Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Byrd at the Olympics, crushing dudes and destroying national pride with every dunk and steal and pass. That’s cool and all, and it changed the way America viewed the Olympic games, but let’s face it, it lacked real drama. Was anyone really going to beat them? Of course not. But what about the Lithuanian National Team in the same year, at the same Olympics, featuring a roster that included players who could, finally, play for their country after decades of conscription into the Russian national team? And to eventually have to go up against the Russians, the overlords of their recently freed nation for half a century? Now THAT is some drama there, folks. Check out a trailer and poster for the documentary “The Other Dream Team”. It’s a documentary, so you know how it’s going to end, but it’s still pretty damn cool.
After leading the USSR to a gold medal (and victory over the U.S.A.) at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis were poster boys for their oppressor’s sports machine. Four year later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, they emerged as symbols of democracy, helping their country break free from the shackles of Communism, and willing newly independent Lithuania to the medal stand at the Barcelona Olympics.
“The Other Dream Team” documents the Lithuanians’ experiences behind the Iron Curtain for 50 years, where elite athletes were subjected to brutalities of Communist rule. As they hid from KGB agents and feared for their lives, Lithuania’s basketball stars always shared a common goal – to utilize their athletic gifts to help free their country.
The ’92 Lithuanian team won fans around the world for its hard-nosed play, its underdog story and its unusual connection with the Grateful Dead. Inspired by the Lithuanian’s message of freedom, the Dead provided financial assistance to the team and helped create their distinctive, tie-dye warm ups.
In Barcelona, Lithuania advanced to the medal round, where the team faced Russia – Lithuania’s oppressor since 1940 – for the bronze. Lithuania emerged victorious, and then rose to the medal stand wearing their colorful gear emblazoned with the Dead’s signature skeleton logo. By beating Russia, David had beaten Goliath – and the Lithuanian team had raised the game of basketball into a memorable expression of political and cultural identity.
With a mix of verite scenes, incisive interviews and extraordinary archival footage and photos culled from former Soviet archives, audiences will see how a special group of athletes journeyed through the bleak era of Communism to the rebirth of a nation and their own freedom. “The Other Dream Team” is a story that will resonate for any viewer with an interest in world history, politics, pop culture, basketball or the triumph of the human spirit. It is global basketball’s ultimate ‘long, strange trip’ — with a very happy ending.
The doc stars Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas Sabonis, David Remnick, Jim Lampley, Bill Walton and Mickey Hart, names you might have heard of if you follow basketball at all.
“The Other Dream Team” plays ball in theaters September 28, 2012. If you have NBA TV, this mind end up there pretty soon.