What a Dream.
The Dream Team of Olympic Basketball: Michael, Magic, Larry …
BUT, THIS is about the OTHER DREAM TEAM.
They couldn’t even imagine their Dream in the beginning, it had been so long ago.
The Dream of Freedom…
It takes a Nation, with a little luck, grit, and passion.
“Yeah, And it’s a bigger dream.”
Lithuania ( Lithuanian: Lietuva) officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika) is a country in Northern Europe, the largest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It borders Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 3 million as of 2013, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. The Lithuanians are a Baltic people, and the official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages (together with Latvian) in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. Lithuanians declare themselves a nation in 1918.
Frank Lubin, an Olympic Champion of Basketball in Berlin 1936, an American with Lithuanian parents, had visited relatives in Lithuania, where his parents had been born. He stayed for three years. Known there as Pranas Lubinas, Lubin taught the Lithuanians to play basketball. Serving as player-coach, he led the Lithuanian national team to European championships in 1937 and 1939. He scored the winning basket in the 1937 European championship game. He left Lithuanian before World War II with the Lithuanian women’s basketball team to Italy. He didn’t return for fifty years.
In the nineteen thirties, the small Baltic States were used as chess pieces between the more powerful totalitarian regimes of the German Nazis and the Russian Bolsheviks.
Starting in 1940, Lithuania was occupied first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end in 1944 and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union brutally reoccupied Lithuania. Stalinist policies crushed the population. The Soviets engaged in massive deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia, complete nationalisation and collectivisation and general sovietization of everyday life. From 1944 to 1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanian partisans fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet system. An estimated 30,000 partisans and their supporters were killed, and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian gulags. It is estimated that Lithuania lost 780,000 people during World War II.
But Frank Lubin wasn’t forgotten in Lithuania.
“Lithuania lived through a very difficult time period,
but we still played sports.”
Some played basketball in Siberia.
Known as the godfather of Lithuanian basketball, the players Lubin taught eventually became coaches themselves and later helped develop such players as Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Rimas Kurtinaitis and Voldemaras Chomicius, who led the Soviet Union’s Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics. In the Soviet Union’s 82-76 victory over the United States, the four Lithuanians scored 62 points.
“When Gorbachev started perestroika, I knew it was the beginning.”
Arvydas Romas Sabonis, Artisan, (born December 19, 1964) is considered one of the best big man passers as well as one of the best overall centers in the history of the basketball game. Born to a mother that spent nine years in Siberia, in Kaunas, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union (now Kaunas, Lithuania), Sabonis began playing basketball at age 13. By the time he was 15 years old he was a member of the Soviet national junior team. Bill Walton once called Sabonis a 7’3″ Larry Bird due to his unique court vision, shooting range, rugged in-game mentality, and versatility.
Sabonis was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 77th pick of the 1985 NBA Draft. However, the selection was voided because Sabonis was under 21 at the time of the draft. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 24th pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. Sabonis was not allowed to play in the NBA by Soviet authorities until 1989.
Raimondas Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Artisan, (born June 13, 1964, in Kaunas, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union) is a retired Lithuanian professional basketball player. He was one of the first Europeans to become a regular in the North American National Basketball Association (NBA). In the 1988 Seoul Olympics Basketball Tournament, together with teammate Arvydas Sabonis, he led the Soviet Union national team to a gold medal in basketball.
Marčiulionis was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 6th round of the 1987 NBA Draft. He moved to the NBA in 1989 and he played four years with the Warriors. He had a difficult decision in jumping to American basketball, he worried that he and his family would be punished. Stalin’s ghost still hung over the country.
Šarūnas knew the odds.
— Don Nelson, Jr.
And the country was crumbling. He gambled that if he signed, as a free agent, without paying off the Soviet sports machine, he would not be in Siberia but could go to America, to Freedom.
The advent of Mikhail Gorbachev‘s perestroika and glasnost in the late 1980s allowed the establishment of Sąjūdis, an anti-Communist independence movement. After a landslide victory in elections to the Supreme Soviet, members of Sąjūdis proclaimed Lithuania’s independence on 11 March 1990, becoming the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet Union attempted to suppress the secession by imposing an economic blockade.
Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower, killing 14 Lithuanian civilians and wounding 600 others on the night of 13 January 1991.
He tried to stop the killing. He called around trying to get some in charge of the Soviet military. He didn’t have the phone number of Gorbachev, but he finally was able to contact Boris Yeltsin, who said he would call Gorbachev. The Soviet tanks did not appear the next day.
“Stop these atrocities”
— Boris Yeltsin
Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, Rational, (born 18 October 1932) is a Lithuanian conservative politician and Member of the European Parliament. He was the first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union, and served as the Head of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas. Professor Landsbergis is an intellectual who has been active in Lithuania’s political arena for more than two decades, and is a notable politician who helped contribute to the demise of the Soviet Union. He has written twenty books on a variety of topics. He is a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, and a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
On 31 July 1991 Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belarusian border in what became known as the Medininkai Massacre.