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MANILA, Philippines – Before the FIBA World Cup semifinal action tips off, USA Basketball took time off for some quiet, reflective moments.
Players and team staff visited the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City on Wednesday, September 6, in what they say had been a “powerful” experience.
“Of course, just the emotion of seeing that many graves, that many young lives lost, it was really powerful. I know our team appreciated all of it, all our coaches appreciated it, and it was a great day,” USA head coach Steve Kerr told media at practice on Thursday, September 7.
Less than 24 hours following their emphatic victory over Italy which secured them a seat in the 2023 FIBA World Cup semifinals, USA players, the coaching staff, their families, and the rest of the team were at the 152-acre plateau for an hour where they were joined by Retired General Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chairperson of the USA Basketball board of directors, and MaryKay L. Carlson, American Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of the Philippines.
“That was a great experience to see the military cemetery with the whole team, with all family members that are here in town with us, to see and learn more about World War II and the scope of the war and how it impacted the Philippines and the whole South Pacific,” said Kerr.
The cemetery in Manila is the largest for US military outside of the United States and contains the largest number of graves of military members who died in World War II: 16,859. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, most of the number lost their lives in operations in the Philippines and New Guinea.
The Philippines was helped liberated by the United States from Japanese occupation in September 1945, at the end of the second World War.
Both countries were part of the Allied powers that battled Axis counterparts, particularly major opposition like Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Jalen Brunson, arguably the strongest adult presence in USA Basketball’s roster, called the experience “great.”
“It puts things in perspective that we play a game,” he explained.
“While this is what we do, a lot of people out there have given their lives for us, so the fact that we wear ‘USA’ across our chests, it’s an honor and we don’t take it lightly.”
The Americans seek to reclaim their seat atop the FIBA World Cup after finishing a disappointing seventh place in the 2019 edition.
Up next on their schedule on Friday is Germany, a motivated national team which pushed the United States in an exhibition game held in Abu Dhabi in August.
If USA defeats the Germans again, they will face the semifinal winner of the Serbia-Canada tiff for gold on Sunday.
In the midst of their quest for basketball supremacy, the members of USA Basketball took a poignant pause to remember the sacrifices and struggles of the past.
The visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial served as a stark reminder of the enduring cost of conflict and the resilience of nations.
This perspective, powerful and humbling, resonates in every bounce of the basketball and every cheer from the stands as they seek to reclaim their throne. – Rappler.com