The amazing story of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team.
By Matt Blitz
Sports are full of clichés. Play one game at a time. Leave it all out on the field. There’s no “I” in team. Clichés allow fans to make sense of the unpredictable nature of athletic competition. Without them, how else would we be able to explain results that don’t make sense? How else did the underdog beat the favorite if they didn’t have more heart? The odd nature of sports clichés is that despite them being an exercise in generalities and vagueness, there can be truth behind them. There is a reason they became clichés in the first place. Sometimes a game isn’t just a game. Sometimes a basketball team isn’t just a basketball team. Sometimes a warm-up jersey isn’t just a warm-up jersey. The 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball team wasn’t just a team who played in a game with an odd-looking warm-up jersey. They represented a whole lot more. They were freedom.
For much of the 20th century, Eastern Europe was in the throes of political turmoil. The “Great War,” or known to us Americans as World War I, left over 17 million dead from the summer of 1914 to the winter of 1918. A whole generation of able-bodied men was lost to the horrors of war. For the next twenty years, Europe attempted to rebuild, but the people were poor, desperate, and begging for answers to their considerable problems. Unfortunately, false hope came in the form of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.