Raimondas Šarūnas Marčiulionis (born June 13, 1964) is a Lithuanian retired professional basketball player. Born in Kaunas, he was one of the first Europeans to become a regular in the North American National Basketball Association (NBA). In the 1988 Seoul Olympics Basketball Tournament, together with teammate Arvydas Sabonis, he led the USSR national team to a gold medal in basketball. On August 8, 2014, Marčiulionis was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015.
During a 1985 game against Athletes in Action in Vilnius, Marčiulionis struck a friendship with one of the players, Donnie Nelson, despite the language barrier. Nelson’s father Don Nelson was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, and what he said about Marčiulionis skills led the Warriors to draft him in the 6th round of the 1987 NBA draft. Stan Kasten, president and general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, managed to void the pick by showing Marčiulionis was 23, one year older than the age the draft rules limited for European players. The Hawks then pursued to draft Marčiulionis using then-owner Ted Turner’s connections with the Soviet Union, inviting him and other Soviet players to their training camp, and arranging for Hawks-USSR matches in Moscow in 1988. While Marčiulionis signed a contract with Atlanta the day after he won the gold in Seoul, the team wound up not submitting it to the National Basketball Association’s offices as the Soviets said they would not permit the player to leave.
Eventually Nelson’s influence, as he helped Marčiulionis with his social projects in Vilnius, led him to remain with the Warriors, with whom he signed a three-year $3.8 million contract in 1989. Marčiulionis became the first Soviet player to join the North American league, and played four years with the Warriors, finishing as the runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year Award in both 1992 and 1993. Marčiulionis became one of the first Europeans to get significant playing time in the NBA, helping to lead the way for the internationalization of the league in the late 1990s. After missing a year and a half with a leg injury, he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1994, then traded to the Sacramento Kings in 1995, and he finished his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets in the 1996–97 season.
Career highlights and awards
4× Lithuanian Sportsman of the Year (1987, 1989–1991)
Mr. Europa (1988)
FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1991)
EuroBasket MVP (1995)
Career NBA statistics
Points 4,631 (12.8 ppg)
Rebounds 819 (2.3 rpg)
Assists 807 (2.2 apg)
Summer Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1988 Seoul National Team
Silver medal – second place 1987 Greece National Team
Bronze medal – third place 1989 Yugoslavia National Team
Summer Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1992 Barcelona National Team
Bronze medal – third place 1996 Atlanta National Team
Silver medal – second place 1995 Greece National Team