Title: The Other Dream Team
Director: Marius A. Markevicius
In 1992, the US Men’s Olympic Basketball team was dubbed the Dream Team because of the high caliber of its Hall-of-Fame roster including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Charles Barkley. There was no team in history greater than this team. Americans got the impression that we would never see a team like this in our, or the next, generation. And for what it’s worth, they were right but there was a team with almost equal credentials to be called the Other Dream Team, which was made of the best European basketball players at the time, the Lithuanian Men’s Olympic Basketball team.
In the documentary, “The Other Dream Team,” it explores what it took to bring this team together both in a scouting and political sense and how this team changed the face of basketball for all time. If the Dream Team changed International basketball by popularizing the sport, then the Other Dream Team changed the face of the National Basketball Association by making it possible for International players to thrive in a mostly closed off and jingoistic organization.
But let’s set the stage, Lithuania in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union is branching out of Russia into its smaller surrounding counties and spreading Communism throughout Europe. Lithuania was in their cross hairs and imposed their way of life. This meant the budding basketball program coming out of Lithuania was now absorbed into the Soviet Union. Lithuanian basketball players had to change sides and play for Mother Russia. As unfair as it sounds, this was the reality of Eastern European countries that were poor and had no political or military defense against the Soviets.
Making it impossible for Lithuanian basketball players including Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis to dream about taking basketball to the next level by going professional. In “The Other Dream Team,” it examines how living in Lithuania at the time was a struggle. The government gave everything to its people, but only enough to survive and get by. There was no way these players could flourish to their full potential. But in the early 90s, everything changed. After years under the Soviet Union, Communism in Eastern Europe fell making it possible to pick up where Lithuania basketball left off before the takeover, dominating European basketball.
After the 1992 Olympic Games, Lithuanian basketball players like Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis could go pro; the Portland Trailblazers drafted Sabonis and the Golden State Warriors signed Marciulionis. At the Games, the Lithuanian Men’s Basketball team faced off against the American Dream Team and with obvious results, the Americans dominated the game, but the Lithuanians gave them a run for their money and earned the respect of the players and the NBA, ultimately winning the Bronze Medal. This paved the way for what we now see in the NBA, a truly international sport.
“The Other Dream Team” is wonderful! It’s a film for anyone who loves the game of basketball or who would want to watch a compelling documentary about the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. It goes to show, no matter what our differences are, we can all relate to each other on the basketball court. And hopefully we can bring the lessons learned on the court into our lives.