On Tuesday in Bilbao, Spain, the United States moved to 3–0 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup by defeating New Zealand 98–71. Given that the United States is the United States, New Zealand is New Zealand, and basketball is basketball, the final score was something of a fait accompli. But what happened before the game seemed to come as a total surprise to the Americans. Watch and enjoy the video above, in which the “Tall Blacks”—a play on the nickname of New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby squad—perform the country’s traditional haka dance, and Derrick Rose, James Harden, and Kenneth Faried look very, very confused.
The website Stuff.co.nz notes that the Americans have not been alone in their befuddlement:
For the first two games in group play in Bilbao at this event the Tall Blacks have gone to do their haka before tipoff and seen opposition teams ignore their challenge and head to their bench to begin preparations.
Turkey did not even face the Tall Blacks who had to re-align their haka in the direction of players who had turned their backs on them to receive final instructions from their coach. At least the Dominican Republic had the good grace to face up, albeit from their bench.
In New Zealand a blatant decision not to accept the challenge would be viewed as the ultimate insult—the ultimate indignity even. Bristles would be raised, at the very least. But this is not New Zealand.
This is not New Zealand, indeed. But the Kiwis should keep on doing the haka, no matter what the other teams think. In fact, I grant them five bonus points for their excellent performance. New final score: United States 98, New Zealand 76.