Wed. Oct 4th, 2023

Latvia men's basketball team member Davis Bertans greeted by fans during their homecoming after their Fiba World Cup campaign.

Latvia men’s basketball team member Davis Bertans greeted by fans during their homecoming after their Fiba World Cup campaign. –LATVIA BASKETBALL TEAM ACCOUNT

MANILA, Philippines—Latvia’s Fiba World Cup celebration spilled onto the streets of the Latvian capital of Riga at the Freedom Monument.

Thousands of people flooded the largest city in the Baltics on Monday to welcome back Latvia’s men’s basketball team fresh off an inspiring run in its maiden World Cup where the squad finished fifth.

The celebration was also attended by the country’s president and other state officials.

“I hope it [win] has a big impact. We saw a whole bunch of videos of kids in school that instead of attending classes they were watching our games,” said Latvian star Davis Bertans after the end of their World Cup run.

“I hope we showed them that this is us caring for our country, playing together, being a great team. Whether at school or anywhere else, whatever they’re doing, it just shows that you can achieve big things despite being considered an underdog.”

Latvia, a small country of less than two million people but immense passion for basketball, was one of the most fascinating stories in the World Cup.

The Latvians, who were without their best player Kristaps Porzingis, weren’t even supposed to reach the second round of the tournament.

latvia basketball fiba world cup riga welcome fans

Fans celebrate Latvia men’s basketball team’s fifth place finish in the Fiba World Cup. ––LATVIA BASKETBALL TEAM ACCOUNT

Porzingis, who was traded to the Boston Celtics last June, missed the global showcase due to a plantar fasciitis in his right foot but joined his teammates on the trip.

But they defied great odds—beating France, defending champion Spain, Italy and Lithuania to wind up in the top five.

In the classification game for fifth place against Lithuania, Latvia guard Arturs Zagars even set the record for the most assists in a single game with 17.

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By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.