When you think of the Grateful Dead, no one would blame you if you thought first of music, then maybe hippies, sex - well, just to save time, sex, drugs and rock and roll.
They were the premier counterculture band.
Starting as the Warlocks, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Micky Hart, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and the rest morphed into the Dead. Toss in excessive psychedelics, a tight bond with fans - “Deadheads” - and amazing iconography which kind of blended psychedelics, a ‘60s sensibility and, of course, lots of skeletons and the Dead were highly distinct.
They weren’t overly interested in making money and in fact gave lot of it away through their charitable foundation, Rex.
They literally gave it away. There were no applications. They just found something they liked and gave it money.
Enter Šarūnas Marčiulionis.
A lot of Americans grew up with the Soviet Union and didn’t realize that guys like Marčiulionis and the legendary USSR center Arvydas Sabonis weren’t actually Russians. The Soviet Republics included many nations, like Georgia, Ukraine and Lithuania. And pound for pound, Lithuania is perhaps the greatest basketball nation in the world.
And in 1992, not too long after the USSR collapsed, the Lithuanians wanted their own Olympic team.
There was just one problem: money.
Marčiulionis was playing for Golden State at the time and the Dead became aware of Lithuania’s Olympic dreams and decided to help.
They gave them money and warm up uniforms and the unis became a phenomenon: even the president put one of the T-shirts on after they beat the Russians.
Lithuania won bronze, which was amazing, given their general lack of resources. But they were free, if still poor, and that’s what mattered to them most, and seeing them in the tie-dye Dead outfits was one of the great moments in sports history.
It’ll never happen again, but what a sweet, wonderful sight it was.
- Lithuania Basketball in Grateful Dead clothes at 1992 Olympics
- Lithuanians Are Grateful to `Dead’ / Rock group came to rescue