What was the starting point for Germany on their way to World Cup glory has been widely debated. There are several theories.
Some say it was their loss to Estonia to start off the World Cup qualifying. Some believe it was in the autumn of 2021 when head coach Gordon Herbert and star player Dennis Schröder spent hours speaking heart-to-heart in their first meeting. But it actually started even earlier.
In September 2016, Germany was fighting for a ticket to the Eurobasket. September 10th was the date when they played away against Denmark and lost 102-106 after three periods of overtime. Five future world champions were on the field: Johannes Voigtmann, Maodo Lo, Niels Giffey, Daniel Theis, and Johannes Thiemann.
Germany was humiliated
Voigtmann perfectly remembers how losing to Denmark was something worse than just shame for the Germans. It was ground zero. “Our basketball was down and everyone was beating us”, the big man recalled a few years ago when Germany had finished eight in the Tokyo Olympics.
Most of the winning squad in the Philippines has been together for a long time and experienced several setbacks. Entering the World Cup in 2019, head coach Henrik Rödl said it was the best German team ever … and then returned home with an 18th-place finish. The team was torn apart by the great expectations and hopes imposed due to the coach’s words, as well as internal quarrels.
Before this summer, Andreas Obst – one of the heroes of the World Cup – said that the failure in 2019 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. It motivated them to do more but also served as a caution of what happens if players are not fighting for each other as a team.
Obst pointed out that everyone has a role to play, but it is not always seen in the points, rebounds, or assists columns. As an example, David Krämer played in just four games, but many times, he was the emotional fuse on the bench, cheering on his teammates.
This is not the end
The world should have taken note last summer. Thanks to a fantastic attacking game and unity, Germans were rewarded with Eurobasket bronze medals, their first success since claiming silver in 2005.
And still, only a few considered them to be among the frontrunners for the World Cup this year. The first Power Rankings had them below Slovenia, although Luka Dončić’s homeland was missing several important pieces, and some players were coming off a forgettable club season. The wise guys of basketball should have realized that naming Germany a dark horse was ridiculous.
Ending the medal drought was not the end of the German steam locomotive, but rather a stop on the way. It made them even hungrier. As experts in Germany pointed out: “We have never had such a good and confident squad who believes in becoming world champions.”
Clearly, winning gold will not be the end, either. The next destination is already in sight. Gordon Herbert will take Germany to the Paris Olympics, full of confidence and with the belief that winning another gold is not out of the question.