There have been countless instances over time where sport becomes the salve that heals the open sores of society… Jews and Palestinians joining together for soccer, warring countries meeting in cricket, and finding common ground on a baseball diamond. However somehow basketball seems to have as big, if not the biggest impact on healing political differences and overcoming boundaries than any other sport.
We have seen it recently in Africa with the proliferation of international basketball programs aimed to bring unity across countries and cultures. The NBA opened its first office in Africa in 2010, appointing Amadou Gallo Fall as NBA Vice President for Development, Africa. NBA games, featuring ten players from Africa, were broadcast to fans in 55 African countries and territories in five languages for the 2010-11 season. Through NBA Cares, the NBA has expanded basketball's reach while simultaneously creating 30 places to live, learn or play in Africa, including technology centers, libraries, youth hostels, dining facilities, health clinics, homes and basketball courts.
However before the recent stories, there was Lithuania. The 1988 Olympics saw the USSR take the gold medal from the United States, with a team dominated not of Russians but of Lithuanians. Four years later, after great turmoil that spurred a break for democracy for the country, the players banded together and faced the "US Dream Team" for basketball supremacy in Barcelona.
That story, of the players the coaches, the Americans, even the Grateful Dead, is told in the new documentary being shown across the country, "The Other Dream Team." The stars of that team, spurred on by the crisis in the country and led by future NBA stars like Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunis Marciulionis gave the American's best a scare, but most importantly, helped unite a country torn by war and sudden poverty.
"I think fate and timing had a lot to do with how this whole story played out. A lot of people think the end Communism/fall of Soviet Union happened when the Berlin Wall came down in; 89, but that is a misconception. Lithuania and the other eastern European were still subjugated and had to fight another 2 years to get their own freedom," said director Marius Markevicius. "Lithuania was the first republic of the Soviet Union to unilaterally declare its independence and thumb its nose at Moscow. Moscow pushed back, but in the end Lithuania prevailed, got its independence and then had to scramble to start not just a new Olympic Committee and sports program, but start up a whole new country and era of independence. and that's when Marciulionis and Sabonis starting putting the '92 team together."
That team stunned the basketball world with its precision, but also with its carefree approach to the game. It showed the world that basketball could unify, and more importantly, that players outside of America could be global stars. The film helps bring the story back to life, through the eyes not just of the Lithuanians but through the American legends like Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, who took them on and became as motivated to help as anyone across the globe. It was inspiration by dedication on the basketball court. Inspiration which goes on today as the world tries to come to grips with political unrest every day. The inspiration of the film, it is hoped, will give the viewer a look into how sport, especially basketball, can help unite people, and maybe just maybe change the world.
"There are a lot of tough things going on around the world, civil unrest, wars, terrorism, economic downturns, etc. I really hope people can watch my film and have an uplifting and positive experience. I hope people in places like Libya or Egypt can watch my film and see that their struggle for freedom is worth it, it's not easy but it's worth it, " Markevicius added. "Lithuania went through the same difficult times and 20 years later they've come so far. Hopefully that can be an inspiration and I expect we'll see/hear stories in the upcoming years about athletes from places like Libya and Egypt that inspired their people to keep moving forward."
All with the spinning of a ball as motivation. For all the details on the film, including where it is being shown, visit http://otherdreamteam.