Lithuania men's national basketball team
The Lithuania men's national basketball team (Lithuanian: Lietuvos nacionalinė vyrų krepšinio rinktinė) participates in FIBA's competitions. Despite Lithuania's small size, with a population of almost 2.8 million, the country's devotion to basketball has made them a traditional force of the sport in Europe.
|FIBA ranking||6 (26 February 2019)|
|FIBA zone||FIBA Europe|
|National federation||Lithuanian Basketball Federation|
|Nickname(s)||The Other Dream Team; The Second Religion; The Baltic Giants; The Green Death; The Boogeyman from the East;|
|Medals||Bronze (1992, 1996, 2000)|
|FIBA World Cup|
|Medals|| Gold: (1937, 1939, 2003)|
Silver: (1995, 2013, 2015)
| Latvia 41–20 Lithuania |
(Riga, Latvia; 13 December 1925)
| Lithuania 112–9 Finland |
(Kaunas, Lithuania; 27 May 1939)
| United States 126–75 Lithuania ‡|
(Barcelona, Spain; 6 August 1992)
|FIBA World Cup|
The Lithuanian team won the last EuroBasket tournaments prior to World War II, in 1937 and 1939. The 1939 team was led by Frank Lubin, who helped popularize basketball in the country and was called the "grandfather of Lithuanian basketball". Following the country's annexation by the Soviet Union during the war, Lithuanian players frequently formed the core of the Soviet national team. The most prevalent example was the 1988 Olympic basketball gold medal-winning team which got most of its scoring from four Lithuanians: Valdemaras Chomičius, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis and Arvydas Sabonis.
After the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990, the national team was resurrected. Lithuania won bronze medals in the first three Olympics to include NBA players – 1992, 1996, and 2000 - in addition to finishing fourth in 2004 and 2008, and in eighth place at the London 2012 Olympics. The Lithuanian team won the FIBA EuroBasket for the third time in 2003, and also a bronze medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
Early teams (1920s)Edit
On 13 December 1925 in the Latvian capital Riga, Lithuanians played their first international game against their neighbors. Given the Latvians had international knowledge provided by coaches of the American YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association), they easily won 41–20. Later on, Latvians were crushing the future three-times European champions Lithuanians as well (41–29 or even 123–10). Another game the following year was won by the Latvians 47–12. During the period, basketball saw its Lithuanian popularity decrease and get overshadowed by football. The cold climate and lack of suitable indoor arena only allowed for basketball to be played during the summer period, and even then those who practiced preferred other sports.
Lithuanian Americans build a squad (1930s)Edit
Things started to improve in 1934, when the Physical Culture Palace was opened in Kaunas, featuring a spacious hall with 200 seats and cork floor built for tennis that was suitable for indoor basketball. In 1935, Lithuania decided to promote a World Lithuanian Congress in temporary capital Kaunas, inviting ethnic Lithuanians from many countries to unite the Lithuanian culture. The following year, a delegation of Lithuanian American athletes from Chicago arrived in Kaunas as participants of World Lithuanian Congress. Two of the players, Juozas "Joseph" Zukas and Konstantinas "Konnie" Savickus, stayed to teach basketball secrets to Lithuanians and be a part of the national team. Savickus in particular became a player-coach, and while the national team had just been trounced by inaugural European champions Latvia 123–10, one year later, with Savickus leading the team and exploiting stalling techniques, Lithuania trailed only 14–7 at halftime before losing 31–10.
In 1936, Lithuania applied to become a member of FIBA and take part in international basketball competitions, including EuroBasket 1937, the second European basketball tournament that the Latvia Basketball Association as reigning champions would host in Riga. While Savickus had returned to America, another descendant of Lithuanians would arrive to aid the country's basketball rise. Frank Lubin, who won a gold medal at the first basketball Olympic tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, was invited to visit the Baltic nation by a Lithuanian official in attendance. Going by the Lithuanian name Pranas Lubinas, he spent five months there and served as the country's first knowledgeable coach, helping spread various basketball techniques. Lubinas, along with Zukas, helped the Lithuanians beat the Latvians for the first time, 35 to 27.
The preparations for the EuroBasket 1937 started slowly, with players training only 4 hours a week. At first, it was decided that the national team at the tournament would not include any Lithuanian Americans; however the decision was reversed with only one month remaining, once a Latvian newspaper had printed an extensive article about the second European championship considering Lithuania the weakest of all contestants. Lithuanian player Leonas Baltrūnas was shocked at the article and along with journalist Jonas Narbutas, used a translated version of it to request the inclusion of Lithuanian Americans to Vytautas Augustauskas, director of the Physical Culture Palace. After a telegram was sent to the US, two players arrived one month prior to the tournament, Pranas Talzūnas and Feliksas Kriaučiūnas, the latter of whom was designated as player-coach. To keep secrecy on how Lithuanian Americans were strengthening the team, all preparation games were cancelled and instead prolonged training sessions before the trip to Riga were held behind closed doors. The national team was being prepared not only technically, but also physically. Even once the reinforcements were made public, opponents were skeptic, with Talzūnas later remembering other teams felt he and Kriaučiūnas were not quality players as "everyone thought that a good player must be tall, raising his hand and dunking into the basket.".
The efforts were successful - the Lithuanians became the champions of Europe for the first time, defeating all their opponents and with Talzūnas being picked as the tournament's most valuable player. Following the final victory over Italy, the famous Lithuanian tenor Kipras Petrauskas even interrupted his performance at the State Theatre to joyfully announce the triumph of the national basketball team. The crowd then rose to their feet and together sang the Lithuanian anthem. The team returned to a warm reception, with thousands gathering at a train station in a way Kriaučiūnas compared to "like we, here in America, greet the president." Basketball regained its ground immediately, and had its popularity rise abruptly, especially among students. Gymnasium teams from almost all counties competed in student games, teams were assembled in firms and basketball courts appeared all around the country. According to future player Stepas Butautas, "In every yard hoops are being made from barrels. Children, teenagers are throwing balls into them, others - even a sock crammed with clouts. Our Veršvai Primary School teacher K. Požemecka built two poles, made hoops from a willow and said: 'We will play basketball'." Future team coach Vladas Garastas added that "as kids we started using a barrel to make a hoop. We didn't have a ball, we stuffed in grass or whatever we could find".
Lithuania was granted the right to organize the EuroBasket 1939. In addition, the Kaunas Sports Hall, Europe's first dedicated basketball arena, was built. In the competition, the team roster mostly consisted of Lithuanian Americans, with five American-born players: the returning Feliksas Kriaučiūnas (Chicago), Juozas Jurgėla (Chicago), Vytautas Budriūnas (Waukegan), Mykolas Ruzgys and Pranas Lubinas (Glendale). As a result, there were several protests from other nations. Lubinas, who was the designated player-coach, lead Lithuania to a second continental title, even scoring the buzzer-beater in the decisive game against Latvia, which warranted a 37–36 victory.
After the restoration of independence (from 1990)Edit
After Lithuania's independence was restored, the country wanted to stand on its own in the basketball community again, complete with the standout players from the 1988 Soviet squad - Sabonis, Marčiulions, Chomičius and Kurtinaitis - expressing a desire to represent Lithuania. The National Olympic Committee of Lithuania (LTOK) and Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) were restored, Lithuanian athletes withdrew its athletes from all Soviet national competitions, and both Sabonis and Marčiulions refused a request to play for the Soviet Union during the 1990 Goodwill Games. In 1991, the International Olympic Committee welcomed Lithuania back to its ranks in September, and in December, LKF president Stanislovas Stonkus attended the FIBA congress in Springfield, Massachusetts, and requested the right to be a full member of FIBA once again. FIBA president George E. Killian granted Stonkus' request and invited Lithuania to participate in all of the FIBA organized events. Sabonis and his agent started looking for Lithuanian-born or descended players, sending phone calls and faxes over Europe and North America.
However, Lithuania's economic transition left the country in a difficult financial situation, and LKF could hardly count on state funding. As a result, the team had to search for the financial supporters by themselves in order to play internationally. Šarūnas Marčiulionis had experience and contacts in the United States for being the first USSR player in the NBA, playing for the Golden State Warriors. Consequently, he, along with Donnie Nelson (son of Marčiulionis' then-coach Don Nelson), searched for financial supporters that could finance Lithuania's participation in the international games and the 1992 Summer Olympics. George Shirk wrote a story about this on the San Francisco Chronicle, and once American rock band Grateful Dead read the newspaper, they decided to help the team. Drummer Mickey Hart added that the story resonated with the bandmembers for being a "a struggle for life, liberty and freedom." The bandmembers donated $5,000 to Marčiulionis, and helped launch a tie-dyed jerseys trade that would feature Lithuania's national colors, and the iconic, trademarked 'Slam-Dunking Skeleton' created by N.Y. artist Greg Speirs. The skeleton dunking a flaming basketball, nicknamed "Skully", was the artist's interpretation of how the Lithuanian team rose from the ashes to victory. The artist's profits would be passed onto the Lithuania national basketball team and a fund for Lithuanian children. The Lithuanians were favourable to the garish shirts because, according to Nelson, it was a great contrast to "all those years of those Soviet colors, nothing but blues and grays". Arvydas Sabonis even said that "My first impression of [the jerseys] was: Wow, this really is a free Lithuania". The skeleton, nicknamed "Skully", was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame, being the only cartoon character to be enshrined in any sports Hall of Fame. New versions of the Skully jerseys were featured in the following two Olympic Games.
To assume the head coach position, American Dan Peterson, then in Italy, was invited but declined. BC Žalgiris manager Raimundas Sargunas became coach, but problems with the players made him demoted to assistant, a job shared with Donnie Nelson and Spanish Javier Imbroda, who was invited following Sabonis' suggestion of a Liga ACB veteran. The eventual choice was Vladas Garastas, another Žalgiris veteran who was assistant in the 1988 Soviet squad.
1992 Summer Olympic Games (Barcelona 1992)Edit
Preparation for Lithuania's first major international tournament since regaining independence began in May 1992, as it was the first time a squad of players mostly playing outside the country could get together and train. While missing Sabonis, Marčiulionis and Artūras Karnišovas, the Lithuaniam team competed in the eight-teams Nordic Countries Championship. They took the 2nd place there, losing only to the well-known opponents Latvia 80–95 in the final. Standout players included Gintaras Krapikas (22.5 points per game) and Rimas Kurtinaitis (19 points).
Afterwards, the country celebrated 70 years of Lithuanian basketball, and among the events was a competition featuring two Lithuanian teams, Latvia, Belarus, Finland, and Illinois State University basketball team. The superiority of the Lithuanians, now counting with Sabonis and Marčiulionis, made them handily beat the opponents. Following it, Lithuania national team was invited to compete in the prestigious annual Acropolis Tournament hosted by Greece, along with Italy and France. Lithuanians began the competition shockingly, immediately crushing the EuroBasket 1991 silver medalists Italians 116–94 (at one point leading by 87–49). Though, then they narrowly lost to the host Greece squad 81–83 and after easily defeating the French squad 109–78, took the 2nd place. Despite not winning the cup, this was a perfect first major international challenge for the Lithuania national team, giving the solid hopes of success for the newly reborn state. Shortly before the beginning of the Olympic Games, Lithuanians also overcame the Olympics host Spain 107–97 in Ibiza.
Lithuania was among the many European independent states that due to the dissolutions of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, would return into the Olympic competition for the 1992 games. For the 1992 Pre-Olympic Basketball Tournament, held in Spain from June 22 to July 5, Lithuania was joined by the debuting Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia, and Estonia, along with the non-Baltic Soviet republics in a Commonwealth of Independent States. The latter was a particularly awaited adversary for the Lithuanians, as according to LTOK president Artūras Poviliūnas, "We have dreamed all of our lives about playing against the Soviet Union. Although it's not called the Soviet Union any more, this game will be very important and very symbolic. It will be as important as the Olympics themselves."  With a trip funded by the Spanish city of Melilla, Lithuania managed to get one of the four qualifying spots disputed by 25 participants, winning all their 11 games in the tournament.
The Olympic tournament for the Lithuania national team began against China, with an overwhelming 112–75 win that featured 31 points by Rimas Kurtinaitis (5 of 6 three-pointers). Afterwards a tough match with FIBA Americas silver medalist Venezuela had the lead frequently changing, with Lithuania depending on Marčiulionis (27 points) and Sabonis (24) to win by 87–79. The third game was easier, with the Lithuanians beating Puerto Rico 104–91, with 80 points scored by the "golden trio" Sabonis, Marčiulionis, and Kurtinaitis. Then awaited the hardest adversary in the group stage, the former USSR states in an Unified Team. Lithuania managed to beat the team during the qualifying tournament, and during the Olympics even got a 59–57 lead at the second quarter. Then the Unified Team managed to overcome its defector state and win 92–80, despite the 42-points combined efforts of Sabonis and Marčiulionis. In order to qualify for the quarter-finals, the Lithuania national team had to overcome the Australian squad. Lithuanians lost the first half 45–46, though later they mightily grabbed the lead till the end of the game, winning it 98–87 and qualifying in second place for the playoffs.
Lithuania met the respected and powerful Brazilian squad at the quarter-finals. The coaching staff decided to use only the most reliable players, with only six Lithuanians scoring. The tense game had the Brazilians leading at half-time, and Lithuania only taking full advantage with five minutes remaining: from 87–83, the score built up to a 114–96 Lithuanian wins. Sabonis played all the 40 game minutes and scored 32 points, while Marčiulionis added 29, and Kurtinaitis 20.
At the semi-final Lithuanians met the United States squad nicknamed "Dream Team". It was the first time the Americans brought a team composed of NBA players, including the widely regarded all-time greatest basketballer Michael Jordan, and the superiority of the "Dream Team" left the Lithuanians absolutely no chances for victory, with the Baltic state taking a lopsided 76–127. It is still the biggest loss ever suffered by the Lithuanian squad, who scored only 34.2% of their shots. The Americans still recognized that they aimed to ramp up their game specially to counter the Lithuanians, with Larry Bird acknowledging that "we knew the Lithuanians were capable of scoring, (so) we didn't take them lightly", and Magic Johnson saying that "they're a dangerous team, so we had to pick up our intensity, play better defense". Afterwards, the Lithuanian team coaches decided to start resting the primary players for the bronze medals game.
At the bronze medal game, Lithuanians faced the Unified Team for the third time that year, with each team winning once. Captain Valdemaras Chomičius felt that "We lost to them once already, we couldn't let that happen again. The final had to be ours", while Šarūnas Marčiulionis added that "We didn't have any choice, we absolutely had to win at any cost". Head coach Vladas Garastas briefed the team saying "Men, you're playing for the people of Lithuania. Forget about your personal ambitions. People are watching you, losing sleep over you". Šarūnas Marčiulionis: "Some were listening on radios, others were watching on television. All of Lithuania was stopped. Everyone was watching that game". In a close match, the Lithuanians kept the lead all times for an 82–78 victory, that felt inexpressibly remarkable for a tiny country which regained its independence just two years and was playing the remains of its former colonizer. Marčiulionis played 40 minutes during that match and scored 29 points, while Sabonis added 27. Donnie Nelson described the locker room as "like winning the NBA championship times five". After the bronze medal victory, de jure Head of State Vytautas Landsbergis visited the team at the locker room, and they all sung the national anthem.
During the awarding ceremony, Lithuanians decided to dress up the colorful Skeleton Jerseys in order to show their newly reborn country national colors and to show their gratitude to Greg Speirs and the Grateful Dead for their financial support. Rimas Kurtinaitis characterized the emotional awarding ceremony by saying: "Well, we cried. It was really from joy. Words cannot even express feelings like that. You need to be there". Valdemaras Chomičius: "It was such an emotion that it's hard to explain. You have to experience it". Arvydas Sabonis by comparing his 1988's Olympic gold medal and the 1992's Olympic bronze medal said: "The medal in Seoul was gold, but this bronze is our soul". In all, Lithuanians averaged 94 points per game in the tournament, being outclassed only by the USA (117 points per game). The team was the subject of a 2012 documentary by Marius Markevičius, The Other Dream Team.
During the qualifiers for EuroBasket 1993, Lithuanian basketball had its biggest disappointment. Missing Arvydas Sabonis but still with most of the bronze medal squad, Lithuania played in a three team group in Wrocław, and beat hosts Poland but lost to Belarus, being eliminated by the fellow former United Republic. It remains Lithuania's only absence following independence. However, this fiasco encouraged the creation of the first professional basketball league in Lithuania.
To get into EuroBasket 1995 in Greece, the Lithuanians had to go through a two-stage qualifying tournament in 1993. In 10 games, Lithuania only lost twice, to Ukraine in Vienna and Slovenia in Ljubljana. With their spot guaranteed, Lithuania started its preparations in 1995 by playing in several international competitions, winning a four-team tournament in Málaga. The last game was a friendly with the Polish in Vilnius, winning 105–84.
In its return to the European championship following years under Soviet occupation, Lithuania began the tournament powerfully, with five wins in the group stage and a defeat to Yugoslavia. They overcame the quarter-finals stage successfully as well, defeating 1994 World Championship silver medalists Russia 82–71, leading the game from start to finish. With a guaranteed spot in the tournament's top four, Lithuania was granted the right to participate in the 1996 Summer Olympics, held in Atlanta. The semi-final hurdle was overcome as well with a 90–80 defeat of the powerful Croatia, led by the two mighty centers: Stojko Vranković and Dino Rađa. The Lithuanian national team advanced into its final after 56 years, demonstrating the Lithuanian basketball's vitality and strength, in spite of all the previous difficulties.
The final was a rematch with Yugoslavia. The tense finale, where Lithuania had the support of the home crowd as the Serbs had eliminated Greece, had Lithuania winning the close first half, 49–48. With five minutes remaining, Arvydas Sabonis fouled out, as the Lithuanians were behind 76–83, later closing to 83–84. With Yugoslavia leading 87–83, Saulius Štombergas made a shot that was ruled out as the referee George Toliver called an offensive foul. Lithuanians protested the decision and received three technical fouls (first Sabonis, then Marčiulionis and then the whole team), leading them to leave the court in protest, only returning when persuaded by the Serbs. Aleksandar Đorđević, the game's overall top scorer with 42 points, scored all three free-throws. Lithuania eventually lost the game 90–96. After the final whistle, Greek fans shouted "Lithuania is the champion" and booed Yugoslavia during the medal ceremony, which also had the third-placed Croatians leaving for the Yugoslavs - who were still waging a war against Croatia. Marčiulionis, who was named tournament MVP, later stated that "we felt robbed and we still feel that", while acknowledging that despite the questionable refereeing, the silver medal came due to a lack of depth in the Lithuanian bench along with the Yugoslavs knowing "how to provoke other players and initiate psychological battles".
1996 Summer Olympic Games (Atlanta 1996)Edit
In preparation for another Olympic tournament, Lithuania played five games in Australia against the "Australian Boomers", with a team composed mostly of young players as veterans Sabonis, Marčiulionis, and Karnišovas were unable to participate. Lithuania lost the entire series, but the experience against Australia would be useful in the future. Once they returned to Europe, the Lithuanians played a few games in Spain, losing twice to strong and spirited Croatia and beating twice Africa champions Angola. Once Sabonis returned for a friendly with Yugoslavia in Germany, he scored 32 points in Lithuania's win by 86–70.
The Lithuanian basketball started well its second Olympic Games, beating 1992 Olympic vice-champions Croatia - led by Toni Kukoč, Stojko Vranković, and Dino Rađa - 83–81 in a tough match with two overtimes. Exhausted and facing an Argentinian team focused on adversary slowdown, Lithuania lost its second game 61–65. Facing the host United States supported by 31,000 spectators, Lithuania suffered the absence of an injured Marciulionis and lesser contributions by Sabonis and Kurtinaitis, and lost 82–104. However, wins in the final games against Angola (85–49) and China (116–55) qualified Lithuania at second place.
The Olympic quarter-final game had Lithuania crushing its third straight adversary against Greece, 99–66. The Olympic semi-final match awaited with powerhouse Yugoslavia, undefeated that far and inspiring the Lithuanians to avenge the 1995 EuroBasket final. They began the game with the lead of 18–9, though Yugoslavians won the quarter 35–31. With the five minutes remaining, Lithuanians had the lead of 54–51, then the game tied (58–58); however, during the last three match minutes Lithuanians scored none, losing the game 58–66. Another chance of an Olympic final was lost.
Only the game for the second consecutive bronze remained for the Lithuanian squad, against the Australians who sought their first Olympic medal. Lithuanians were exhausted after the tedious semi-final, and the game remained tight, with the lead never getting over 8 points and the score at 73–72 with one minute remaining. Still, a three-point shot by Arvydas Sabonis with 30 seconds remaining helped Lithuania retain advantage, eventually triumphing 84–74. Sabonis was the driving force of the bronze medal game, neutralizing defender Mark Bradtke on the way to 30 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks. Another Olympic medal proved Lithuania was among the top basketball countries. The game marked the last time Sabonis and Marčiulionis played together, as the latter retired from the national team, and also the final match with head coach Vladas Garastas. A generational change was to come.
While selecting its squad for the 30th European Championship in Barcelona, Lithuania retained only two primary players from the 1995 silver medalists: Artūras Karnišovas and Gintaras Einikis. The so-called "golden generation" was replaced by up-and-coming youngsters such as Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Dainius Adomaitis, Virginijus Praškevičius, and Eurelijus Žukauskas. Furthermore, Jonas Kazlauskas took over as coach. The newly put together team was constantly causing anxiety if it would keep up with previous successful performances by Lithuanians. Hopes were restored once Lithuania won a four-team tournament in Riga and beat Spain in Zaragoza.
The EuroBasket 1997 championship had extra significance for Lithuania as it gave qualifying spots for the 1998 FIBA World Championship, held in Athens, Greece. Lithuania managed to win all games in the group stage, albeit struggling with both Israel - who lead at halftime by 30–31, but wound up losing 75–60 - and France - who managed to take the lead thrice before bowing down to Lithuania 94–88 - before an easy 76–67 defeat of Slovenia. The second round lead to tougher times to the Lithuanians, winning only against Turkey while losing to Greece and Russia. The poor performance lead them to face defending champions Yugoslavia, who beat Lithuania 75–60 on the way to another title.
Due to the poor performance in the second round, Lithuanians were forced to take on the terrific Yugoslavia national team (the upcoming champions) in the quarterfinals, losing 60–75. With only the consolation tournament left, Lithuania crushed the Polish squad 76–55, but lost to the host team Spain during the final seconds, 93–94. The final standing of sixth was enough for a World Championship spot, and helped the young Lithuanian team to lay the foundations for the future victories.
FIBA World Championship 1998Edit
As usually, by preparing for the significant championship, the Lithuania national team played a wide variety of games and tournaments. A small championship in Nicosia, Cyprus, had Lithuania beating Nigeria before losing to the upcoming world championship host Greece 68–82. A friendly with Spain in Seville had the Lithuanians defeated, 62–66. Lithuania also participated in the 1998 Goodwill Games basketball tournament in New York City, along with the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Russia and Puerto Rico. In the first round, the Lithuania national team overcame Russia and Argentina, but lost to Australia and took the second spot in the group. Consequently, they had to play the United States in the semi-final, losing it 76–89. Though, they took third place after smashing the Puerto Ricans 119–75.
Debuting in its first FIBA World Championship with a young roster, the Lithuania national team was determined to cause a good impression. The team went undefeated in the group stage, crushing South Korea 97–56 before beating a United States team lacking the NBA elite due to a lockout (84–82), and a close defeat of Brazil, 66–62.
The second round was tougher for Lithuania, who lost to Australia 61–71, and despite beating Argentina 84–75, wound up losing in overtime to Spain, 80–86. A quarterfinal against Russia ensued, and while the Lithuanians had beaten them two weeks before and lead the game 38–35 at halftime, the Russians beat the inexperienced team by 82–67. Following the consolation tournament with a loss to Italy and a win over Argentina, Lithuania finished ate 7th place. The equal games and especially the victory over the USA were promising for the young Lithuanian squad
Preparation for the European championship began in a usual way: after intense practicing, the Lithuanians participated in minor competitions, winning two tournaments (in Helsinki and Kaunas), to go to the European championship with elation.
Lithuania qualified for EuroBasket 1999 in France losing only two out of ten games, to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tournament started with a surprise, as an underdog Czech Republic beat Lithuania 78–62. Afterwards, the team found its stride and won the five following games in the first and second rounds. Reaching the knockout rounds, Lithuanians were favorites against Spain, but lost by a close 74–72 score. Two wins in the consolation tournament gave Lithuania the 5th place and a qualifying spot for the 2000 Summer Olympics. EuroBasket 1999 was the last time the Lithuanian national team counted with Arvydas Sabonis and Artūras Karnišovas. Though, the solid performances by the young Saulius Štombergas and Šarūnas Jasikevičius gave a bright outset for their future.
2000 Summer Olympic Games (Sydney 2000)Edit
Lithuania started the 2000s by beating Turkey 70–58 in Vilnius. During the preparation period Lithuanians once again visited Spain, defeating the hosts in two preparatory tournaments.
The 2000 Olympic tournament marked another time of renovation for Lithuania. The only veterans, Saulius Štombergas and Eurelijus Žukauskas, were reserves in Atlanta, while eight players were debutants: Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Mindaugas Timinskas, Andrius Giedraitis, Kęstutis Marčiulionis, Darius Maskoliūnas and Tomas Masiulis. The coaching staff was also inexperienced in the Olympics aside from assistants Valdemaras Chomičius and Donnie Nelson.
The first Olympic game against Italy had both teams combined scoring less than 100 points, with Lithuania losing 48–50. The young Lithuanians managed to recover, beating upcoming Olympic vice-champions France 81–63. Journalist Roma Grinbergienė described the triumph symbolically and picturesquely: "Even the Vytautas the Great would accolade!". The third game, against the third incarnation of the United States "Dream Team", had the Lithuanians giving the Americans their toughest match since NBA players joined: the final score of 85–76 had Team USA's lowest point total and advantage with professionals, and the Lithuanians even got the lead in the second quarter. Onwards, Lithuania overcame China 82–66 and New Zealand 85–75, and finished third in their group.
The quarter-final opponent was one Lithuania could not defeat in previous years, Yugoslavia. The start was anxious as Lithuanians were trailing 8–2, but not for long. Yugoslavians resisted only until three minutes were left, with Lithuania already leading the game 72–58. Then nobody doubted – the quarter-final winner is Lithuania, officially winning the game 76–63. Head coach Jonas Kazlauskas: "Winning against the Yugoslavian team and its coach is every team and every coach dream. We are even more happy that we won in the quarter-final. The gulf is separating the quarter-final winner teams from the losers. We played very orderly, probably the most disciplined in this tournament. We defended well. Furthermore, Gintaras Einikis and Šarūnas Jasikevičius played amazingly". Lithuania was to compete for another Olympic medal, to the happiness of all their fans.
Although, the Lithuania national team coaches had no time to rejoice. The USA Dream Team was awaiting once again in the semi-final. Millions of the basketball fans were surprised there. The USA won the first quarter 48–36, but 5 minutes into the second Lithuania had tied 50–50. Then none of the teams allowed to advance any further for the each other. The main events were happening when there was only a bit less than 2 minutes remaining. When there was 1:36 left, the Lithuania was leading 80–79, then the game tied again (80–80). Ramūnas Šiškauskas got to shoot three free-throws, converting only one (81–80). Quickly Vince Carter gives back the advantage to the Americans, Kevin Garnett misses two free throws, and a successful US rebound leads Antonio McDyess to make Lithuania trail 81–84 with 25 seconds left. Šarūnas Jasikevičius makes two free-throws (83–84). Šiškauskas fouls with five seconds left. Jason Kidd converts only one free-throw (83–85). A last second long shot by Šarūnas Jasikevičius is an air ball, and the "Dream Team" managed its smallest victory ever with 85–83. Lithuania lost, but American coach Rudy Tomjanovich praised the adversary, stating that the Lithuanians "played focused and played the high level basketball. At the end, they were unlucky to make a few free-throws." The United States also widely covered how the small nation nearly upset a team that seemed previously unbeatable in previous tournaments.
For the third time, only a bronze medal was possible for Lithuania. Despite the psychological damage of the defeat and having to face hosts Australia in the third place match, the Lithuanians played well enough to win again. Having the experience of playing the Boomers earlier in the year, Lithuania had a strong defensive strategy, and combined with a helped by a shooting percentage of 67%, never gave up the lead on the way to an 89–71 victory, winning their third consecutive Olympic bronze medal. Coach Kazlauskas was happy with the result, given the squad was young and "didn't let down the lath lower than it was raised."
The start of a new millennium. Another European Championship, held in Turkey, awaited Lithuania in the autumn. While most of the 2000 roster was returning, many up-and-coming stars such as Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Rimantas Kaukėnas and Robertas Javtokas would make their debut. To prepare for the championship and give international experience to the young players, Lithuania participated in many prestigious competitions in Europe and South America. In Braunschweig, Germany, Lithuania achieved the third place among the four very capable teams (Yugoslavia, France and Germany). Then the Lithuanian squad played for the first time in South America, taking part in a four team tournament in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires. Lithuania won two games, including its 500th international victory against Brazil (the last 100 in just 4 years), but only finished second after losing to the hosts Argentina 56–67. Lithuania also competed in the Acropolis Tournament for the second time after nine years, this time losing twice and finished fourth.
EuroBasket 2001 ended as an unexpected failure to Lithuania. The group stage started with two victories, 82–60 over Ukraine and 68–59 with Israel, before losing to France 65–76. A match against fellow Balts Latvians would give a spot in the knockout stages. And there Lithuania suffered an unexpected and overwhelming defeat to the Latvians, 64–94. By falling so early, Lithuania lost all the chances of participating in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, and was threatened to miss the next EuroBasket as well. The disappointment made head coach Jonas Kazlauskas resign.
Due to the fiasco in EuroBasket 2001, Lithuania did not have a direct spot on EuroBasket 2003, held in Sweden, and had to take part in the qualification tournament in 2002. They easily granted a ticket into the continental championship tournament, winning all 10 qualifying games.
The renewed Lithuania basketball team, full of motivation and energy, that would go to Sweden, was led by Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Arvydas Macijauskas, Ramūnas Šiškauskas and Saulius Štombergas. Again preparations lead to friendlies and international tournaments, losing only to France and Spain in their respective countries. EuroBasket itself opened against neighbour Latvia, responsible for the painful 2001 elimination. The game, once again, was going remarkably poorly for Lithuania. They firmly lost the first quarter (14–23), remained trailing by halftime (34–40) and only managed to tie by the third (58–58). At the fourth quarter, Latvians still had the lead of 66–58, when with 23 seconds remaining, Eurelijus Žukauskas tied the game (81–81) and forced overtime. The extra period had Lithuania guarantee a 92–91 victory with four seconds to go, after Šarūnas Jasikevičius made two free-throws. Despite the difficult start, then Lithuanians showed a much improved game in the following group stage matches, overcoming Israel (94–62) and Germany (93–71).
Concerns were raised once defending World and European champions Serbia and Montenegro (former Yugoslavia) were set as the quarterfinal opponents. The Lithuanians still prevailed, already achieving a 30–19 advantage in the first quarter (30–19), and never giving any chances in a 98–82 victory. Serbian coach Božidar Maljković followed the match by saying that "Lithuania plays the best team-play in this championship. The victory over Serbia was a splendid result achieved by the tremendous players, capable of playing like a sustainable derivative. <...> Lithuanians are playing fast, interesting and tactically matured basketball. The game is the best I have observed in this championship. By game-play, Lithuania is only worth gold".
Semi-finals against France were next. Lithuanians won the first three quarters, and then in the last one the French squad came in ahead (60–58), and were leading by 70–65 with three minutes remaining. More struggles later, Lithuania were ahead, 72–70, with 15 seconds remaining. A final attack by the French NBA star Tony Parker was stopped by Ramūnas Šiškauskas, who added two more free throw points and gave the Neman river nation their fourth EuroBasket final ever, as well as an automatic spot in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Exhausted by the game versus France, the Lithuanians still had to prove themselves in the final against Spain. And while the first quarter was played equally (20–19), afterwards the Lithuanians dominated and never gave the Spanish any chance. Lithuania won their third European title 93–84 after a 64-year hiatus. Šarūnas Jasikevičius was named MVP, and was included along with Saulius Štombergas in the All-Tournament Team.
The word about the Lithuanians triumph spread wide. The defeated Spanish of El Mundo considered that "the good Spanish mood, accuracy and the joy of the game evaporated in front of the Lithuania national team victory desire", and El Periódico de Catalunya added that "when Lithuania was leading 62–48, what the Spanish players wished the most was to end the game and to head into the locker rooms just to finish this suffering." In Italy, Tuttosport described the victorious squad as "a true Lithuania national team. Without NBA stars.", while La Gazzetta dello Sport noted how "there is no other country in the Old Europe which would love the venerable, precious basketball more."
The ten-year anniversary of the title was celebrated on September 14, 2013 at Žalgiris Arena. The EuroBasket 2003 winners, except for Kšyštof Lavrinovič and Giedrius Gustas, played a friendly game against a team of European stars, most of whom were also in that tournament. The Lithuanians led by Arvydas Macijauskas won 85:68.
2004 Summer Olympic Games (Athens 2004)Edit
In preparation for the Olympics, Lithuania lost to Italy twice while defeating France, Greece and Czech Republic along the way. The most impressive victory in the preparation for the games was achieved in the traditional Acropolis Tournament, where the Lithuanians managed to become champions in their fourth appearance, with wins over Italy and Brazil and a defeat to the host Greece. Lithuania also finished second in the six-team Golden Ball competition held in Belgrade, losing to the home team of Serbia. The last preparation games were two matches in Spain, and a win against Sweden in Vilnius.
For the fourth post-independence Olympics, basketball captain Saulius Štombergas was given the honor to bear the Lithuanian flag during the opening ceremony. The Olympic basketball for Lithuania started slowly, laboring to a victory against the African champions Angola 78–63, with their opponents shooting an excellent 52% from the three-point line. Lithuanian national team also had difficulties with Puerto Rico, depending on a high average of three-pointers to beat the NBA-heavy squad by 98–90. Then Lithuanians, in front of 12,000 spectators, achieved revenge against their Greek hosts, defeating them 98–76. The next match would be against the United States, which again featured major NBA stars such as Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James, but had already been proven as faltering following a defeat to Puerto Rico. Lithuania managed to beat the United States 94–90, only the fourth defeat by the Americans in the Olympic stage. Jasikevičius, who had lost a possible buzzer beater against the Dream Team four years before, managed to score 28 points, including a decisive 10-point barrage in 69 seconds that gave Lithuania the lead in the final minutes. While the fifth game, versus Australia, was not significant for the group standings as the Lithuanians had already secured the first spot in the group, the Lithuanians still won 100–85, maintaining their good run.
In the quarter-finals Lithuanians easily swept China 95–75, successfully qualifying for the semi-finals. The familiar Italian team awaited in the semi-finals. Lithuania started well, winning the first quarter 29–17, and leading 34–23 in the second. However, the Italians managed to take the lead before half time and a close game ensued. Lithuanians were able to tie the game in the third quarter (53–53) and even take the lead in the fourth (78–73); however, at the buzzer the Italians celebrated a 91–100 victory, shattering the Lithuanian dream of Olympic gold.
Seeking a fourth bronze medal, Lithuania would again face the United States. The game was a close affair, with the lead changing hands nine times and both teams attempting as many three-point shots as possible (Lithuania converted 21 of their 37 shots, and the United States had 8 out of 18). At half time, the United States were ahead 49–44, after the third quarter they maintained their advantage 74–71. In the final quarter, Lithuania closed in to 83–82 in the 34th minute, before the Americans took their stand and kept the lead to the end, winning the match 104–96 and leaving the Lithuanians without Olympic medals for the first time.
EuroBasket 2005 in Serbia and Montenegro would feature many absences in the Lithuanian squad, such as Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Saulius Štombergas, Arvydas Macijauskas, and Donatas Slanina. Though, the team had Ramūnas Šiškauskas, one of the biggest European stars of that time. For preparation, the Lithuanian team attended tournaments in Europe, Asia and Australia, being represented in some of them by the reserve roster - such as in the 2005 Stanković Continental Champions' Cup in Beijing, which the Lithuanians won after defeating 4 of the 5 opponents. On September 1, 2005, a friendly with Ireland had Lithuania achieve the 600th victory in the team's history, 97–62 in Kaunas.
Starting the tournament as defending champions, Lithuania proved their favoritism by beating Turkey, Croatia and Bulgaria with solid differences and an average of 88 points. However, the knockout rounds had the team eliminated with an underwhelming performance, scoring only 47 points in a quarterfinal with France. National team coach Antanas Sireika said: "We played the worst game in the championship and I think that the main reason of this is that the players failed to deal with the psychological tension. This is the main losing reason". The only consolation was the remaining opportunity to qualify into the World Championship, which the Lithuanians achieved by beating Russia and Slovenia for fifth place. Lithuania won 5 of 6 games in the tournament. Consequently, the competition scheme was questioned in its reliability.
FIBA World Championship 2006Edit
The 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan had Lithuania matching the 7th place from their 1998 debut, but many saw this performance as an under-achievement. Lithuania started the tournament with a narrow 2-point loss to Turkey, followed by an overtime defeat to eventual finalists Greece which had Lithuania suffering 25 turnovers. Confidence was restored with wins over Qatar, Australia, and Brazil, that qualified Lithuania for the knockout rounds against Italy. They won the match by 3 points 71–68, although Arvydas Macijauskas fouled Gianluca Basile during a 3-point attempt in the dying seconds which gave Italy the chance to level the score, but all 3 free throws were missed. Lithuania lost the quarter final match against eventual champions Spain by 22 points, conceding a total of 28 turnovers during the game. The consolation tournament began with another defeat: Lithuania lost a 12-point lead over Turkey in the last 3minutes of regulation, and the resulting overtime had Turkey achieving a 95–84 victory. Lithuania still won the seventh place match against Germany, 77–62. Sireika resigned soon after the championship. On 28 December 2006, Ramūnas Butautas, son of Stepas Butautas, was announced as the new coach of the team.
EuroBasket 2007 in Spain held big responsibilities for Lithuania, that had to prove the failure in the previous continental tournament passed, while holding higher stakes for Olympic qualifying, restricted to only the medallists. The first international friendly of the year was played in the newly built Šiauliai Arena, the first time the Lithuanian team played in their "Sun City". Though, the debut ended up with a big surprise, as the visiting Swedish won 69–62. Further preparation games were variable for Lithuania as well, losing to Latvia and Spain as visitors while defeating Russia in Vilnius. A fifth Acropolis Tournament had Lithuania again getting second place after losing to the Greek hosts.
— Šarūnas Jasikevičius, following the 84–80 victory over Germany in EuroBasket 2007.
Lithuania started EuroBasket well, crushing both Turkey (86–69), and the Czech Republic (95–75) before a harder group closer with Germany. Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 28 points, helped the Germans cut a 17-point Lithuanian advantage at halftime to just four by the game's end (84–80). Lithuanians successfully qualified into the second stage.
The quarter-finals had Lithuania against the traditional Croatia national team, which did not yield to the Lithuanians' superiority and even lead after the first and third quarters. An imposing fourth quarter had Lithuania achieving 74–72, completing seven straight victories en route to the semifinal.
Russia was awaiting at the semi-finals. The Lithuanians, who had yet to defeat the Russians, failed to accomplish this again. After the first six minutes, the Russians had an 18–3 lead, which escalated to 33–14. However, the Lithuanians' resilience made them erase the deficit by the third quarter, 52–52. Eventually, fatigue that remained from the tough quarterfinal caugh up with Lithuania, especially playing against such a powerful adversary. The Russian won 86–74, despite the efforts of Lithuanian captain Ramūnas Šiškauskas, who scored 30 points. Following the game, Šarūnas Jasikevičius declared that: "We have to forget everything and endeavor to win the medals. [...>] The situation of the Greeks is the same as ours. They also painfully lost, they will wish to achieve the medals as well. We will give everything we got and we will try to win".
The upcoming game had two prizes at stake, the European bronze - which Lithuania had never won, only three golds and two silvers - and the last direct spot for the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing. Lithuania managed to beat the Greeks 78–69. On September 17, the players had a meeting ceremony in Vilnius to get state awards.
2008 Summer Olympic Games (Beijing 2008)Edit
With the fifth straight Olympic tournament following independence ahead, the Lithuania national team started 2008 with a frustration. The Cleveland Cavaliers refused to release Žydrūnas Ilgauskas for the Games, even as the LKF managed to find financing for the NBA franchise's US$22 million insurance tax. During a press conference to announce his absence from the Games, Ilgauskas added that he was in pain from injuries he suffered during the 2007-08 NBA season, making the Cavaliers' medical staff recommend him go through immediate surgery. This event still causes backlash against the Cavaliers for Lithuanians, specially as Ilgauskas wound up never playing for his national team.
Preparation for the tournament was slightly different this time: Lithuania did not compete in any tournaments, only playing friendlies. The only two defeats in nine games were against Spain and the United States. Again the Olympics opening ceremony had Lithuania's flagbearer being a basketball player, this time Šarūnas Jasikevičius.
The 2008 Olympic tournament started with a tough opponent, defending gold medalists Argentina. Lithuania lead for most of the game, only for the Argentinians to tie with 18 seconds remaining. A decisive play by Linas Kleiza gave the lead and the victory for Lithuanians 79–75. The second game against Asia representatives Iran had Lithuania surprisingly losing the first quarter 15–20, only to dominate afterwards for a handful 99–67. Though, then Lithuanians obviously shown their advantage, crushing them 99–67. Difficult victories over Russia (86–79, Lithuania's first FIBA victory over them) and Croatia (86–73) gave Lithuania a guaranteed first place spot in the group. Thus the team barely cared in the round 1 closer with Australia, suffering 25 turnovers and being smashed 75–106.
The deadly quarter-final had Lithuania against hosts China, in front of 18,000 spectators. With Chinese star Yao Ming well defended by Lithuania, the Balts crushed them 94–68 to advanced into the semi-finals.
Though, again a tough semi-final awaited against defending world champions Spain. The victory value was huge: the dreamed Olympic final, guaranteed silver and a chance at gold, while also providing the opportunity to take back on the 66–91 shellacking during preparations. Both teams played at their best, with Spain compensating the absence of José Calderón to lead by the first quarter, only for Lithuania to dominate for the following two and having a minimal 74–73 advantage by the fourth. Then rising performances by Rudy Fernandez and Pau Gasol (9 and 7 points respectively) during the concluding quarter along with the Lithuanians' exhaustion and lack of big men input lead the Spanish to barely edge and win the semifinal 91–86. Head coach Ramūnas Butautas said that the team played well and there was no need to be disappointed.
Lithuania was for the fifth consecutive time at the Olympic bronze match, hoping to get their fourth medals against former Olympic champions Argentina. Though, the tough semifinal had the Lithuanians tired and emotionally distraught, which the experienced adversary took advantage despite not counting with injured star Manu Ginóbili. By the third quarter, the game seemed already lost as Lithuanians trailed 67–49. The reduction of the deficit in the fourth was not enough to prevent Lithuania from losing another third place game, 75–87. Still, five Olympic semifinals proved the Lithuanians were still one of the strongest basketball teams worldwide despite hailing from a small country.
Before EuroBasket 2009 in Poland, Lithuanian stars like Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Arvydas Macijauskas, Rimantas Kaukėnas and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas decided not to join the national team. In preparation, the national team took part in another Acropolis Tournament, finishing third by beating Russia and losing to Greece and Turkey.
After huge losses in the team roster and point guard shortage, Lithuania started the tournament with a loss to Turkey (76–84). This was the first time in the 21st century that the Lithuanians began a championship with a defeat. Later Lithuanians disappointingly lost to Poland, and depended on a strong fourth quarter to beat Bulgaria. Finishing third in its group, Lithuania qualified for the second round. However, it already begun badly with a 23-point loss to Slovenia. Following this shocking loss, team's captain Robertas Javtokas, when asked about the team's future, said: "I don't know what else we could promise. We must get straight or it is enough of promises. We must come as men with balls and not like kids. Otherwise, other teams will humiliate us again". The team's game still not improved, with a defeat to Spain (70–84) diminishing the Lithuanians' chances to qualify for the quarter-finals, and a loss to Serbia eliminating the team outright, with the final standing being a measly 12th place. Coach Ramūnas Butautas took all responsibility for the fiasco and resigned. It is regarded as the worst Lithuania national team performance ever.
FIBA World Championship 2010Edit
On 12 December 2009, Lithuania was granted a wild card to participate in the World Championship in Turkey the following year.
Lithuania started the tournament against New Zealand. After a tough first quarter, Lithuanians took control of the game and kept ahead by a comfortable lead, finishing 92–79. The second game was against Canada. After reducing a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Lithuanians finally gained a small lead towards the end of the game. Canada had a chance to win the game, but Jermaine Anderson's game winning three rimmed out at the last second and Lithuania celebrated their second victory 70–68. The next match was against the defending champion Spain, and after another comeback from an 18-point deficit, the Lithuanians won the upsetting game 76–73, Linas Kleiza's free-throws sealing the victory.
Already guaranteed in the knockout rounds, Lithuania faced the group's other undefeated team, France. The French quickly gained momentum in the first half and forced Lithuania to a double-digit deficit. However, in the second half, Lithuania deftly reduced the deficit and cruised past the French defense, outscoring them 45–25 to win the game 69–55 and take the group's leadership. The preliminary round ended with a perfect record as Lebanon was handily defeated 84–66.
After sweeping China (78–67) in the eighth finals and crushing Argentina in a blowout game (104–85) in the quarterfinals, Lithuania lost to Team USA by 15 points. They captured the bronze medal after winning against Eurobasket's silver medalist Serbia 99–88. This was Lithuania's best World Championship result.
After 72 years, Lithuania was again hosting the EuroBasket in 2011. The national team was under much pressure given both the expectations as hosts and the outstanding performance at the World Championship the year before. The team tried to combine future prospects and the past stars, but during the leading months, lost two of its starting players, Linas Kleiza and Jonas Mačiulis, due to knee injuries. During EuroBasket, Marijonas Petravičius was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism after three games played. Not only Petravičius had to miss the rest of the tournament, but the disease marked the end of his professional career.
Numerous officials and other European basketball specialists and pundits found EuroBasket 2011 the best European tournament ever, particularly due to the Lithuanian enthusiasm for the sport. However, the Lithuanian team wound up underperforming, suffering an upset in the quarterfinals to Macedonia. The consolation playoffs led to a final standing of fifth place, giving Lithuania a spot at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men.
2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying TournamentEdit
The team started off the tournament with a convincing victory against Venezuela, followed by an upset to Nigeria the following day. With all three teams tied with one win and one loss, Venezuela wound up disqualified due to a lesser point difference. Afterwards, many incidents regarding the Lithuanian squad were rumored to be caused by disgruntled Venezuelans. These included a tank column near the training hall polluting the air during the Lithuanian team workout, a broken bus during the trip to the arena before the quarter-final game against Puerto Rico, and vanished jerseys and water during said match. Despite all that, Lithuania managed to defeat Puerto Rico in a dramatic game. In the semifinals, Lithuania crushed the Dominican Republic and thus qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.
2012 Summer Olympic Games (London 2012)Edit
After dominating in the Qualifying Tournament, Lithuania had a tough time at the Olympics. The first game against Argentina turned into a fiasco, as the South Americans forced Lithuania into a double-digit deficit in the first half, and kept a comfortable lead in the second half to finish the game strong, 102–79. Luis Scola, who was held down to 13 points in the quarterfinal match against Lithuania two years ago at the World Championship, led Argentina with 32 points. Lithuania rebounded from the loss playing with Nigeria, which also served to avenge the only defeat in the Qualifying Tournament. Playing exemplary defense against the Nigerian bigs Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu, Lithuania handily won 72–53. Next was another defeat, as France rode Tony Parker and Boris Diaw to win the game 74–82. The following game was against USA, which had just broke recordswith their 156–73 blowout of Nigeria. Right from the beginning, Lithuania proved to be a tough opponent for Team USA, with Linas Kleiza scoring 25 points, and former Duke player Martynas Pocius having 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The Lithuania were down by only 4 points at the half and 6 at the end of the third quarter. In the final quarter, Lithuania momentarily took the lead 84–82, but lost it again as LeBron James scored 9 points in 4 minutes to achieve a 94–99 win. ESPN's Marc Stein reacted to the near-defeat remembering the other struggle the "Dream Team" had with Lithuania in 2000, and adding that even if it was "the weakest Lithuanian team they've ever faced in Olympic basketball competition, a limited Lithuania is still Lithuania. Still stubborn. Still dangerous. Still causing a variety of problems for USA Basketball."
Despite its third loss in the tournament, Lithuania still had a chance to qualify to the knockout rounds by defeating Tunisia, which they did 63–76. Thus, Lithuania had the final spot in the quarterfinals, facing the other group's leader, Russia. While the Russians never left the lead, Lithuania always kept it close, and by the fourth quarter was just one point behind. Still their attempts for an upset fell short, and ended up losing 74–83, making it the first time Lithuania missed the Olympic semifinal. Veterans Rimantas Kaukėnas, Darius Songaila and Šarūnas Jasikevičius scored half of the team's points in that game. Later in an interview, Jasikevičius said that he expected the younger players from the World Championship to carry the team, but the opposite happened. Songaila and Kaukėnas agreed, and all three retired from the national team after the tournament. On 1 October, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation brought Jonas Kazlauskas back after 12 years to replace Kęstutis Kemzūra.
Even before EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia started, the Lithuanian team had problems: their flight on September 2 was cancelled due to airplane problems, forcing them to delay their flight until the next day, and miss their first morning workout in Podmežakla Hall. Just one day later, Lithuania played their first game against Serbia. Unable to defend Serbian star Nenad Krstić, who dominated the game with 20 points and 9 rebounds, Lithuania lost 63–56. The second game against Macedonia had many expectations, as Lithuania wanted to avenge getting upset at home in the previous tournament. Through effective defense of Bo McCalebb, the Lithuanians could get their first victory with 75–67. Two tough games followed, against fellow Balts Latvia (67–59), and Montenegro in overtime (77:70), due to Kšyštof Lavrinovič, who only scored 2 points during his first three matches, rising up to score 24 points. The group stage ended against Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose star Mirza Teletović scored 31 points and fantastic three-pointers to beat the Lithuanians 72–78, who still managed to qualify to the second round with crucial three-pointers by Linas Kleiza.
Second round started against defending vice-champions France, which forced Lithuania into solid defense - especially against Tony Parker - to win the game 76–62. Then Lithuanians easily crushed Belgium 86–67, and narrowly defeated Ukraine with 70–63. The knockout round wound begin against Italy, which Lithuania beat by 81–77. The semifinals with Croatia had Jonas Mačiulis, Linas Kleiza and Mantas Kalnietis dominating with 63 points combined out of the team's 77, guaranteeing Lithuania their fifth European final. The final was a rematch with France. Lithuanians only fought point-to-point in the first quarter. By the third, France finished the quarter with a 14–0 run that kept Lithuania scoreless for four minutes. Eventually the Lithuanians suffered a 66–80 defeat. Despite the deep run, some players said that it was hard to celebrate after losing the final. Still, on 23 September 2013, thousands of Lithuanians came to the Rotušės (Town Hall) square to celebrate the Lithuania national team success, and the following day the squad was greeted at the Presidential Palace.
2014 FIBA Basketball World CupEdit
After becoming European vice-champions in 2013, Lithuanians automatically qualified into the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. On May 13, head coach Jonas Kazlauskas announced both the extended main roster for the national team and the reserve roster. On July 1, he announced the condensed candidate roster. Captain Robertas Javtokas and team leader Linas Kleiza decided not to participate in the 2014 World Cup due to injuries. On July 7, first Lithuania national team training camp was organized in Palanga. On August 18, Lithuania won a preparation game against Slovenia with result 80–76, achieving the national team's 500th victory and the 100th under coach Jonas Kazlauskas. The next nine preparation games were all wins, raising expectations for the Lithuanian performance.
On August 26, just a few hours before the last preparation game against Croatia, a final team roster was announced without Artūras Gudaitis and Adas Juškevičius. However, everything turned upside down rapidly in the game itself, when in only three minutes captain and Mantas Kalnietis dislocated his clavicle, forcing him to miss the World Cup. Juškevičius was chosen as his replacement, and Šarūnas Vasiliauskas also won a roster spot. Paulius Jankūnas became the new team captain.
The tournament begun with a tough victory over FIBA Americas champions Mexico, 87–74. While the Mexicans won the first quarter 27–22, the Lithuanians then achieved their domination, marked by scoring 20 points against only 2 in the third quarter. One day later, another difficult match was held against African champions Angola, that the Lithuanians won 75–62, led by the young Donatas Motiejūnas and Jonas Valančiūnas, who scored a combined 23 points and defended the team with 18 rebounds. Tough games continued for Lithuania. The third game against Australia had the Lithuanians 19 points behind at halftime, winning the third quarter 28–15, and leading at some points of the concluding period, but still lost 75–82. Head coach Jonas Kazlauskas described the game as having the team's worst first half that season. The team recovered by sweeping South Korea 79–49, guaranteeing a spot at the knockout rounds and managing to become the first team in FIBA World Cup history to not have any free throw attempts. Lithuania took first spot in the group by closing with a tremendous victory against Slovenia, 67–64, with the Slovenians only scoring two points in the fourth quarter.
During the eighth-finals, Jonas Valančiūnas led Lithuania to a difficult victory against New Zealand, 76–71. In the quarter-finals, Renaldas Seibutis helped Lithuania beat Turkey 73–61 and advanced into the semi-finals, once again meeting the United States. Before the game, USA national team head coach Mike Krzyzewski noted that the Lithuanians "love the game, they play with the passion, they play together, always as a team. They play with the great heart and it will be a tough game for us."
Lithuania fought point-for-point through two quarters; however, after half-time Team USA scored 10–0 and after winning the third quarter 33–14, leaving no chances for the Lithuanian team to come back. They ultimately lost the game 68–96. It was one of the worst performances for Lithuania against Team USA, following the 51-point defeat in the 1992 Olympics versus the "Dream Team". After the match, coach Jonas Kazlauskas criticized the refereeing: "It just shows what respect every team has. When I asked the referee about the (technical) foul call, he said that he warned the bench not to jump, when Team USA bench was jumping and discussing with the referees just in the same way. Overall, the judging was hardly understandable until Team USA had 20 points lead. Later there was no point in discussing with the referees anymore". Longtime Lithuanian national team games broadcast commentator Robertas Petrauskas ironically described the judging live by saying: "When we discuss the judging against Team USA with the journalists from other countries, we all agree that if the referees would call the turnover every time USA player steps before bumping the ball, Team USA would be the most frequent fallible team in the tournament". During the bronze medal game Lithuania faced France, just 2 years removed from the EuroBasket defeat. A terrific battle where youngsters Jonas Valančiūnas and Adas Juškevičius tried to give a win with 39 points combined ensued, but the French still beat them 95–93. Despite not winning any medals, the team was received by thousands of Lithuanians at Rotušės square who wanted to thank the national team for their efforts. According to research, over 2,223 million people observed the national team games live in Lithuania, which is over 76% of the country's population.
Following the World Cup's fourth place, Lithuania automatically qualified into the EuroBasket 2015. On May 5, head coach Jonas Kazlauskas published an extended 25–player main roster, that did not include two long-time players, Simas Jasaitis and Kšyštof Lavrinovič. On July 9, the shortened roster was announced, with the 12 players enrolled into training camp in Palanga beginning 11 days later. Four mainstays of the team were unable to make the list: power forward Donatas Motiejūnas and centers Darjuš Lavrinovič and Martynas Pocius due to injuries, and Linas Kleiza for exhaustion, expressing a need to rest.
Lithuania began the preparation games phase by defeating Australia twice, as well as Finland and Austria once. Later the team hosted the Huawei Cup at Žalgiris Arena, being champions despite a defeat to Croatia due to wins over Turkey and Macedonia. Lithuanians also appeared again at the Acropolis Tournament, finishing third after crushing the Netherlands, while losing to host Greece and the previously defeated Turkish squad. In total, the national team achieved 7 victories of 10 during the friendly preparation matches. On September 1, the national team's final EuroBasket 2015 roster was announced.
Lithuania began the European championship in Riga, on September 5, versus Ukraine. In an Arena Riga almost completely filled with their yellow-green-red decorated fans, the Lithuanians began the match easily and after the first quarter already had a solid lead (19–12), though then began a decay once Jerome Randle and Kyrylo Fesenko led to a Ukrainian resurgence. Ukraine tied the second quarter (14–14) and won the third (19–17), and almost upset the Lithuanians in the final shot if not for a Robertas Javtokas block that ensured a close Lithuanian win, 69–68. Afterwards, the match against the host Latvians had Lithuania losing the first quarter and leading by just one point by halftime. However, then Jonas Mačiulis led a shutdown of the Latvian three-pointers (only 20% during the whole game), and after two solid remaining quarters (11–20, 10–19) the Lithuanians achieved a 68–49 win. The next day, Lithuania surprisingly lost to the Belgium national team 74–76, despite Mantas Kalnietis achieving a EuroBasket record of assists with 13, and Jonas Valančiūnas also delivering a solid performance (25 points, 12 rebounds). The game was closed on a controversial play, as Belgian Matt Lojeski tipped the ball in with just bits of a second remaining and the referees had to analyze if the scoring was still made on time. After the game, many Lithuanian players argued that time was already expired, even if they were unable to make an appeal because, according to the FIBA rules, it should be made 15 minutes after the game. LKF still wrote a letter to FIBA questioning how they should act in such situations. An illness sidelined Valančiūnas from the fourth game versus Estonia, who were returning to EuroBasket for the first time since 2001. Another close match ensued, with the score tied during the final seconds (62–62) before an accurate shot by Jonas Mačiulis saved the Lithuanians (64–62). Tensions reached new heights in the first round closer against the Czech Republic. The game finished tied in 69–69, forcing an overtime which the Lithuanians won (16–12), guaranteeing first place in the group, in spite of all the previous struggles. Kazlauskas wanted to spare the returning Valančiūnas from much playtime given the recent illness, but the player insisted in playing as much as he could, finishing with a double-double.
At the eight-final Jonas Mačiulis continued to carry the stagnating Lithuania national team over his shoulders past Georgia, 85–81. The game again was a true thriller, with the Lithuanian squad leading just 80–79 during the final 15 seconds before Mačiulis secured victory by hammering an important three-pointer with just a few seconds remaining on the shot clock. Mačiulis had the greatest number of EFF Points in EuroBasket history with 50 points in that game (34 points with 85% accuracy, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks), being the first player to hit the 50 point mark since Dirk Nowitzki's 52 in the 2001 bronze medal game. At the quarter-final Lithuania, just like two years ago, faced Italy, led by such prominent NBA players like Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani. The game was so intense that it required an overtime, in which the Lithuania national team turned a higher gear, with three players scoring double-doubles (Jonas Valančiūnas, Jonas Mačiulis and Mantas Kalnietis) en route to a 95–85 that gave Lithuania their third straight semi-final. Following the game, Mačiulis said: "We won, but there are only three medals sets. We have to win one of these". The semi-final was a true European basketball classic: Lithuania versus Serbia, coached by Aleksandar Đorđević, who led the then-Yugoslavia to beat Lithuania in the 1995 EuroBasket final. The Lithuanians were considered underdogs of the match due to the Serbians being undefeated that far while the Balts struggled in all games. Still, Lithuania led for most of the time, at times with advantages of 11 points, and while the Serbians scored 21 points in the final quarter, clinched the semifinal with a 67–64 score, advancing into their second straight EuroBasket final. Furthermore, the victory also automatically put the Lithuania men's national team to the 2016 Summer Olympics, their seventh consecutive Olympics, and making Lithuania the only European squad in all Olympics since 1992. Coach Jonas Kazlauskas described the victory as "unbelievable", given Lithuania only scored 2 three-pointers while making 20 turnovers. Wild celebrations ensued in the streets of Lithuania after the conclusion of the game.
While none of the Lithuanians playing in the EuroBasket 2015 Final were part of the team who won the 2003 tournament, the adversary was the same, a Spanish team led by Pau Gasol and featuring Felipe Reyes, as well as two of the referees, Luigi Lamonica and Ilija Belošević. And this time, the final went absolutely different, with Spain hitting with stunning accuracy right from the 19–8 first quarter. The Lithuanian squad tried to reduce the deficit multiple times, but the Spanish kept the lead at all times for an 80–63 win. Jonas Valančiūnas and Jonas Mačiulis were selected to the All-Tournament Team, but were visibly unhappy at losing the second straight European championship final. Yet on the next day, the national team members, as in the previous years, were warmly greeted at the Town Hall in Vilnius by a smiling crowd. On September 22, the team was invited to the Presidential Palace, where they were awarded with more state awards.
2016 Summer Olympic Games (Rio 2016)Edit
The Lithuanian men's national team automatically qualified into the 2016 Summer Olympics without the need to compete in the qualifying tournament after being finalists of EuroBasket 2015. Lithuania, China, Australia and the United States are the only countries to compete in all the Olympic Games since 1992. On June 8, the twenty candidates list was published, who were invited to the training camp. On June 20, first training camp was held. During the first preparation phase in Lithuania, the national team reached 5 of 5 victories, including victory versus the European champions Spain national team in a farewell game 87–83 in Kaunas. Just three days later, Lithuanians reached another victory over Spain 76–78 in Malaga. The preparation stage in South America was less fortunate with the first game being cancelled due to unsuitable conditions, then the first loss occurred to Argentina after controversial refereeing. The only victory there was achieved versus Australia 68–81. The friendly games were finished with another loss, this time to Brazil 64–62.
On August 7, the opening game versus the host team Brazil national team was played. After demonstrating powerful game-play in the beginning, Lithuanians won the first half by 29 points (58–29), though the second half was completely different, which was surprisingly lost by 23 points. Lithuania won the game just 76–82. After the game, one of the team leaders Jonas Mačiulis said that "this can't happen again". Following it, Lithuania faced Nigeria national team. After playing two quarters point-to-point, Lithuanians spurt in the third (29–13), led by Mačiulis who scored 14 points during it, and won the match 89–80. Afterwards, Lithuanians overcome Argentina national team, who was yet undefeated in a close game 81–73 and qualified for the quarter-final. The successful start was slowed down by Spain national team, which crushed Lithuania 59–109. It was second highest loss in the history of the Lithuanian national team history. The group phase was ended with another loss to Croatia national team 81–90 and Lithuania finished third in the group.
The quarterfinals adversary were Australia, who Lithuania beat to win the last two bronze medals. This time the "Boomers" did not give a chance to Lithuania, leading all the way to a 90–64 rout with strong performances by Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. Lithuania finished 7th in the final standings. Following the Olympics, long-time captain Robertas Javtokas retired from the national team. After a successful 4-year lap, head coach Jonas Kazlauskas refused to return to the national team for more summers and left it for a second time. On October 25, 2016, he was replaced by Dainius Adomaitis. On January 20, 2017, EuroLeague legend and former Lithuanian star Ramūnas Šiškauskas was named one of Adomaitis's assistants.
On May 11, 2017, Dainius Adomaitis announced the extended candidates list. On June 16, the shortened candidates list version was published, which most notably excluded Antanas Kavaliauskas, Paulius Jankūnas and Renaldas Seibutis. On June 20, one of four Lithuanian NBA players Domantas Sabonis, son of all-time great Arvydas Sabonis, announced that he would not represent the national team this year. On June 21, the national team members gathered for their first training camp in Palanga. On August 1, Mantas Kalnietis was chosen captain of the team.
The preparation games were started by barely defeating the Poland national team 59–58 on August 4, and with a loss to the Georgia national team 81–70 on August 5. Following it, the team traveled to Orléans, France to participate in a not more fortunate international tournament, losing both games to the Croatia national team 80–82 and to the France national team 77–98. On August 18, Lithuanians reached their second victory by crushing Romania national team 97–64 in Riga, but were convincingly defeated by the Latvia national team 77–87 on the next day, mostly due to the youngsters Dāvis Bertāns and Kristaps Porziņģis. After returning to Lithuania, the team's final roster was announced on August 23; however, during the team's next-to-last warmup game before EuroBasket, against Iceland national team, Lukas Lekavičius suffered a broken foot that kept him out of the tournament and diminished the 84–62 victory. He was replaced on the roster by Adas Juškevičius. The farewell game was played on August 25 in Vilnius, and was lost during the final seconds 78–79.
On August 29, Lithuania national team traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel for the group-phase games of the EuroBasket 2017. The group-phase was started with a shocking 77–79 loss to the Georgia national team, with Tornike Shengelia scoring 29 points and dominating the game. Although, Lithuanians rehabilitated later by defeating the hosts Israel national team 73–88, Italy national team 78–73 after Juškevičius career-best performance, Ukraine national team 62–94, and Germany national team 72–89 with Valančiūnas powerfully dominating during both games. The successful finish resulted in Lithuania clinching the first place in the group with a 4–1 result. On September 7, Lithuanians departed to Istanbul for the knockout stage. The intention to win third straight EuroBasket medals was quickly smashed by the Greece national team 64–77 in the first round, with Lithuanians trailing most of the game and failing to defend Kostas Sloukas. Consequently, this time Lithuanians finished 9th. On September 10, part of the national team returned to Vilnius.
2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualificationEdit
Contrary to previous years, no teams were automatically placed into the FIBA World Cup, so all FIBA Europe nations had to participate in qualifications. On November 3, 2017, the national team candidates list was published that did not included any NBA or EuroLeague players. On November 20, 2017, the national team members arrived to Palanga, and on November 23 the team has traveled to Pristina, Kosovo from the Palanga International Airport for their first qualification game versus the Kosovo national team in the Palace of Youth and Sports. Lithuania won the game 61–99 by starting to crush the Kosovans in the third quarter. On November 26, 2017, Lithuanians also crushed their second opponent Poland national team 75–55 in Klaipėda to perfectly finish the first phase of the group stage. On February 2, 2018, list of the roster for the second qualification window was published. On February 19, 2018, the team gathered in Palanga. On February 23, 2018, Lithuanians narrowly defeated Hungary 80–75 in Klaipėda. On February 26, 2018, they crushed Kosovo yet again. On May 31, 2018, list of the roster for the third qualification window was published, which included Lithuanian NBA and EuroLeague players. On June 25, 2018, the strengthened team gathered in Kaunas. It crushed Poland in Gdańsk 79–61 and Hungary in Budapest 73–50. On September 3, 2018, team roster for the fourth qualification window was announced. Prior to the qualification games, Lithuania national team lost a friendly game to the Latvia national team 80–97, but later after defeating the Croatia national team 84–83 in Osijek and Netherlands national team 95–93 in Vilnius it qualified to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
FIBA Diamond BallEdit
|2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualification roster|
Best player awardEdit
Players medal leadersEdit
- For a full list of all the medallists, see Medal winners in Lithuania national basketball team
|Player||Lithuania career||Gold||Silver||Bronze||Total (min. 3 medals)|
|Manager||Lithuania career||Played||Won||Lost||Win %||Honours|
|Vladas Garastas||1992–1997||59||45||14||76.27||2 Bronze medals: Olympic Games (1992, 1996), Silver medal: EuroBasket 1995|
|1997–2001||49||32||17||65.31||Bronze medal: Olympic Games 2000|
|Antanas Sireika||2001-2006||42||33||9||78.58||Gold medal: EuroBasket 2003|
|Ramūnas Butautas||2007–2009||23||14||9||60.87||Bronze medal: EuroBasket 2007|
|Kęstutis Kemzūra||2009–2012||30||21||9||70.00||Bronze medal: World Championship 2010|
|2012–2016||35||24||11||68.57‡||2 Silver medal: EuroBasket (2013, 2015)|
- Last updated: 2019-02-25. Statistics include official FIBA-recognized matches only.
Notable assistant coaches include:
- Javier Imbroda, Spanish, helped Lithuania earn its first medal shortly after independence at Barcelona 1992 Olympics.
- Donnie Nelson, American, son of Hall of Famer coach Don Nelson, helped Lithuania's funding for Barcelona 1992 and became assistant coach for many years later. After Lithuania nearly upset the US at Sydney 2000, Nelson declared that he would never help Lithuania in matches against the USA.
- Juozas Petkevičius has been with the national team in most competitions since the restoration of independence. Commonly called Juozukas, relates well with fans, players, and staff members, and is widely regarded as the mascot of the team.
1937 EuroBasket: finished 1st among 8 teams
Artūras Andrulis, Leonas Baltrūnas, Pranas Talzūnas, Leopoldas Kepalas, Feliksas Kriaučiūnas, Pranas Mažeika, Eugenijus Nikolskis, Leonas Petrauskas, Zenonas Puzinauskas, Stasys Šačkus, Juozas Žukas, Česlovas Daukša (Coach: Feliksas Kriaučiūnas)
1939 EuroBasket: finished 1st among 8 teams
Pranas Lubinas, Mykolas Ruzgys, Leonas Baltrūnas, Artūras Andrulis, Juozas Jurgėla, Pranas Mažeika, Vytautas Norkus, Vytautas Budriūnas, Zenonas Puzinauskas, Feliksas Kriaučiūnas, Vytautas Lesčinskas, Eugenijus Nikolskis, Leonas Petrauskas, Mindaugas Šliūpas (Coach: Pranas Lubinas)
1992 Olympic Games: finished 3rd among 12 teams
Arvydas Sabonis, Šarunas Marčiulionis, Valdemaras Chomičius, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Sergėjus Jovaiša, Artūras Karnišovas, Gintaras Einikis, Arūnas Visockas, Darius Dimavičius, Romanas Brazdauskis, Gintaras Krapikas, Alvydas Pazdrazdis (Coach: Vladas Garastas)
1995 EuroBasket: finished 2nd among 14 teams
Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Artūras Karnišovas, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Valdemaras Chomičius, Gintaras Einikis, Arūnas Visockas, Gintaras Krapikas, Saulius Štombergas, Mindaugas Timinskas, Darius Lukminas, Gvidonas Markevičius (Coach: Vladas Garastas)
1996 Olympic Games: finished 3rd among 12 teams
Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Artūras Karnišovas, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Saulius Štombergas, Gintaras Einikis, Darius Lukminas, Rytis Vaišvila, Tomas Pačėsas, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Andrius Jurkūnas, Mindaugas Žukauskas (Coach: Vladas Garastas)
1997 EuroBasket: finished 6th among 16 teams
Gintaras Einikis, Virginijus Praškevičius, Dainius Adomaitis, Artūras Karnišovas, Saulius Štombergas, Darius Maskoliūnas, Kęstutis Šeštokas, Andrius Jurkūnas, Darius Lukminas, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Mindaugas Timinskas, Eurelijus Žukauskas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
1998 World Championship: finished 7th among 16 teams
Artūras Karnišovas, Saulius Štombergas, Gintaras Einikis, Virginijus Praškevičius, Tomas Masiulis, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Dainius Adomaitis, Darius Maskoliūnas, Darius Lukminas, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Tomas Pačėsas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
1999 EuroBasket: finished 5th among 16 teams
Arvydas Sabonis, Artūras Karnišovas, Saulius Štombergas, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Gintaras Einikis, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Virginijus Praškevičius, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Tomas Masiulis, Dainius Adomaitis, Darius Maskoliūnas, Kęstutis Marčiulionis (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2000 Olympic Games: finished 3rd among 12 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Saulius Štombergas, Mindaugas Timinskas, Gintaras Einikis, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Tomas Masiulis, Dainius Adomaitis, Darius Maskoliūnas, Andrius Giedraitis, Kestutis Marciulionis (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2001 EuroBasket: finished 9-12th among 16 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Saulius Štombergas, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Gintaras Einikis, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Mindaugas Timinskas, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Robertas Javtokas, Donatas Slanina, Andrius Jurkūnas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2003 EuroBasket: finished 1st among 16 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Arvydas Macijauskas, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Saulius Štombergas, Darius Songaila, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Donatas Slanina, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Virginijus Praškevičius, Dainius Šalenga, Giedrius Gustas (Coach: Antanas Sireika)
2004 Olympic Games: finished 4th among 12 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Arvydas Macijauskas, Saulius Štombergas, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila, Eurelijus Žukauskas, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Dainius Šalenga, Robertas Javtokas, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Donatas Slanina, Vidas Ginevičius (Coach: Antanas Sireika)
2005 EuroBasket: finished 5th among 16 teams
Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Robertas Javtokas, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Simas Jasaitis, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Vidas Ginevicius, Paulius Jankūnas, Simonas Serapinas, Giedrius Gustas, Darius Šilinskis, Mindaugas Lukauskis (Coach: Antanas Sireika)
2006 World Championship: finished 7th among 24 teams
Arvydas Macijauskas, Darius Songaila, Robertas Javtokas, Simas Jasaitis, Mindaugas Žukauskas, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Linas Kleiza, Paulius Jankūnas, Giedrius Gustas, Tomas Delininkaitis, Mantas Kalnietis (Coach: Antanas Sireika)
2007 EuroBasket: finished 3rd among 16 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Simas Jasaitis, Darius Songaila, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Linas Kleiza, Robertas Javtokas, Jonas Mačiulis, Paulius Jankūnas, Giedrius Gustas (Coach: Ramūnas Butautas)
2008 Olympic Games: finished 4th among 12 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Simas Jasaitis, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Linas Kleiza, Robertas Javtokas, Jonas Mačiulis, Mindaugas Lukauskis, Marius Prekevičius, Marijonas Petravičius (Coach: Ramūnas Butautas)
2009 EuroBasket: finished 11th among 16 teams
Marijonas Petravičius, Linas Kleiza, Simas Jasaitis, Robertas Javtokas, Tomas Delininkaitis, Artūras Jomantas, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Mantas Kalnietis, Jonas Mačiulis, Mindaugas Lukauskis, Andrius Mažutis (Coach: Ramūnas Butautas)
2010 World Championship: finished 3rd among 24 teams
Linas Kleiza, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius, Jonas Mačiulis, Simas Jasaitis, Tomas Delininkaitis, Paulius Jankūnas, Martynas Gecevičius, Tadas Klimavičius, Robertas Javtokas, Martynas Andriuškevičius, Renaldas Seibutis (Coach: Kęstutis Kemzūra)
2011 EuroBasket: finished 5th among 24 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Darius Songaila, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius, Simas Jasaitis, Tomas Delininkaitis, Paulius Jankūnas, Robertas Javtokas, Marijonas Petravičius, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Jonas Valančiūnas (Coach: Kęstutis Kemzūra)
2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament qualified with 2 other teams among 12 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Mantas Kalnietis, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Tomas Delininkaitis, Deividas Dulkys, Jonas Mačiulis, Martynas Pocius, Linas Kleiza, Paulius Jankūnas, Darius Songaila, Robertas Javtokas, Jonas Valančiūnas (Coach: Kęstutis Kemzūra)
2012 Olympic Games finished 5–8th among 12 teams
Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Linas Kleiza, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Jonas Mačiulis, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius, Simas Jasaitis, Paulius Jankūnas, Renaldas Seibutis, Darius Songaila, Antanas Kavaliauskas, Jonas Valančiūnas (Coach: Kęstutis Kemzūra)
2013 EuroBasket: finished 2nd among 24 teams
Donatas Motiejūnas, Jonas Valančiūnas, Linas Kleiza, Mantas Kalnietis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Jonas Mačiulis, Tomas Delininkaitis, Renaldas Seibutis, Martynas Pocius, Robertas Javtokas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2014 FIBA World Cup: finished 4th among 24 teams
Jonas Valančiūnas, Darjuš Lavrinovič, Donatas Motiejūnas, Kšyštof Lavrinovič, Paulius Jankūnas, Jonas Mačiulis, Simas Jasaitis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Martynas Pocius, Renaldas Seibutis, Adas Juškevičius, Šarūnas Vasiliauskas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2015 EuroBasket: finished 2nd among 24 teams
Mantas Kalnietis, Deividas Gailius, Jonas Mačiulis, Renaldas Seibutis, Domantas Sabonis, Antanas Kavaliauskas, Paulius Jankūnas, Jonas Valančiūnas, Robertas Javtokas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Artūras Milaknis, Lukas Lekavičius (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2016 Olympic Games finished 7th among 12 teams
Mantas Kalnietis, Jonas Valančiūnas, Domantas Sabonis, Marius Grigonis, Jonas Mačiulis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Antanas Kavaliauskas, Robertas Javtokas, Paulius Jankūnas, Renaldas Seibutis, Adas Juškevičius, Vaidas Kariniauskas (Coach: Jonas Kazlauskas)
2017 EuroBasket finished 9th among 24 teams
Mantas Kalnietis, Adas Juškevičius, Jonas Mačiulis, Martynas Gecevičius, Jonas Valančiūnas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Donatas Motiejūnas, Artūras Milaknis, Eimantas Bendžius, Marius Grigonis, Artūras Gudaitis, Edgaras Ulanovas (Coach: Dainius Adomaitis)
2 points field-goals madeEdit
3 points field-goals madeEdit
- Last updated: 2019-02-25. Statistics include official FIBA-recognized matches only.
All time points per game (PPG)Edit
Only players with significant number of games played or points scored.‡
|Rank||Name||NT career||Games played||Total points||PPG||Most points||Opponent||Result||Date||Tournament||Venue|
|1||Šarūnas Marčiulionis||1992–1996||34||687||20.24||38||Germany||100:84||1992-07-01||Olympic Qualification||Zaragoza, Spain|
|2||Arvydas Sabonis||1992–1999||50||995||19.90||33|| CIS
|3||Artūras Karnišovas||1992–1999||80||1466||18.33||43||Austria||116:94||1993-06-27||EuroBasket Qualification 1995||Vienna, Austria|
|4||Arvydas Macijauskas||2002–2006||33||497||15.06||32||China||95:75||2004-08-26||Olympic Games 2004||Athens, Greece|
|5||Rimas Kurtinaitis||1992–1997||45||604||13.42||31||China||112:75||1992-07-26||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|6||Ramūnas Šiškauskas||1999–2008||60||772||12.86||30||Russia||74:86||2007-09-15||EuroBasket 2007||Madrid, Spain|
|7||Linas Kleiza||2006–2013||62||785||12.66||33||Serbia||99:88||2010-09-12||World Championship 2010||Istanbul, Turkey|
|8||Saulius Štombergas||1993–2004||99||1084||10.95||28|| Australia
|Olympic Games 2000
|9||Mantas Kalnietis||2006-||80||827||10.34||26||Croatia||81:90||2016-08-15||Olympic Games 2016||Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
|10||Jonas Valančiūnas||2011-||62||631||10.18||27||Germany||89:72||2017-09-06||EuroBasket 2017||Tel Aviv, Israel|
|11||Valdemaras Chomičius||1992–1995||37||369||9.97||30||Netherlands||93:85||1993-06-22||EuroBasket Qualification 1995||Vienna, Austria|
|12||Šarūnas Jasikevičius||1997–2012||104||1031||9.91||28||United States||94:90||2004-08-21||Olympic Games 2004||Athens, Greece|
|13||Gintaras Einikis||1992–2002||106||1024||9.66||27|| Poland
|EuroBasket Qualification 1997
|14||Rimantas Kaukėnas||2001-2012||47||443||9.43||22||Italy||79:74||2007-09-08||EuroBasket 2007||Madrid, Spain|
|15||Darius Songaila||2000–2012||68||630||9.26||20||Croatia||74:72||2007-09-14||EuroBasket 2007||Madrid, Spain|
|16||Darius Lukminas||1994–1999||50||407||8.14||25|| Belgium
|EuroBasket Qualification 1997
EuroBasket Qualification 1997
|17||Darjuš Lavrinovič||2005–2014||53||422||7.96||18||Germany||77:62||2006-09-03||World Championship 2006||Saitama, Japan|
|18||Martynas Pocius||2010–2014||49||387||7.90||16||Argentina||104:85||2010-09-09||World Championship 2010||Istanbul, Turkey|
|19||Jonas Mačiulis||2007-||83||637||7.67||34||Georgia||85:81||2015-09-13||EuroBasket 2015||Lille, France|
|20||Renaldas Seibutis||2010-||58||433||7.47||21||Australia||75:82||2014-09-02||World Cup 2014||Gran Canaria, Spain|
- Last updated: 2019-02-25. Statistics include official FIBA-recognized matches only.
|Points||43||Artūras Karnišovas||Austria||116:94||27 June 1993||EuroBasket Qualification 1995||Vienna, Austria|
|Minutes||48(2OT)||Arvydas Sabonis||Croatia||83:81||20 July 1996||Olympic Games 1996||Atlanta, USA|
|2-Pt made||14||Linas Kleiza||China||78:67||7 September 2010||World Cup 2010||Istanbul, Turkey|
|3-Pt made||7||Šarūnas Jasikevičius
| United States
|21 August 2004
28 August 2004
|Olympic Games 2004
Olympic Games 2004
|FT made||17||Šarūnas Marčiulionis||Germany||100:84||1 July 1992||Olympic Qualification 1992||Zaragoza, Spain|
|2-Pt %||100 (8/8)||Artūras Karnišovas
|26 February 1997
30 August 2014
|EuroBasket Qualification 1997
World Cup 2014
Gran Canaria, Spain
|3-Pt %||100 (6/6)||Eimantas Bendžius||Kosovo||106:50||26 February 2018||World Cup Qualification 2019||Klaipėda, Lithuania|
|FT %||100 (12/12)||Artūras Karnišovas|| Poland
|11 October 1995
3 December 1997
|EuroBasket Qualification 1997
EuroBasket Qualification 1999
|Total rebounds||23||Arvydas Sabonis||Greece||89:73||22 June 1995||EuroBasket 1995||Athens, Greece|
|Assists||13||Mantas Kalnietis||Belgium||74:76||7 September 2015||EuroBasket 2015||Riga, Latvia|
|Steals||8||Rimas Kurtinaitis||Venezuela||87:79||27 July 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|26 July 1992
25 January 2003
20 September 2013
|Olympic Games 1992
EuroBasket Qualification 2003
- Last updated: 2019-02-25. Statistics include official FIBA-recognized matches only.
|Biggest victory||103||Finland||112:9||27 May 1939||EuroBasket 1939||Kaunas, Lithuania|
|Biggest victory (modern era)||61||China||116:55||28 July 1996||Olympic Games 1996||Atlanta, USA|
|Biggest defeat||51||United States||75:126||6 August 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|Most Points Scored||118||Switzerland||118:62||26 February 1997||EuroBasket Qualification 1997||Neuchâtel, Switzerland|
|Lowest total points||20||Estonia||20:15||4 May 1937||EuroBasket 1937||Riga, Latvia|
|Lowest total points (modern era)||47||France||47:63||22 September 2005||EuroBasket 2005||Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro|
|Most offensive points||126||United States||75:126||6 August 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|Lowest points allowed||7||Egypt||21:7||5 May 1937||EuroBasket 1937||Riga, Latvia|
|Lowest points allowed (modern era)||47||Switzerland||93:47||28 Nowember 2001||EuroBasket Qualification 2003||Vilnius, Lithuania|
|Total Rebounds||54||Korea||97:56||29 July 1998||World Championship 1998||Athens, Greece|
|Assists||32||Russia||103:72||3 July 1999||EuroBasket 1999||Paris, France|
|Steals||23||Puerto Rico||104:91||29 July 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|23 November 2002
6 September 2003
|EuroBasket Qualification 2003
|Free throws made||42||Brazil||114:96||4 August 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
|Free throw %||100(22/22)||Netherlands||78:69||22 February 2019||World Cup Qualification 2019||Amsterdam, Netherlands|
|2-pointers made||40||Latvia||108:65||17 November 1993||EuroBasket Qualification 1995||Kaunas, Lithuania|
|2-point %||80(36/45)||Switzerland||118:62||26 February 1997||EuroBasket Qualification 1997||Neuchâtel, Switzerland|
|3-pointers made||21||United States||96:104||28 August 2004||Olympic Games 2004||Athens, Greece|
|3-point %||80(8/10)||China||112:75||26 July 1992||Olympic Games 1992||Barcelona, Spain|
- Last updated: 2019-02-25. Statistics include official FIBA-recognized matches only.
FIBA World RankingsEdit
Lithuania's consistent status as one of the major powers in international basketball made them rank highly at the FIBA World Rankings.
All-time team recordEdit
The following table shows Lithuania's all-time official FIBA international record, correct as of 25 February 2019.
|Opponents||Played||Won||Lost||% Won||Biggest victory||Biggest defeat|
|Argentina||9||6||3||67%||+19 (104:85)||-23 (79:102)|
|Australia||9||5||4||56%||+21 (78:57)||-31 (75:106)|
|Belgium||4||2||2||50%||+23 (75:52)||-2 (83:85),(74:76)|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||3||1||2||33%||+30 (87:57)||-6 (72:78)|
|CIS||3||2||1||67%||+37 (116:79)||-12 (80:92)|
|Croatia||13||11||2||85%||+18 (85:67)||-9 (81:90)|
|Czech Republic[a]||4||3||1||75%||+20 (95:75)||-16 (62:78)|
|Dominican Republic||1||1||0||100%||+26 (109:83)||-|
|France||15||7||8||47%||+30 (48:18)||-16 (47:63)|
|Great Britain||2||2||0||100%||+16 (87:71)||-|
|Georgia||2||1||1||50%||+4 (85:81)||-2 (77:79)|
|Greece||9||6||3||67%||+33 (99:66)||-13 (64:77)|
|Italy||16||12||4||75%||+14 (41:27)||-9 (91–100)|
|South Korea||2||2||0||100%||+41 (97:56)||-|
|Latvia||7||6||1||86%||+43 (108:65)||-18 (76:94)|
|North Macedonia||2||1||1||50%||+8 (75:67)||-2 (65:67)|
|New Zealand||3||3||0||100%||+13 (92:79)||-|
|Nigeria||3||2||1||67%||+19 (72:53)||-6 (80:86)|
|Poland||10||8||2||80%||+28 (46:18)||-19 (69:88)|
|Puerto Rico||3||3||0||100%||+13 (104:91)||-|
|Russia||8||4||4||50%||+31 (103:72)||-29 (64:93)|
|Serbia[b]||12||5||7||42%||+18 (98:82)||-15 (60:75)|
|Slovenia||9||7||2||78%||+19 (80:61)||-23 (58:81)|
|Spain||11||2||9||19%||+9 (93:84)||-50 (59:109)|
|Turkey||13||10||3||77%||+38 (100:62)||-11 (84:95)|
|United States||10||2||8||20%||+4 (94:90)||-51 (75:126)|
|Ukraine||7||5||2||71%||+32 (94:62)||-7 (82:89)|
The popularity of basketball in Lithuania has caused many international writers to compare the sport to a religion in the country. Sports Illustrated reporter Luke Winn added that despite the country's small population of 3.2 million, Lithuania ranked fifth at the 2011 FIBA World Rankings (as of 2015, Lithuania is third), behind the much larger United States (313 million), Spain (47 million), Argentina (40 million) and Greece (11 million). The devotion to the team often brings thousands of Lithuanians to travel in their support, no matter what continent. The fans dress and paint themselves in the national colors of yellow, green and red, and spend the games cheering and chanting. Lithuanians frequently display huge flags, usually the national one or the historical Vytis variant. Furthermore, sometimes the modern flag at the center is being embellished with the white color names (often shortened) or the surnames of the most notable national team members, who represents the team at that competition.
Lithuanian basketball fans are famous for energetically and unanimously singing the national anthem before all national team games. Most frequently, they loudly shout the last anthem lines, most notably "Vardan tos, Lietuvos. Vienybė težydi!" (English: For the sake of this land. We shall stand together) Other major chants are "LIE-TU-VA" (country's name in Lithuanian) and singing of the popular Lithuanian folk daina "Ant kalno mūrai" (English: Masonries on the hill). When there is no doubt in victory anymore during the end of the game, the Lithuanian fans begins to chant "Mes laimėjom!" (English: We are victorious). One of the most famous fans is Tomas "Sėkla" Balaišis, who has followed the team since 2002 and is known for his distinctive long beard. Ever since its induction during the coverage of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, "Trys Milijonai" became the unnofficial Lithuania national basketball team song. The musical theme was used again during Eurobasket 2001, which made the song a runaway hit and a de facto national basketball anthem. When Lithuania won the European basketball championship in 2003, the song was played right after the final match with Spain. By the 2004 Athens Olympics, the song has become the unofficial Lithuanian Olympic team anthem and by some, is regarded as highly as the unofficial Lithuanian national sports (especially basketball) anthem. Later on, the song was played after almost every match the Lithuania national team played and during its meeting ceremonies after the successful performances.
Uniforms and kit suppliersEdit
The first basketball uniforms worn by Lithuania's national team in the 1930s had two variants: light ones with white T-shirts and dark green shorts, and dark ones with dark green shirts and shorts. Both of these variants had at the front of the shirts "LIETUVA" (the country's name written in the native language) and a red circle with the "Vytis" coat of arms, in the spot where nowadays such jerseys have sponsor logos.
After the team was restored following Lithuania's return as an independent country in 1991, the jerseys used the same color schemes from the 1930s. Only this time, the neck, shoulders and sides had a three lined piping in the national flag's colors. The light variant had Lietuva in red, while the dark one had the country's name in white. It was manufactured by Reebok. This design remained until 1997.
In 1997 Nike replaced Reebok as Lithuania's uniform supplier, a post it retains as of 2015. This led to a new design of the jerseys, with the piping being white in the green jerseys and green in the white ones. The jerseys remained that way until the 2000 Summer Olympics. There another update changed the piping to yellow in the green jerseys, moved the "Lietuva" to the stomach, below a circle with the player's number, and added a small Lithuanian flag on the left shoulder.
Another change was made in 2003, with a simpler design making the player number loose on the left shoulder, "Lietuva" in a smaller font, and no national flag. These probably were the most simplified Lithuanian uniforms ever, but became iconic in the country for being the jerseys of the EuroBasket title.
In 2004, major updates were done, enlarging the country name and returning the flag, while changing the piping to yellow-red in the green jerseys and yellow-green in the white ones. On the dark variant "Lietuva" was in yellow, while on the light variant it was written in green. This color scheme remained until 2010, once red was dropped from the piping. This made the Lithuanian jersey similar to Brazil's, aside from the different shades of green. Red now only appears on the Nike logo and the Lithuanian flag. In 2014, the side piping had its final change, with the addition of yellow-green squares. Since 2010, the back of the jersey has an imprint. The first one was a basketball net on both jerseys, and since 2012 the white jersey has the Vytis symbol.
The general sponsor of Lithuania men's national basketball team is the biggest team's financial supporter, and is given a prominent spot on the jersey, under the text "LIETUVA". The longest-tenured sponsor is the Švyturys brewery, who has designated over 15 million LTL per 15 years for basketball, and was featured in the jersey front from 2005 to 2008. That year, given EuroBasket 2009 was hosted by Poland, Polish Orlen oil refiner and petrol retailer made a deal to become the general sponsor. Following it, Antanas Guoga betting company TonyBet wished to replace it. At first Lithuanian laws only allowed the sponsoring without featuring the logo due to such companies being forbidden to be advertised, but eventually TonyBet's logo was included. Guoga also paid a large share of the required application fee of €500,000 for the 2010 World Championship wild-card. In 2011 TP Engineering company became the Lithuanian team's general sponsor, being replaced again by TonyBet in 2013. In 2014, Vičiūnai Group signed a two-year deal to become the primary sponsor.
General sponsors by competition:
There are many books describing the glorious Lithuanian basketball history. Some of them are freely accessible to everyone online at the official publishers websites. The most notable books are such:
- Stanislovas Stonkus, Krepšinio kelias į Lietuvą. The story of how basketball was introduced in Lithuania, including many historic images of the early basketball games and teams. Part of the book is freely accessible online.
- Vidas Mačiulis and Vytautas Gudelis, Halė, kurioje žaidė Lubinas ir Sabonis. Mostly focuses on the inter-war Lithuanian basketball, describing the history of Kaunas Sports Hall and the EuroBasket titles of 1937 and 1939, while also including basketball history after the occupation of 1940.
- Skirmantas Leonas Karalevičius, Krepšinio pilnaties sapnas. The author began clipping news about Lithuanian basketball in 1946, and thus the articles are heavily featured on the book. Another notable document reproduced is an invitation for the United States team to play in Lithuania following the EuroBasket 1939 title, an event cancelled due to World War II.
- Skirmantas Leonas Karalevičius, XX a. Lietuvos krepšinio legenda.
- Algimantas Bertašius and Stanislovas Stonkus, Su Lietuvos vardu per Europą, per pasaulį. The story of Lithuanian basketball from 1925 to 2013. Its fragments are freely accessible online at the official Alma littera website. Complete first version of the book, released in 2009, is freely available to download at the official LKF website. The updated printed version, released in 2013, costs around 35 €.
There are several documentaries about the national team, the most notable one being The Other Dream Team, released in 2013 and focusing on the 1992 Barcelona Olympic team. Another that saw international release was 2012's Game of the Nation (Mes už... Lietuvą), about Lithuania's experience hosting EuroBasket 2011. In preparation for the 2004 Olympics, Lithuanian National Radio and Television created Lietuvos Krepšinis 1920–2004, a miniseries about the most important events and players in Lithuanian basketball history.
Lithuania's national basketball team has been featured thrice in video games depicting international basketball. The first was in 1992, as Sega's Team USA Basketball for the Mega Drive/Genesis featured all teams from that year's Olympic tournament. Years later, Electronic Arts included Lithuania among various FIBA squads featured in NBA Live 09 (2008) and NBA Live 10 (2009).
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- The Other Dream Team movie (quotation begins at 1:21:23)
- Basketball pulse strong in Lithuania, ESPN
- The Other Dream Team movie (quotation begins at 1:22:02)
- The Other Dream Team movie (quotation begins at 1:23:03)
- The Other Dream Team movie (quotation begins at 1:23:20)
- The Other Dream Team movie (quotation begins at 1:23:26)
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- BASKETBALL; Politics Take Center Court as Yugoslavs Win Title
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