Hall Pass – Sarunas Marciulionis
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which will be immortalized in Springfield, Mass. on Friday, features four players with ties to the Warriors—Alvin Attles, Sarunas Marciulionis, Mitch Richmond and Guy Rodgers. We’ll take a look at a few notes and numbers that helped lead to their induction to the Hall, courtesy of @GSWStats.
Next up is Sarunas Marciulionis, a Direct Elect to this year’s Hall of Fame class who helped pave the way for the internationalization of the NBA in the early 1990s.
When Marciulionis joined the NBA in 1989, he did so as the first Soviet—along with Ukrainian Alexander Volkov that same year—ever to play in the league, and the first Lithuanian. Since Marciulionis paved the way, a total of nine other Lithuanians have played in the NBA, including the likes of Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. On opening day rosters for the 2013-14 season, a record 92 international players from 39 countries occupied roster spots, accounting for roughly 20 percent of the league. That list included a pair of active Lithuanians: Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and Houston’s Donatas Motiejunas. But Marciulionis, a four-time Lithuanian Sportsman of the Year (1987, 1989, 1990, 1991), didn’t just lead the way as a player; he also founded the Lithuanian Basketball League in 1993 and served as the league’s president for 10 years.
LITHUANIAN-BORN PLAYERS, PPG IN NBA
NEW PLACE, FAST PACE
Relocating to a foreign country is enough to make anyone’s head spin, but if it seemed to Marciulionis that things were moving a little faster for him, it’s because they were. Marciulionis’ initiation to the NBA came as a key reserve on the celebrated Run TMC teams of 1989-90 and 1990-91. In those first two years, he contributed 11.6 points per game to an offense that averaged over 116 per contest in each of those two seasons, ranking as the first (1989-90) and second (1990-91) highest scoring offense in the NBA.
RUN TIM, MARCIULIONIS, CHRIS
When Mitch Richmond was dealt to Sacramento prior to the 1991-92 campaign, Marciulionis effectively became the new ‘M’ in TMC, posting a career-best 18.9 points per contest on 53.8 percent shooting for a team that led the league with a staggering 118.7 points per game. The Warriors tallied 55 wins in 1991-92, the second highest single-season win total in team history, but were unable to advance past the first round of the playoffs, despite Marciulionis’ best efforts. The Lithuanian averaged 21.3 points and 5.0 assists in the 1992 Playoffs, becoming the only Warrior ever to average 20 points and five assists as a reserve in the postseason.
Through four years with Golden State, Marciulionis tallied 14.7 points in 24.8 minutes as part of an offense that ranked in the top 3 in scoring in each of his four seasons. His career shooting percentage in a Warriors uniform, 52.8 percent, is seventh best in franchise annals. “Rooney” went on to play three more seasons in the NBA, one each with the Seattle SuperSonics, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE LEADERS (ALL-TIME)
Prior to joining the NBA in 1989, Marciulionis was a star in Europe, selected in 1991 as a member of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players. Representing the Soviet Union in the 1988 Olympics, he led the gold medal winners with 18.1 points per game, including 19 points in a semifinal upset of the United States. The following Olympics, Marciulionis played for a Lithuanian nation that had won its independence just two years prior, averaging 23.4 points, 8.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 steals in the 1992 Games. In an emotional third-place game against the Russian National Team, from whom Lithuania had just split, he scored a game-high 29 points in an 82-78 win to capture the bronze medal. He capped his Olympic resume by helping Lithuania win bronze once more in 1996, his third Olympic medal.