Like many before them Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Arvydas Sabonis and Valdemaras Chomičius were products of the Žalgiris Kaunas basketball side whose talents were recognised by the Soviet national committee.
However few had predicted that they would be a catalyst for the USSR’s second Olympic gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
On this day the four men would battle off against Yugoslavia in the first Olympic final not to feature the US after the Americans were defeated by the Soviets 82:76.
The Lithuanian contingent would combine for 62 points against the Americans, 28-year-old Kurtinaitis stood superior with 28-points while Sabonis collected 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Regardless of their previous feats they would face a star studded Yugoslavia line-up who defeated the USSR in the group stage (92:79).
Amongst the challengers in the Mediterranean team was Serbian Vlade Divac and Croatian sensations Dražen Petrović and Toni Kukoč.
Thankfully, for Lithuanians watching across the world, it would again be their men who conquered the court.
Marčiulionis scored 19 points against the Americans, a state he then surpassed by pouring 21 on the made stage.
More importantly, the 24-year-old also collected six influential assists while adding to his side’s defensive pressure around Divac.
Chomičius was a veteran of the line-up by this stage, however even he would step up from his semi-final contributions to score seven points alongside Kurtinaitis.
And then, there was Sabonis.
Though he was about a head taller than his three Lithuanian teammates (standing at 223cm) few realise he was the youngest of the four.
What the big friendly giant lacked in age he made up for in size, accuracy and, to the surprise of some, versatility; finishing with 20-points, 15-rebounds and three blocks.
Add on his five turnovers and you will understand why the USSR won the 1988 Olympic final, defeating Yugoslavia 76:63.
I’ll give you a second to work out the maths.
Yes, that’s right.
Again it was the Lithuanian contingent who would combine for 55 points.
Fittingly, the four would go onto to represent an Independent Lithuania in 1992, the first time the nation had participated in the Olympic basketball tournament.
However until then, they would celebrate the victory internally; photographed standing arm in arm to inspire a new generation on this day in sport.
Other players in the line-up included Ukrainians Aleksandr Volkov, Alexander Belostenny and the late Valery Goborov.
Estonian Tiit Sokk would later coach his newly Independent Baltic nation while Igors Miglinieks became the first Latvian to claim an Olympic medal.
Be the first to comment