Saulius Samulevicius is the Secretary General of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LBF).
I would like to introduce the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LBF) to you. Firstly, you need to know that unlike in other countries, basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania, and is something of a religion for the majority of people.
The popularity of basketball can be traced back to 1937 when the Lithuanian national men's team became the European champion. This was followed by a silver medal finish by the women's team in 1938. Ever since those early days, the basketball players of our small country (3.5 million citizens) have been successfully playing in international matches.
After the reestablishment of independence in 1990, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation faced a dilemma of how and in what ways they could help develop basketball and ensure for the future successes of the team.
Since the very first years of independence, it was decided to follow a pro-American basketball development model, i.e. establish many independent basketball organizations. While being members of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, they would be responsible for certain tournaments and competitions without much interference from the LBF.
We currently have the following independent basketball organizations in Lithuania:
- Lithuanian Basketball League -conducts the men's championship of the 1st division (9 teams);
- Lithuanian Women's Basketball League-conducts the women's championship of the 1st division (6 teams).
- Lithuanian Basketball "A" League-conducts the men's championship of the 2nd division (14 teams) and men's championship of the 3rd division (16 teams).
- Lithuanian Women's Basketball "A" League-holds the women's championship of the 2nd division (20 teams).
- Lithuanian Students' Basketball League - conducts the women's and men’s student basketball championships (17 men's teams and 8 women's teams).
- Lithuanian Association of Basketball Coaches – oversees 377 Lithuanian basketball coaches.
- Lithuanian Association of Basketball Referees – joins together 261 Lithuanian basketball referees.
- Lithuania Men's Basketball Team Foundation-responsible for preparation and participation of Lithuanian men's team in the Olympic Games, and the European and World Championships.
- Lithuania Women-s Basketball Team Foundation-Responsible for preparation and participation of Lithuanian women's team in the Olympic Games, and the European and World Championships.
Each of these organizations is independent, financed by sponsors, and receives only small financial support from the Lithuanian Basketball Federation. Heads of all these organizations are members of the Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation.
Meeting five to six times a year, the Executive Committee of the LBF solves basketball development problems, and defines the further strategy of basketball development promotion. We believe that the chosen way of basketball development – exceptional decentralization – has justified itself due to the following reasons:
a. We have managed to avoid all situations of strong disagreement between the Lithuanian Federation of Basketball and Lithuanian Basketball Leagues in the period of 15 years of independence;
b. Lithuanian basketball players have achieved relevant and memorable victories on the international scene:
- Lithuanian Men's team-Olympic Games bronze medal in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney; fourth place finish in the Olympic Games held in Athens; European champion in 2003;
- Lithuanian Women's team -European champion in 1997;
- Lithuanian Young Men's team - European champion in 1996; bronze medal winners in the 2004 European championship;
- Lithuanian Junior Men's team-Silver medal winners in the 2003 World championship; 1994 European champion;
- Men's club Zalgiris Kaunas-1999 Euroleague champion; 1998 winner of the R.Saporta Cup;
- Men's club Lietuvos rytas Vilnius-winner of the 2005 ULEB Cup;
- Women's club Lietuvos Telekomas Vilnius-silver medal winners of the 2005 Women's Euroleague.
c. Approximately 200 Lithuanian male basketball players and 40 Lithuanian female basketball players women play in the NBA, WNBA, NCAA, and the best clubs of Europe;
d. Lithuanian basketball coaches successfully work in various countries, coaching national as well as club teams;
e. Lithuanian basketball referees constantly referee the most important games in the Olympics, final matches of the European championships, Euroleague, and FIBA Europe basketball tournaments.