The Other Dream Team: The 1992 Lithuanian National Team


Each Olympic Games, new heroes are born, records are shattered and legends are created. In the U.S., sports are often taken for granted. They are recreation. In different parts of the world, though, they often mean much more.

In 2012, I was able to catch a screening in New York of “The Other Dream Team,” a documentary on the 1992 Lithuanian national team. As we watch this year’s U.S. squad manhandle the rest of the world, below is an amended version of my thoughts on the documentary from 4 years ago.

As we reminisce on the 20th anniversary of the 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball Team’s dominance as the greatest team ever assembled, we recognize that the Hall of Fame-loaded squad can rightly be credited in bringing the sport and the NBA to unprecedented global popularity.

But in the grand scheme of history, 1992 had far more greater political impact than a pop culture one, following December 1991’s dissolution of the once-powerful Soviet Union.

Inevitably, the USSR crumbled under its own weight and Reagan’s Cold War arms race gamble can be said to have paid off. Western culture soon crept into it and other former communist Eastern European states.

1992 also marked the 20th anniversary of “The Other Dream Team,” arguably a more likable, more important squad – the Lithuanian national team, whose nucleus which included future NBAers Šarūnas Marčiulionis and Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, that just four years earlier reluctantly lead the Soviet team to gold over the mighty Americans.

More than talented players from a country in which the sport reigns king, their struggle for independence was documented in the new documentary, as well as how they were beacons of hope and pride for the public embroiled in a revolutionary uprising.

The film opened in NY and LA yesterday and will come out in theaters across the country over the course of the next month.

It’s fantastic and, in many ways, reminds the audience of how sports can be used to lift a nation’s spirits. The film does so with equal parts passion and humor.

No one can take away the US Dream Team’s impact on sport and culture, but their mission of bringing gold back to the States is menial compared to burdens its Lithuanian counterpart overcame to lift a newly liberated country’s people.

It’s sad when people remember Michael Jordan covering the Reebok logo, but have to be reminded of a bronze medal team taking the stand in tie dyed tees (supplied by the Grateful Dead after the band sent them along with a check just to get the team to Seoul). But then again, I guess that’s what makes the U.S. unique to many parts of the world – we are fortunate, in ways we sometimes take for granted.