Host City: Helsinki, Finland
Venue(s): Exhibition Hall II, Helsinki; Tennis Palace, Helsinki
Date Started: July 14, 1952
Date Finished: August 2, 1952
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
In 1950, FIBA introduced the World Championships, and the first championship was won by Argentina, defeating the United States, which finished second. It was quite an upset, made more so by the fact that Argentina was not considered the best team in South America, that being Uruguay, which had won the South American Championships in 1947 and 1949. American dominance was also threatened by the presence of the Soviet Union, which competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1952. They had been European Champions in 1947 and 1951, not competing in 1949, when the title was oddly won by Egypt.
The US team was made up of seven players from the NCAA Champions, the University of Kansas, five players from the Peoria Caterpillar team, which won the final US Trials, and two players from the Phillips Petroleum team. The star of the US team was the 7-foot center from the Phillips team, Bob Kurland, who was responsible for the rules being changed to prevent goaltending, and the enlargement of the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet. He was assisted by Clyde Lovelette of the University of Kansas. Lovelette had a long NBA career and became the first player ever to play on NCAA, Olympic, and NBA Champion teams.
In the semi-final pools, the USA played the Soviet Union and dispatched them easily, 86-58. But they met again in the finals, and the USSR responded by stalling to hold down the score. The score was only 17-15 at halftime, but the USA pulled away in the second half to win 36-25.