Serbia, Brazil

SEVILLA | Croatia, Senegal, Greece, Argentina



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