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Viciebsk is the home of Belarusian basketball. Belarus’ first team (men’s) was created in this city, taking part in the first USSR basketball competition in 1923, where it took third place, behind teams from Moscow and Petrograd.

 

A year later, basketball started to develop in Minsk. In 1928, the women’s national team of Belarus won the first all-Union Spartakiad, while the men’s team came second. By the end of 1929, 2,400 people were playing basketball in Belarus.

 

After WWII, Belarusian teams were performing in Soviet championships but rarely won prizes. It was only in the late 1980s that the women’s team, Gorizont, managed to claim a medal and, in 1989, Minskerins took second place in the USSR championship. In 1991, they came third.

 

Basketball players in dresses

 

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, basketball waned in popularity in Belarus. Increased interest began in 1994, when the youth national team of Belarus became champion of Europe. Several Belarusian basketball players were invited to attend American universities and to join NCAA squads. However, none managed to enter the NBA league, and the national team did not manage to repeat its success.

 

The women’s national team (‘the most beautiful team in Belarus’) has seen some success, reaching the European Championship finals in 2006, under coach Anatoĺ Bujaĺski, for the first time. Sensationally, they came third.

 

The women’s national team also reached the Olympic Games in Beijing, and were the first representative in team sports in the history of sovereign Belarus to attend an Olympic event. They reached the quarterfinals, where they lost to the national team of China, with the squad finishing in sixth place.

 

The European Championship of 2009, in Riga, and the world championship in the Czech Republic, in 2010, saw the team take fourth place. Sadly, in 2011, in the European Championship, hosted by Poland, the national team finished a disappointing ninth. Head coach Anatoĺ Bujaĺski left the team, replaced by Lithuanian Rimantas Grigas, who took the squad to the European Championship in 2013, hosted by France.

 

The women’s national basketball team of Belarus is among the top-three most popular national teams. It was among the first national teams to war sports dresses, instead of shirts and shorts.

 

Hostage of three seconds

 

The most well-known Belarusian basketball player is Ivan Jadzieška. He has never played in the NBA; nor did he ever score fifty points during a match. However, he won eight USSR championships, the Cup of Champions and two European championships.

 

He is well-known worldwide thanks to only one pass. In the legendary match between the USSR and the USA, in the final of the Olympic Games in 1972, in Munich, just three seconds before the final whistle, Ivan Jadzieška made a magnificent pass the length of the pitch to Aliaksandr Bieloŭ, who scored, to bring the final result to 52:51, allowing the USSR to win the Olympic tournament for the first time.

 

Basketballer Aliena Lieŭčanka is famous in women’s basketball, having played at the Olympic Games in Beijing, and at European championships in 2007, 2009 and 2011, as part of the national team of Belarus.

 

Aliena has played on the championship teams of Poland, Russia and Lithuania, and has taken part in the finals of the women’s NBA. She has been named the most useful player in the Baltic League in 2000, and, in 2002 and 2003, was among the top ten players within USA colleges, as well as being named ‘best front-court player’ in the 2010 World Championship.

Belarusian national basketball team. Photo by: bbf.by

 

Tsmoki attack!

 

Belarusian basketball has come a long way since the 1990s, proving more popular today. Our best players not only perform for top clubs abroad but protect the colours of Belarusian clubs, lifting the level of the national championship. BC Tsmoki-Minsk has taken Belarus into the VTB United League, uniting the strongest basketball clubs in Eastern Europe.

The successful performance of our women’s national team has drawn fans’ attention, stimulating the popularity of basketball. Student basketball teams are now common, with every higher institution having their own squad.