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.
Davis Bertans and the Latvian national team holding back tears after returning home from the FIBA World Cup
Thousands of Latvian fans showed up to celebrate the team’s top-5 finish 🙌
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 11, 2023
“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.
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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