With silver medals littering his career, Bogdan Bogdanovic goes for gold on the grandest stage. At 31, he knows now is the time to lead Serbia past Germany and win the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
A matter of respect
On Friday in the Mall of Asia Arena, Aris Barkas of Eurohoops told me that I should write about why Bogdan Bogdanovic is the man for FIBA basketball. Not Nikola Jokic, not Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Bogdan. The numbers back up that claim as he continues an incredible run here in Manila.
It’s more than that. He’s a man that understands the fight others put in, yet he rarely gets the broader adulation outside of Serbia. As Tim Reynolds of the AP put it, we don’t talk enough about FIBA Bogi. There’s no better time to change that than the eve of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup final.
A lasting taste of silver
Bogdan’s medal collection is impressive but with one common feature. In his 10 year senior international career with Serbia, he has won silver at every level. First, in 2014 at the FIBA World Cup where it was a magical run that surprised the world. Then came the Rio Olympics in 2016. As with 2014, Serbia were no match for a full strength USA.
The EuroBasket silver medal however is the true odd one in the mix. In 2017, Bogdan Bogdanovic effectively was the Serbia basketball team. With so much top talent missing, he dragged them through two weeks in Istanbul to the final. There, they lost to a Slovenia team that was imperious. Yet that’s not the one that got away.
That, for me at least, is 2015. Serbia looked immense through the first week of play in Berlin, going 5-0 with wins over Spain and Italy amongst their scalps. After taking care of business through the first two knockout rounds in Lille, they were stunned by Lithuania in the semi final. They never recovered and lost the bronze medal game to hosts France.
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He’s made for this
Most of Bogdan’s basketball is played in the NBA, on NBA terms. He’s a good player there who has established himself as a fine contributor of a starter or sixth man level. Yet he’s not a star. No, his game is good there but can’t be truly appreciated under that form of basketball.
You look at him leading Serbia at EuroBasket or the FIBA Basketball World Cup and it’s different. It’s not just the difference in talent. If it was, Canada would be playing for gold not Serbia. No, there’s a style required here that doesn’t necessarily suit even the greatest players in the sport.
Check out our profile of Dennis Schroeder and Germany ahead of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final
Ballers in this basketball, even the stars, must accept the limitations of their roles more. There is room for expression but not like the NBA. Instead you must work within the system to show your greatness. That’s how a so-so looking Serbia team was led to that silver in 2017 by a motivated Bogdan Bogdanovic. Yet a team without him last summer with Jokic fell to Italy in the last 16.
The ultimate opportunity
Serbia has qualified for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. They will likely have Jokic and many more back to play for them. That doesn’t mean they’ll be better and it doesn’t mean they have a better shot at gold than against Germany on Sunday.
This 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup has seen Serbia bounce back from defeat to Italy to come out like a team obsessed. They devoured Dominican Republic, let loose on Lithuania, and crushed the spirit of Canada.
We break down the big match-ups in our preview of Serbia vs Germany in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final.
Bogdan’s handle on X (formerly known as Twitter) is LeaderOfHorde. Well he leads a horde here. A team of Serbia players that are hungry to get the first gold medal under that name. For all the triumphs as Yugoslavia, with the later ones really being Serbia & Montenegro, this would put their name on the map.
The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is an opportunity like no other. Germany will present a fierce test but Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia have never been more ready for gold.