Lithuanian Basketball League
Atletas | Lietuvos Rytas | Neptūnas | Nevėžis
Panevėžys | Sakalai | Šiauliai | Žalgiris
The major basketball team Statyba was established in 1964 in the Soviet Union. That team managed to win Bronze medals in 1979 at the Soviet Union championship. In 1997 it was renamed Lietuvos Rytas Statyba, then just Lietuvos Rytas as the club was bought by major Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos Rytas. Investitions made the club to be one of two best clubs of Lithuania, tthe other being BC Žalgiris from second largest city Kaunas. Only these two clubs been LKL champions since independence of Lithuania, and maches played by these two clubs always are fierce and attracts many visitors. Lietuvos Rytas won national championship twice. The first success came in 2000, when Vilnius’ side was led by so called „big three“ – Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Andrius Giedraitis and Erick Elliott, also combined with youngsters Arvydas Macijauskas and Robertas Javtokas. After two years Lietuvos Rytas repeated ttheir triumph. This time in dramatic seven-game final series and the last game was decided in overtime. Vilnius team played without center Robertas Javtokas, who was seriously injured in motorbike crash. However, due to better relations with ULEB at start, ŽŽalgiris Kaunas was granted place in Euroleague while Lietuvos Rytas wasn’t; when Lietuvos Rytas decided to join ULEB it was too late already and they were given just a place in second ranking tournament ULEB cup.
In 2005 they won the ULEB cup tournament and this granted them place in Euroleague, major European basketball club tournament. Team started that season fluently, winning 9 of 10 games in the group stage. However in last group game team leader Frederick House was injured and that injury ended his season and headcoach Vlade Djurovic resigned just after that and was replaced by Tomo Mahoric. But newcomer Tyrone Nesby, Latvian playmaker Robert Štelmahers and inspirational Lithuanian trio – Robertas Javtokas, Simas Jasaitis and Tomas Delininkaitis lled the team and managed to overcome all oponents.
Official club name: „Basketball Club Žalgiris“. Logo design: A green and white shield with the sign „BC Žalgiris“, basketball and a letter „Ž“.
The name commemorates the victorious Battle of Žalgiris (Battle of Grunwald) (both names: Žalgiris and Grunwald are translated as „Green grove“).
Since 1944, BC Žalgiris was the main Lithuanian basketball team to produce the top-flight talents for the European basketball, such as the Olympic champions Modestas Paulauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, RRimas Kurtinaitis, Valdemaras Chomičius, and many others. In the mid-1980s, the finals between BC Žalgiris Kaunas and CSKA Moscow (Central Sports Club of Army) served as a major inspiration for Lithuanian national revival that contributed to the emergence of Sąjūdis national movement and re-establishment of state independence.
Sabonis is now the principal owner of the club, having purchased it in 2003 after having played for many years in the Spanish league and the NBA.
that had Sabonis played for the Blazers in the early 1990s, they would likely have won an NBA championship.
He won the gold medal for the Soviet Union in the 1988 Summer Olympics, and played for Lithuania when they won bronze at the 1992 Summer Olympics, and were runners-up in the 1995 European Championships.
In 1989 he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union but he didn’t go to the NBA and instead chose Forum Valladolid, and Real Madrid in 1992, whom he led to league championships in 1993 and 1994 and to the European Club Championship in 1995. He was named European Player of the Year four times.
In 1995, he finally joined the NBA with the Trail Blazers, and won Rookie of the Month and Player of the WWeek awards in 1996. He was later runner-up for both the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man awards. He remained with Portland for seven years, playing in 470 regular season and 51 playoff matches with them and often leading the team in rebounds. He was a very effective player in the NBA, but his career there had considerable „what-might-have-been“ overtones. Had he joined the Blazers when they were at their peak in the early 1990s, many Portland fans feel it would have been a dynasty. During his years in Europe, he suffered a series of knee and Achilles’ tendon injuries that robbed him of most of his mobility.
In 2003, Sabonis returned to Lithuania and bought a major stake in his old club Žalgiris. He also played for Žalgiris in the 2003-04 season, winning the MVP award in both the regular-season and Top 16 phases of the Euroleague and being named to the All-Euroleague team. He retired as a player after the 2004-05 season.
His wife, Ingrida Mikelionytė Saboniene, was the winner of the first Lithuanian beauty pageant, „The Beauty of Vilnius 88″. They have four children. Sabonis speaks five languages: Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and English.
Ex-players and current players alike ccontend that Sabonis, fairly unknown in the U.S., would have been recognized as one of the top centers ever to play the game of basketball had he come to America in his prime. Scottie Pippen was quoted as saying that Arvydas was „the best European basketball player to ever play the game“. Ex-Spur Sean Elliott routinely claimed that Arvydas „should be in the conversation as one of the greatest centers ever“. Hall of Famer Bill Walton describes „Sabas“ as „the greatest passing center of all time“. And Dino Radja, a former Boston Celtics player, said that Sabonis would have been an all-star „ten times over“ had he played his healthy years in the States.
Brian Meehan, a columnist for The Oregonian, followed Sabonis’ career over the course of decades. Recalling the 1988 Olympics, when Sabonis’ Soviet team beat a United States team with the likes of David Robinson, Meehan notes one play when a healthy Sabonis reacted to a teammate’s missed shot: Sabonis slashed towards the rim, jumped over ...
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