Deep voices chanting in unison, fists pounding thighs, a crazy-looking man sticking his tongue out — it’s all par for the course in some countries’ athletic proceedings.
Playing in Spain Tuesday, the U.S. men faced off against New Zealand in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The “Tall Blacks” (a riff on the name of New Zealand’s better-known sports team, the rugby-playing All-Blacks) opened up with a Kiwi tradition: the Maori-inspired haka war chant.
As usual, the chant was a powerful display.
Some American players looked a little confused during the chant…
…but overall, Team USA did not seem intimidated.
Here’s how it looked:
Team USA went on to win the game, 98-71, but Kiwi media made lemonade from the lemons of defeat.
From the New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz:
It was easily the Tall Blacks’ best performance against the USA on the world stage – they’d lost previously by 46 and 48 points respectively – and both before the game and after it the Americans made it clear they had some healthy respect for the plucky little team from down under.
Firstly they, with their multi-million dollar salaries and runaway egos, became the first team at this event to actually stand and face the haka, a la protocol. Turned out coach Mike Krzyzewski had done his homework.
”We understood,” said the coaching legend known simply as Coach K. ”I talked to Kirk [Penney] before the game. We already knew it was out of respect. They probably should send out a sheet to let people know that.
”I said we do respect that. We were actually going to shake hands with them after because we knew that was a really neat thing to do. It’s part of their tradition and we admire that.”
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