FIBA World Cup

For Borisa: Serbia inspired to go all the way for player who lost kidney

Delfin Dioquino

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For Borisa: Serbia inspired to go all the way for player who lost kidney

MOTIVATED. Serbia players celebrate after their win over Lithuania in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.


Serbia draws strength from injured Borisa Simanic as it books a trip to the FIBA World Cup semifinals for the first time since 2014 after knocking off erstwhile unbeaten Lithuania

MANILA, Philippines – Borisa Simanic has been ruled out for the rest of the FIBA World Cup after losing one of his kidneys, but his presence is felt now more than ever for Serbia.

The Orlovi drew strength from Simanic as they booked a trip to the semifinals for the first time since 2014 after knocking off erstwhile unbeaten Lithuania in an 87-68 rout at the Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, September 5.

Lithuania stunned title favorite USA to reach the final phase perfect in five games, but it proved no match to a determined Serbian squad that wanted nothing but to win for Simanic.

Trailing 24-25 at the end of the opening quarter, the Orlovi outscored the Baltic Giants, 49-30, in the middle period to secure their place in the final four.

“I really think that it’s going to make him a little bit proud of us and he’s going to feel a little bit better after this victory,” said Serbia big man Nikola Milutinov.

Simanic needed to have his kidney removed after sustaining an elbow hit late in their 115-83 thrashing of South Sudan back in the group stage last Wednesday, August 30.

The 6-foot-11 forward underwent surgery twice, with doctors deciding his kidney had to be taken out due to complications following the first operation.

His condition understandably caused distress among his teammates, but an encouraging text message from Simanic in the morning of their quarterfinal duel with the Lithuanians set the tone for another dominant win by Serbia.

“Everybody was feeling so excited and so happy for him. It’s a really good day for us,” said Milutinov.

“He said that he’s feeling better, he’s hoping that he’s going to fight with us,” Milutinov added. “All of the players were excited. It gave us a boost to play with such high energy and I really hope we made him proud tonight.”

Serbian NBA player Bogdan Bogdanovic, who spearheaded the romp with 21 points on a scintillating 69% clip to go with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, credited Simanic for bringing the team together.

“He was [like], ‘Guys, I’m good. Don’t worry. Let’s win tonight.’ For him just to think about us after everything that happened to him, he united us. That’s an amazing, amazing guy, and this is for him as well,” said Bogdanovic.

The Orlovi have not won a World Cup title since the breakup of former Yugoslavia, coming close in 2014 when they settled for silver after falling prey to USA in the finale.

Simanic, though, has inspired a breakthrough campaign for Serbia, which will face either Luka Doncic’s Slovenia or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s Canada in the semifinals on Friday, September 8.

“We’re going to try. But it’s going to be really hard work because there are so many good opponents for the rest of the tournament,” said Milutinov.

“It’s not going to be easy but we’re going to try everything we can to make him proud and happy.” –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.