France national team in 1919
Rise and decline (1919–1979)
Throughout its history, France's national basketball team has experienced many ups and downs. The time periods where the national team earned medals have been quite streaky.
In Europe, team France started out as a fierce competitor. The team won 5 medals at the FIBA EuroBasket between 1937 and 1959.
1937: Bronze Medal, 3–2 overall, second in preliminary group, lost semifinal, won bronze medal match
1947: Silver Medal, 5–1 overall, round robin tournament, no playoffs
1949: Bronze Medal; 6–3 overall, second in preliminary group at 3–1, won semifinal group in three-way tie-breaker with 2–1 record, lost semifinal, won bronze medal match
1953: Bronze Medal, 6–4 overall, second in preliminary group at 2–1, second position of four-way tiebreaker for 2nd place in final round with 4–3 record.
1959: Bronze Medal, 7–3 overall, second in preliminary group at 3–1, first in Semi-final round at 3–0, third in final round with 1–2 record.
Its period of glory at the world stage began in the late 1940s / early 1950s.
At the 1948 Olympics in London, the France team led by Robert Busnel won an Olympic silver medal, the first Olympic medal in its history. The French finished second only to the United States.
In the wake of this Olympic medal, France, led by captain André Vacheresse, won three consecutive medals, including silver at the EuroBasket 1949, and bronze at the EuroBasket 1951 and the EuroBasket 1953.
The following years were less glorious. France's basketball team seemingly declined gradually to disappear almost completely from the two major world competitions during the 1960s and 1970s.
Generation of hope (1980–1989)
After the disappointing 60s and 70s, the 1980s were marked by a generation of hope, counting in its ranks French basketball icons such as Richard Dacoury, Stephane Ostrowski and Hervé Dubuisson.
During this decade, France returned to the Olympics (1984), and the 1986 FIBA World Championship.
Success returns, despite internal struggles (1990–2000)
During the 1990s Team France had its moments to shine despite some internal struggles and many injuries for key players. At the European meetings, the team did not win a medal despite some good performances. The years 1999 and 2000, however, marked a turnaround for French basketball. The team built around Rigaudeau, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Sciarra, Bilba, Foirest finished in the top 4 at the EuroBasket 1999 in France and only lost the bronze medal final to Yugoslavia (74–62), despite some internal problems that disrupted the group of players. In 2000, team France traveled to the Olympics in Sydney, full of ambition, which developed the means for major achievement. At the end of its time in Australia, the selection of
Jean-Pierre de Vincenzi won the Olympic silver medal, the selection's first top 3 performance at a major basketball event in 46 years and its first Olympic medal in 52 years.
Tony Parker joins the team (2001–2002)
After this event, the Olympic vice-champion gained new backbone in Tony Parker who was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2001 NBA draft. However, at the EuroBasket 2001, without Rigaudeau, who surprisingly decided to retire from the team after the Olympics, the 19-year-old Parker alone was not enough as France failed to repeat its outstanding performance at the Olympic Games. France lost the quarter-finals to Germany 77–81 and finished 6th place overall. During this time, most of France's players cleared their spots for a new generation of players, which were available in abundance as France Junior national team had won the 2000 junior championship.
Setback despite abundance of talent (2003–2004)
At the EuroBasket 2003, France competed with an immensely talented squad, which included the NBA players Tony Parker, Jérôme Moïso and Tariq Abdul-Wahad, future NBA-player Boris Diaw and Euroleague players Laurent Foirest, Cyril Julian and Florent Piétrus. The stated objective was the title, which would come as the second within a short time-period to Tony Parker who had won the NBA title only a few months ago. But despite competing with one of the most promising rosters ever, France lost in the semifinal against Lithuania and then also barely lost the match for 3rd place against Italy, which France had declassified in the preliminary round. At the end, France even failed to qualify for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Restructuring and improved performance (2005)
Hoping not to repeat the disappointing performance of 2003, France's squad again saw some considerable changes in 2005. Then, for the EuroBasket 2005 team France was built based on team chemistry instead of big names; Amongst others, Jérôme Moïso and Tariq Abdul-Wahad disappeared from the roster and the newly formed team was built on the three NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Mickaël Piétrus as well as the returning EuroLeague and NBA-veteran Antoine Rigaudeau. The new coach Claude Bergeaud, surprisingly also selected Frédéric Weis, an underachieving player once drafted at the 1999 NBA Draft, who did not participate the team's preparation. After a sobering first round, team France improved to stunning performances in the playoffs. First, France eliminated world champion Serbia-Montenegro on their home court, then the team defeated the European champion Lithuania. Then, in a semi-final game against Greece where both side battled each other through tough defense, France failed in the last second after leading by seven points, 45 seconds before the game ended. Unlike 2003, however, France recovered to win a bronze medal by beating Spain in the small final by more than thirty points.
Continued title aspirations (2006–2010)
At the World Championship 2006 France competed without Tony Parker, who suffered a twisted finger two days before the competition. Because of this, the San Antonio Spurs, who just signed Parker with a 51 million Euros contract did not allow him to participate. After a first round marked by three wins and two losses, including a downfall to Lebanon, France beat Angola in the eighth-finals 68–62 before losing in the quarterfinals against Greece 56–73. Two victories in classification matches finally granted the French the fifth place.
At the FIBA EuroBasket 2007, France fell behind its aspirations again. After a strong preliminary round, the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Russia (75–71), then was beaten in the classification games by Croatia (86–69) and Slovenia (88–74), finishing in 8th place, missing for the second consecutive time the Olympic Games. In the following months, the team had to go through the ordeal of qualifications to participate in the next FIBA EuroBasket which was to be held in 2009. In 2008,
Michel Gomez returned as coach, a position he has held between 1993 and 1995. As Gomez failed to help the team qualify directly for the European Championship and had to enter a repechage tournament in August 2009 he was replaced by Vincent Collet, coach of ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne.
Under Collet's direction, the Bleus won the last ticket to the FIBA EuroBasket 2009 by trashing Belgium 92–54 in the final game of the repechage. At the European Championship, France won its first six games of the first two rounds but failed in the quarterfinals against the eventual tournament Champion Spain. Spain ended fourth of their group during the main round due to two defeats, against Serbia in the first round, and Turkey in the second. One main reason for these defeats was certainly the absence of star-player Pau Gasol who missed these games due to finger surgery. The French finally finished in fifth place, a performance which would grant the team the direct qualification for the next two major competitions, the World Championship 2010 and FIBA EuroBasket 2011.
Rise to the world elite (2011–present)
Led by extraordinary performances by the iconic Tony Parker, France finished 2nd at the FIBA EuroBasket 2011, its best performance in Europe in over 60 years.
Two years later, on 22 September 2013, France beat Lithuania 80–66 to win the 2013 EuroBasket title, its first continental crown. Parker was named the tournament's most valuable player.
In the summer of 2017, the French team has been composed of 37 players who have all signed an engagement contract that engages them until the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.