LKF/Ž.Vingelis ©
The Lithuania men’s national basketball team represents Lithuania in international basketball competitions.
They are controlled by the Lithuanian Basketball Federation

What is the most popular sport in each country? For most of the world, it is football which is the most played sport in more than 150 nations. It is the case for the overwhelming majority of Europe except for 5 countries. Ireland plays their national Gaelic football and the Northern countries of Finland, Estonia and Latvia historically play ice hockey due to the colder climate. However, Lithuania’s most popular sport comes from the United States and has been the most appreciated for decades.
Basketball was brought in as a variation of netball around the 1920s and was mostly considered a women’s sport and was less popular than football in the country. In 1935, Lithuania invited international ethnic Lithuanians for a congress in Kaunas and among them were American basketball athletes. They quickly made an impact in the men’s national team as the country won the 2 pre-second World War European Basketball Championships in 1937 and 1939. These successes led to a rise in popularity of the sport.
After the war, the Lithuanian basketball culture lived on in the USSR through its star athletes playing for the Soviet Union. Basketball was seen by a lot of Lithuanians and other nations within the Union as one of the only ways to prove themselves against the country they felt oppressed by. And they proved it as the very successful USSR national teams between 1950 and 1990 often had major players born in Lithuanian territory. The Soviet Union went on to win 2 Olympic gold medals, 3 World Cups and 14 European Basketball Championships during this period.

After the independence of the country in 1990, the national team has been able to do well with 3 Olympic bronze medals and many medals in EuroBasket with a victory in 2003. Several players in the 21st century have played for an NBA team at the highest level of competition in the world. As a small nation of less than 3 million inhabitants, Lithuania has had more success than several of the big nations in Europe such as France, Russia and Italy and is currently the 8th best nation in the FIBA world ranking.
Lithuanian basketball highs come indirectly from the will of the government to connect with their international ethnic communities. The European success of the national team created excitement for basketball which kept growing as more success came. In the end, these achievements are very impressive for such a small nation in a very competitive sport played on all continents.