(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
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
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
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
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.