The Lithuanians Are Coming! The Lithuanians Are Coming!

26 Sept. 2013: a different version of this piece (and its sequel) runs today at, a fine English-language site for all things to do with Chinese basketball. The name roughly means “hoops is cool”. Check it out.

Ignas Vycas isn’t somebody you should know, particularly. He’s a son of Lithuania, that tiny Baltic state, a former ward of the Soviet Union that is geo-politically insignificant but fascinating in one respect. Though a struggling nation of fewer than three million, sending migrant labourers all over Europe,

A hoops hotbed. I’d like to know why; many blame Sabonis.

it has one resource that is a prized export: astounding levels and amounts of basketball talent. Ignas isn’t a pro-level talent, but he is young and Lithuanian and left-handed and a major upgrade in my middle-aged hoops adventures. He’s too young for the job, but he’s my new best friend and temptor.

Even if you don’t follow basketball much, you may remember the Lithuania national side playing in the 1992 Olympics. Four of their stars, including the magnificent Arvydas Sabonis, had played for the Soviet Union when they won gold in ’88 in Seoul, the last straw for the American habit of winning with a college all-star team. The U.S.A. “Dream Team” of NBA pros dominated in ’92 in Barcelona, winning their preliminary games by an average of over 40 points. The Dreamers were a huge story (and marketing campaign), but even occasional basketball fans fell in love with Lithuania that summer.

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