Lithuanian basketball: pass, present and future
In 1891 American teacher James Naismith invented basketball. Year after year it became more and more popular, people played basketball in more and more countries. In 1922 Steponas Darius brought it to Lithuania. It became popular so fast, as TV after World War II.
Level of Lithuanian basketball was so high, that in 1935 Lithuanian team played in the European championship. In 1935 championship took place in Riga (Latvia). Lithuanians were debutantes, and nobody could hope, tthat debutantes could be among leaders, but Lithuanians were! Lithuanians weren`t champions!
In 1939 the occurred in Kaunas. A new Sport Hall was built for this occasion, and sportsmen still play basketball in it now. Lithuanian team became the winner of this competition again.
Women have never remained in the background of men. All time they tried to be in the same level like men and they always do it. European championship in 1938 was very successful and Lithuanian sportswomen wwon silver medals.
World War II didn`t stop development of Lithuanian basketball. In the time of the war, legendary players, champions of Europe, ran to the West, but Lithuanian basketball wasn_t dead. A few students team won the first Soviet Union cchampionship in 1947. It was the start of the history of the biggest, grandest, and greatest Lithuanian Basketball club „Zalgiris“ (Green Wood). The name of this club comes from the battle in 1410, when Lithuanians beated the crusaders. This battle is named Grunwald in German or Zalgiris in Lithuanian.
All the time, when Lithuania endured yoke of Soviet Union, Lithuanian basketball was predominated in all Union. All the time Lithuanian players played in combined teams.
In 1978-1981 one of the greatest Lithuanian players_ generations started forming. In 1982 Arvydas Sabonis came to „Zalgiris“. He started playing in professional team, when he was only seventeen and he is still playing now. In 1983 the biggest fights between „Zalgiris“ and CSKA from Moscow sstarted. It was not Moscow team; it was a team of all Soviet Union. The most players were subjugated by the way of deception. Soviet bureaucrats wanted Lithuanian players to play in Moscow team too, but Lithuanians looked smarterd, and they didn_t let them go.
For Example, Soviets wanted Sabonis to play in CSKA. At the same day, when Sabonis finished secondary school, soviets came to school and tried to take Sabonis to the army. But Lithuanians were faster. Sabonis was aalready studying at Kaunas high school!
All time Lithuanians hadn_t ways to the Europe. Till 1984, „Žalgiris__ has never played with the teams from the West. Only „thaw“ in Soviet Union and reorganization of Mikhail Gorbachiov gave a chance for „Žalgiris“. These chances were unbelievable. In 1985 „Zalgiris“ lost only in the final of EuroCup and in 1986 „Zalgiris“ lost to Cibona Zagreb in the final of European Cup of Champions. Competitions of Soviet Union were lucky too. Three years (1985-19870 „Zalgiris“ became the champion of the Union.
In 1986 „Zalgiris“ got a chance to play in Jones Cup Competition. At this time it was World Club Championship. „Zalgiris“ became the winner! 200 000 people waited for „Zalgiris“ in Kaunas Karmelava Airport!
In 1989, Sarunas Marciulionis became the first player from East Europe, who played in National Basketball Association (NBA). USSR didn_t let to play in this professional American league, but in 1989, the Soviet Union wasn_t so strong like in 1970 or 1980, and Marciulionis broke the ice.
In 1992 Lithuania has already the freedom. Lithuania played in Barcelona Olympic Games. Nobody could understand, how a country, which is free only 2 years, and which has only 3 000 000 population, can have ssuch a good basketball team. Lithuanian national team won the bronze medals! Only then everybody understood, that in all national USSR teams played many Lithuanians, when USSR won the greatest victories. For example, in the USSR team, which won Gold in Seoul Olympic Games, four players in start composition were Lithuanians. Sabonis, Marciulionis, Kurtinaitis, Chomicius and others the first big victory to free Lithuania.
After „Barcelona`92″ crisis took all basketball in Lithuania. The best players went to the West, there were no money for sport in young and poor ...
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