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Big Z recently spoke about his time growing up in Lithuania, with the backdrop being a new documentary on his nation's Olympic basketball team.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas has spent much of his life in Northeast Ohio, but not many Cavalier fans are familiar with his story of growing up in Lithuania. Cavs fans knew his roots, but it was rarely discussed in detail. A new documentary film titled "The Other Dream Team" examines Lithuania's 1992 Olympic basketball team and what it meant to the nation, including a young Z.
It was the first time that Lithuanian players did not play under the flag of the U.S.S.R, and they went on to defeat Russia for the bronze medal. The win prompted celebrations across the country, and Ilgauskas talked about that time in his life with The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer:
"To see Sabonis in a green Lithuanian jersey instead of a red Russian jersey, to see our flag ... there was a lot of national pride," Ilgauskas said, pausing. "To have them beat the Russians for the bronze medal, everybody felt like it was a nice payback. It was a real connection, not just words.
"Maybe we couldn't compete with the Russian army or the economic system, but we could compete with them on the basketball floor."
The win was extra special because it came on the heels of the 1991 Soviet invasion. Big Z talked about that rough moment in his country's history, and how terrified he was growing up as a teenager with Soviet military all around him.
It's great work by Boyer, sitting down with him and getting a fascinating look at some of the conditions in his life as a young kid. The film which prompted the piece will play at everyone's favorite indie theater, Cedar-Lee in Cleveland Heights. The trailer portrays a really cool story and it definitely looks like a doc worth seeing. I always forget that the Grateful Dead sponsored the Lithuanian team.