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Lithuanian NBA Players

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(If you’re looking for NBA players in Lithuania during the 2011 lockout, check out this post.)

In this post, I will keep track of Lithuanian players in the NBA.

Why do I care about Lithuanian NBA players? Well, I’m Lithuanian. Like many Lithuanians, I have a long, complicated, hard-to-pronounce last name.

My dad was born in the town of Marijampole Lithuania, although he and his family left the country when he was very young. They lived in Germany for a little while and then moved on to England, then Canada, and then, like many other Lithuanian families, they settled in the Chicago area. I’ve always felt a strong connection to my Lithuanian heritage, probably because of my last name and because of the fact that my dad was born there.

I’ve also been a basketball fan longer than I’ve been a fan of anything. I fell in love with basketball when I was maybe 11 or 12. Why I fell in love with basketball is a mystery — I had no connection to it and nobody in my family was a fan. I loved the DePaul Blue Demons (my first-ever team swag was a Blue Demons hoodie) and — I don’t get this at all — the Boston Celtics (I remember wearing a green polo and a white cardigan to a family gathering — terrible I know but, to be fair, it was the 80s). Of course, we know now that basketball was a gateway drug and lead to a ridiculous obsession with football, then baseball, and even an emerging love of hockey.

So anyway, maybe it makes sense that my ancestry and my early love of basketball make me inclined to appreciate Lithuanian basketball players. Of course, my favorite is Linas Kleiza of the Denver Nuggets, so I write the most about him. I’ll try to at least keep track of some of the other guys, too.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, from Kaunas
#11–Center–Cleveland Cavaliers
7’3″/ 260
Drafted in 1996, Ilgauskas currently averages 13.9 points; 9.7 rebounds; 1.6 blocks; and 1.6 assists.

Linas Kleiza, from Kaunas
#43–Small Forward–Denver Nuggets
6’8″/ 245
In 2005, after completing his sophomore year at the University of Missouri, Kleiza was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and immediately traded to Denver. He currently averages 12.3 points; 4.5 rebounds; and 1.3 assists. See my Linas Kleiza category for more information.

Darius Songaila, from Marijampole (How cool is that?!)
#9–Power Forward–Washington Wizards
6’9″/ 248
Drafted in 2002 by the Boston Celtics, Songaila also has played for Sacramento and Chicago. He currently averages 4.8 points; 2.9 rebounds; and 1.3 assists.

I might as well include Latvian players (or, um, player), too.

Andris Biedrins, from Riga
#15–Center–Golden State Warriors
6’11″/ 245
Biedrins was drafted in 2004 by Golden State. He currently averages 10.4 points; 9.9 rebounds; 1.2 blocks; and 1.1 assists. He’s the second Latvian player in NBA history.

Update: My 2011 “Lithuanian and Latvian NBA Players” post is here.

Written by Tracy

February 8th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

18 Responses to 'Lithuanian NBA Players'

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  1. Nice piece. Biedrins is greatly underused and we Warriors fans LOVE him here. We know he (along with Ellis) are the future. His TS% is wonderful (currently at 61.4 I think?). He will have a brilliant career. I am also a big Kleiza fan. His play off the bench will be key in getting the Nuggets a spot in the playoffs and taking them past the first round.

    Sara A.

    1 Mar 08 at 2:02 am

  2. What a great website! You are doing exactly what I got on the computer this morning to do myself. By my last name, it’s obvious I’m Lithuanian also (born in Kaunas) and always get a kick out of hearing about my “compatriots” in the NBA. Thanks.

    Frank Juodvalkis

    1 Mar 08 at 9:48 am

  3. I am going back to Kaunas for another mission trip with our church and we are trying to contact some of the Lithuanian NBA players to see if they would do an appearance at a fund raiser.

    Do you have any suggestions for contacting any of the players? (particularly those from Kaunas)

    Do you have any of the Lithuanian basketball fan stuff, like from BC Zalgaris or Orange Virus? Or do you follow Lithuanian basketball to see where the next NBA stars may come from?

    wayne remington

    16 Feb 09 at 8:27 pm

  4. Last year I visted a restaurant in Palanga, where I found out the owner had played in the NBA league. Could you give me his name? This to complete my story on visiting Lithuania and Palanga. It is always nice to include the right names in the right spots.

    Cees van der Mast

    22 Mar 09 at 10:51 am

  5. I do not think many people in the United States really get it when it comes to Lithuanian players. The entire country’s population is is about 1% of the US population. I would say they put our some great players based on those numbers. I wish there was a way to contact Ilgauskas to let him know how much I truly enjoy watching his play. If you look back at the playoffs last year and many other games they lost, Cleveland did not play him in the 4th quarter of those games. I hope they do not make that same error this year.


    4 May 09 at 9:19 pm

  6. Hi everyone, I used to be a big fan of basketball dew years a go, but unfortunately I dropped it, and now I’m trying to catch up with the latest events ^^. I’m from Lithuania myself and it’s very nice to know that players from my country are so respected in the NBA ;]

    To Cees van der Mast:
    It was probably owned by Arvydas Sabonis, huge player, he played in Blazers if I remember right.

    Žilvinas Micka

    9 Jun 09 at 3:40 am

  7. Biedrins is actually Latvian. And you can actually throw in Brent Barry who is half lithuanian.


    1 Sep 09 at 12:52 pm

  8. oh my god, i had no idea lithuania had a basketball team. that is so sweet. i’m half lithuanian and it’s really kind of sad because all i know is that, during reunions, half of my family dances the polka and eats cake that looks like a stalactite. go team!


    2 Oct 09 at 8:10 am

  9. Ginny: Your fucking retarded ! Earth will sooner crash into the sun before Lithuainia doesnt have a basketball team !

    Anyways, Nice website. Helped me and my sister out. (:

    Zavinta Dirzinskaite

    29 Jan 10 at 9:59 pm

  10. It took a little while for the post to load but i’m glad i gutted it out.

    Gary Arctic

    25 Feb 10 at 12:12 am

  11. Greetings fellow Lithuanians. The name on my post is my paternal grandfather’s. He emigrated to the US right after the Great Depression ended and was a coal miner in Wilkes-Barre, PA (along with my maternal grandfather, Tomas, who was half Irish). Tht makes me only 3/4ths Lithuanian but, whatever.

    Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII – Tomas with distinction in the Pacific and Antanas as an infantryman in Europe somewhere. Unfortunately I don’t know more because black lung killed them both in their late 50′s and i know them only through stories and pictures.

    I grew up a sickly kid but when I hit 17, boom, my Lithuanian genes kicked in and I grew to a broad shouldered 6’3″ 245 (but with blue eyes from the Irish blood… God does have a sense of humor).

    My Dad is 6’5″ and my little brother is 6’7″ making me the runt. Does anyone else here have exclusively big men in their families or strong men? I believe it was the hard work and genetics of our ancestors that did it, but I am curious.

    Finally, does anyone know if any Lithuanian NBA player has ever won an NBA Championship ring? Thanks and wow what a great site. I’ll be back.

    Antanas Zupkas

    26 Feb 10 at 1:37 pm

  12. Think before you ink! ~Author Unknown

  13. his name is Arvydas Sabonis


    18 Apr 10 at 9:42 pm

  14. im an australian lithuanian

    and yes big men certainly do run in lithuanian genetics my father is 6 foot 6 my uncle is 7 foot 1 and i only being a half cast am a short ass standing 6 foot 2


    26 May 10 at 7:37 am

  15. Great info. Just what I was looking for. Don’t let the surname fool you, I’m a half-blood from my mother’s side. GF was Alukonis until he changed it to Allen, tough getting work back then with a hard-to-pronounce surname and my GM was Vaitkevicius until her father changed it to White for similar reasons. I am the freak of nature in my family, topping off at 6’7″, all the other Lith-blooded males stop at 6’1″.

    Andrew Carter

    10 Jul 10 at 2:46 pm

  16. Yes, tall genes .. I am 6’7″, dad was 6’5″ and mom 5’11″. My sis was the runt at 5’8″. Lots of great b Ballers from such a small country…..


    16 Apr 11 at 3:19 pm

  17. [...] The original “Lithuanian NBA Players” post is here. [...]

  18. Why would you include Andris Biedrins in a piece entitled “Lithuanian NBA Players”?? Biedrins is Latvian!


    13 Jun 11 at 2:03 pm

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