Kaunas Žalgiris is not only the local basketball team, it is a focal point of Lithuanian national pride. Kaunas Žalgiris was established in 1944 in Soviet Lithuania and became a dominant team in the Soviet basketball league in the 1980s. The team won the Soviet league championship in 1985. Lithuanians still tell me about cheering for Žalgiris against the Soviet army basketball team. Arvydas Sabonis, who played for the Portland Blazers, first played for Kaunas Žalgiris. When I tell someone in Kaunas that I am from Seattle and they don’t know where Seattle is, I just say “it’s near Portland.” They all know Portland.
Last month I mentioned to a colleague at the university that I wanted to go to a Kaunas Žalgiris basketball game. He happens to have friends with season tickets who generously let us go to last night’s game against a team from Ukraine. Unfortunately Kaunas Žalgiris lost, but the score stayed close all the way to the end. In the brief video, the fans are shouting “Everyone cheer for Kaunas Žalgiris.” It was one of the loudest sports events I’ve been too. I enjoy a good basketball game and this one was a lot of fun.