When the Soviet Union won the gold medal in men's basketball at the 1988 Olympics, four of the five starters hailed from the same city. That city was not in Russia, but Lithuania, a country that had been under Soviet control since World War II. Lithuania had been a basketball hotbed long before the Soviets arrived in 1940, and their continued prowess became a form of resistance, a way to "bite the Red Bear in the ass." (When a former exile recalls how "basketball gave us dignity" while in Siberia, the meaning and importance that sports can assume becomes clear.) By the time of the '92 Olympics, Lithuania was a newly independent and deeply impoverished nation in desperate need of uplift. The Other Dream Team traces the history of those four Soviet starters-turned-Lithuanian stars, setting their stories against a very pertinent political backdrop. If the material gets stretched a little thin and the political machinations leading up to independence remain a little unclear, the overall effect is still bracing and welcome. (2012) — Matthew Lickona
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