Tennis, hockey, baseball, and now basketball. America's third-place finish at the World Basketball Championships confirms that multimillionaire American athletes no longer rule their major sports played worldwide. The reasons for foreign dominance of American sports have become clear to players and the foreign media, who outnumbered the American press in Saitama, Japan, 10 to one. The world watches Americans play on TV. Americans don't watch games of CSKA Moscow or Unicaja Malaga of Spain and still can't name the Greek players who beat them. Compared to monolingual Americans, Greek players speak Greek, English, Russian and other languages. Spanish guard Jose Calderon, for example, studies English. Europeans are led by philosophers and chess players, while American stars are occupied with taking care of money and lucrative endorsements. 'European basketball is stronger now,' says Greek guard Theo Papaloukas, the Aristotle of European basketball and MVP of both major European championships last season. 'In Europe, we are thinking more, with a team mentality. It's not the guy who jumps the highest or runs the fastest wins. It's not tennis. It's basketball. It's a team sport.' Americans, who played the first game at a Massachusetts YMCA in 1891, had lost only two games in 68 years at the Olympic level until 2004. They finished third in Athens and have not won the Fiba worlds since 1994 in Toronto. 'We now know the domination of the sport is in Europe,' said Australian Bob Elphinston after being named president of Fiba, the governing body for world basketball. Worldwide, 300 million people play the game, according to basketball's Hall of Fame website. 'Now the battleground is even,' admits US forward Chris Bosh, who will play with five Europeans on the Toronto Raptors team this season. 'World basketball is at its best now. We play the best NBA basketball. The world plays the best Fiba basketball. It's become apparent. We have to try to come back to dominance now. We have to stop making excuses.' Papaloukas and other Greeks don't play in the American pro league because they think European basketball is better. Results in Japan proved that. The finalists, Greece and Spain, are quicker, smarter and better defenders, rebounders and shooters. Both teams have the advantage of playing together for years, compared to a month for the Americans. 'They don't go out there as individuals, but as a team,' says US leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who has Puerto Rican ancestry. 'They have a great flow, because they have been together for a long time.' 'It's hard when you have stars who are used to doing one thing and then they come together one month and have to do another thing,' says Papaloukas. 'They never played against such a clever defence. Our team, we know our roles.' The Greeks, who have grown up idolising Americans such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson on TV, knew the American moves in advance. 'We knew before the game what they were going to do,' said Papaloukas. 'They used three or four different plays, that's all. Before the game, our coach said: 'Don't let them get offensive rebounds, don't let them run and you can win this game'.' Before the semi-final, Anthony joked in his funky slang that he didn't know Greek players because 'their names are too long'. Even after the game, Americans referred to Greeks by number, not name. Comparative ignorance of opponents has hindered America in other sports. Hosting the first World Baseball Classic, the US lost three and missed the final four. At the Turin Winter Olympics, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic finished 1-2-3 in ice hockey. Former powers Canada and the US lost in the quarters to Russia and Finland. In tennis, Americans, who won nearly everything, including the French Open, in the mid-1990s haven't won a slam since Andy Roddick's victory at the 2003 US Open. Europeans, meanwhile, comprised the final four of the soccer World Cup in Germany. Germany beat America in overall Winter Olympic medals. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rule tennis. In contrast to Americans, developed as warrior-entertainers sheltered by handlers and merchandisers, European players emphasise family, friendship and a refreshing openness and humility. After games, European players hug each other, blow kisses to their families and partners (who all know each other), dance in circles for their flag-waving, drum-beating fans, walk off the court arm in arm, and call relatives back home on mobile phones. Papaloukas spends more time answering questions - in Greek, Russian, and English - than playing the game. Instead of American sports cliches, Papaloukas, and Spaniards such as Jorge Garbajosa, talk philosophy. 'Basketball is like life,' says Papaloukas. 'We can't make plans for life. Life is making plans for us.' He says his on-court intelligence is 'given by God', adding: 'I think somebody is helping me from the top. But it is I who have to take advantage of it. Other players are faster than me, or better jumpers. So I have to be more clever to beat them.' After outplaying LeBron James, he said he didn't play in the NBA because 'I didn't have a good enough offer in the NBA'. He added: 'CSKA Moscow are one of the best teams in Europe. People treat me like a king in Russia. I enjoy seeing people wearing my T-shirt or waving the Greek flag.' When Papaloukas was born in 1977, few non-US born players had cracked the NBA. First the Soviets, then the Slavs with Divac, Stojakovic and Kukoc challenged US basketball supremacy. Now, the new kings are supposedly small Mediterraneans taught to handle balls with their feet, not their hands. And they have the better of the Americans.