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You Tube Gold: Šarūnas Marčiulionis

One of the first and still one of the best European players to move to the NBA.

Sarunas Marciulionis Portrait
 1996: Sarunas Marciulionis #13 of the Sacramento Kings poses in the Grateful Dead sinspired togs that Lithuania wore in in the 1992 Olympics.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It seems hard to believe now but there was a time when the American view of European players, with the exception perhaps of Arvydas Sabonis, was that they were mostly interested in three point shooting and not at all able to stand up to the rigors of the NBA.

One guy who really changed that: Šarūnas Marčiulionis.

A 6-5 guard from Lithuania, Marčiulionis was powerful and brilliant in the open court. Like Sabonis, he was forced to play for the Soviets early in his career. One of the real highlights of basketball history was when the Grateful Dead helped sponsor the newly formed Lithuanian basketball team, which played in tie-dye T-shirts. Every sportswriter in the Western world strained to work “what a long, strange trip it’s been” into their stories.

Marčiulionis made it to the NBA in 1989 and had an eight-year run, retiring in 1997. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Keep in mind that due to USSR restrictions, he started playing professionally in 1981 but was not allowed to move to the NBA until 1989 he was 25 and the Soviet Union was on its deathbed.