Documentary “From Ghetto to Olympics” 2019 (RUS, ENG subtitles)

Documentary “From Ghetto to Olympics”  2019 (RUS, ENG subtitles)

When I was a kid going to school I never though of myself as a creative person. Because I was the one to always get in trouble and not be too serious. Nowadays I keep having these new ideas popping into my head. All of these ideas carry a positive message. (Unreleased video material dating back to 2013) My latest idea is a new concept for the youth division at the Ghetto Basket tournaments. The old dogs will have to take care of the young guns. The so-called vets will not only teach the young guys how to play ball, but to treat each other with proper respect, in order to raise a new generation of good men. This is one of my main goals with the Ghetto Games project. To help raise strong personalities and people that believe in themselves. They would be ready to keep going no matter the circumstances. All for the sake of what they believe in. Miezis is „the bro”.Miezis is „the bro”. Media calls us „Batman and Robin”. My name is Nauris Miezis. I truly believe in what I can accomplish. I believe more in what we can get done as a team. My name is Edgars Krūmiņš I couldn’t have imagined that the Ghetto Games courts will take me to the biggest 3×3 basketball arenas in the world. There’s no question about Krūmiņš. He’s like a sniper. He shoots the ball with precision like a
military sniper rifle. My name is Agnis Čavars. Me and the rest of the Ghetto Basket Riga team will soon have to face the most serious brawl of our lives. Čavars is the daddy! He can guarantee a good whopping if needed. My name is Kārlis Lasmanis. There’s only one goal – Tokyo 2020 Olympics! We’ll step on the court representing Latvia. Lasmanis is a scoring machine. Noone yet has a medal like that! 3×3 basketball hasn’t been played before in the
Olympics. Each team will be ready to die on the court just to have that gold medal. From the Ghetto to the Olympics 3×3 basketball was born in the United States. The land of the American Dream. Back in the 1980’s street basketball tournaments got more and more popular. The fever for this game started to catch up with the rest of the world. Over here in the Baltics streetball was first recognized back in 1993. Back then the youngest of our heroes Karlis Lasmanis was only 1 year old. Edgars Krūmiņš was a 2nd grader in school. Time flies so fast that my head starts to spin. Anete Jēkabsone – Žogota
(captain of the national womens team of Latvia) I admire the youngsters taking part in 3×3 tournaments. It’s definitely not an easy game to play. I think it’s harder than to play ball on the big court. 3×3 basketball is significant with the shot clock being set to 12 seconds. The game is played on half the size of an average basketball court. More the size of a volleyball court. A size 6 ball is used for the game. Although it features the weight of a size 7 ball. The ball is always in movement. The ony thing that pauses the game is either a penalty or if the ball goes out of bounds. Other than that if someone scores the other team can immediately get back in offense. The game goes on for a set period of time or a set score. Either someone scores 21 points or 10 minutes pass. You are allowed to play more agressively than in the average basketball game. Other than that it’s all the same. It’s a very dynamic, aggressive and explosive way to play basketball. 3×3 basketball had it’s official international debut back in 2010 in Singapore, as part of the Youth Olympic Games program The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be the first time for 3×3 basketball to hit the actual Olympic stage. 2010 marks the establishment of the independent FIBA 3×3 basketball tournaments. Ghetto Basket started a year earlier in 2009. At the beginning of the first Ghetto Basket summer there were 12 to 15 teams playing. There were more than 50 by the end of that same summer. Growth was undeniable. Corporate Adidas Streetball events couldn’t gather so many teams once or twice a month on a Saturday. It’s the weekend and most people are free of work. Ghetto Basket gathered more people on a week day after work. Edgars Krūmiņš – the scoring machine from the town of Jelgava. The most experienced player on the court. -Why do you take part at the Ghetto Bastker tournaments
-It’s leisure for us and there’s great emotions at the events. How Important is basketball in your life?
-It’s crucial. It’s our lifestyle. Some of us earn money with it, some of us do it simply for fun. When I was a kid my dad used to rent a basketball hall and play there as part of his leisure time. I joined him when I was about 5 years old. I liked it. My dad got to know of a place where I could train in my hometown. We gave it a shot just to see how I’ll like it. I started serious training by the time I was 6 years old. I still train and play to this very day. Each of my students dreams to become an Olympic athlete or an NBA player. Andris Eglītis (childhood couch of Nauris Miezis, Agnis Čavars and Jānis Āre) These guys were all about basketball ever since they were small kids. They organized their classmates and other friends to come out and play ball. They were very active and already leaders among their peers at a very young age. I got into basketball through my dad. He used to be a pro. I used to join him on his training trips in Liepaja. I spent a lot of time in Liepaja with him. That’s how it all started for me. My dad had a lot of basketball players as close friends back then. Everything around me was about basketball. No wonder I ended up with a ball in my hands. I truly enjoyed the game myself. Nobody forced me to it. That’s how I started. I started training because of friends. I had loads of fun while playing basketball. My coach might be the first to actually take note of the potential I had. He instantly put me in a group with older kids. Nauris Miezis took part at the U18 European Championships and this poster serves as good memories about that. It’s a great honor to be a part of the national team. U18 is the group that all the agents and scouts are looking at the most. It’s a chance to make it as a pro. I was truly happy to be a part of the national team. I was happy to even be on the list of potential players for that team. I battled my way through to become one of the core 12 players of the national team of Latvia. I got the chance to play at the European Championship. The money kept getting more serious, but unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end. Somehow other things were important at that age. I wasn’t the most precautious young guy out there. It ended up with my club not wanting me to play for them anymore and we broke the contract. Then at one point I thought that there’s more to life than basketball and I got an actual job. I started work at the Port of Ventspils. I was mooring ships. When a club signed me I wasn’t the top player at the time. I was number 11 or 12 and was up for rotation. I had to prove I’m worthy. I did it by every minute of game time I got the chance to be a part of. I was given more and more time on the court. That’s the only way you can earn a better contract in future years and eventually play at the very top. Agnis Čavars was always a cheerful guy. He was also very determined. He used every chance he had to train. Even when he had problems being a part of some more skillful teams. He used my court to up his game to the level necessary. Back then all the conditions were way different. I remember a time when we had to go train at 7:00 in the morning. All the age groups trained together. All the guys that were older took up all of the locker room. I had to sit and dress on a window sill. During training all of the hoops were taken. I had to pretend the pull-up bar was a basketball hoop. That’s where we first started playing 3×3 games. That’s where I fell in love with the game. If you keep going day by day, eventually you’ll reach success. I’ve won the Latvian Championships. I’ve won the 2nd German Bundesliga champion title. I was part of the Swedish champion team. It all adds up. I’ve won latvian bronze medals 5 or 6 times. I’ve played the latvian all-star game for 5 times. I’ve been a few places and done some things. There’s surely been some good moments playing 5×5 basketball. 3×3 is a different kind of sport. There needs to be some changes once in a while. You have to switch things up in life and see what happens. It adds a whole new perspective to life. That’s what happened to us. The road to Riga Ghetto Basket has been different for each of members the team. But facts need to be faced. There have been some individual highlights while playing 5×5 basketball But it’s not even half of what the guys are showcasing as a 3×3 basketball team. Talented, determined or maybe just a bit lucky? Who are these 4 guys? If you ask me for the perfect team, these guys are it. Jānis Āre (3×3 Riga Ghetto Basket manager) Each one of them could have been slightly taller and stonger. In all honesty each one of them is a master at their current position and together they are very special. Edgars Krūmiņš? A random guy with a decent long distance shot. Raimonds Elbakjans (the leader of the Ghetto Games movement) Nauris Miezis – a total wave off. Čavars was a working man and quit his ambitions to be a pro. It wasn’t easy to get him back into the game. Jānis Āre did it. Kārs Lasmanis is the youngest of them all. The most hotheaded. The one who had the most ambitions towards basketball. He still wanted to come play at the Ghetto tournaments and show off. These four characters are what the team consists of. They’re back from the dead. To become somebody on the court, you need to have tremendous talent or a tremendous work ethic and discipline You need parents that support you, proper coaches and an organized system to fit it. And even if all of these people play their part, there’s no guarantee for you to become great. There will always be something to stumble upon. Nauris Miezis was part of the national team for the U18 European Championships after which he didn’t even get an invite to try and get on the national team again. A single injury for Edgars Krūmiņš erased any proof of what he’s done for his team. Kārlis Lasmanis career was almost over because of his own lightheadedness. Agnis Čavars had written himself off and was more comfortable with a day job as an IT specialist. The story of these 4 men serves as a reminder for us all that in life there is only one direction to reach for – up! Riga Ghetto Basket stepped into the interionational 3×3 arena back in 2017. They made some serious noise all over Europe. While our guys received gold medals around their necks, the opponents were left speechless at what just happened. Some random nobodys from Latvia have taught them a lesson on how to play ball. Miezis, Krūmiņš, Čavars & Lasmanis is a force to be reckoned with. It’s proven by their silver medal at the 2018 European Championships. Some history books might want to keep this left behind, but a fact is a fact. Back in 2017 our guys could have stayed at home and not attended the Championship because of faulty principles of the local basketball system. Jānis Āre is who brought us together. Then there was Māris Jučmanis – the Secertary-General of the national team. He needed to send a team to qualification rounds for the European Championships. Our manager Jānis Āre came forth to the Latvian Basketball Association with his proposal. Ther was a plan for a different team composition at that time. The Latvian Basketball Association had some objections. They refused to have me and Mārcis Šteinbergs as part of the national 3×3 team. They insisted something had to be done differently. Jānis Āre & Raimonds Elbakjans both tried to persuade the Association that I have to be on the team. At first the Association replied that they might as well not send anyone to play at the Championship. I ensured them that without Nauris Miezis they have no chance of winning. It’s not the same team without Nauris Miezis. No matter how good the other guys might be, it’s just no the same without Nauris. His past caught up to him, even though there was no concrete proof of anything. He was disqualified back in the days without any proof. Supposedly the association knew about something Nauris had done. Even though he was never caught tampering with any results or doing anything wrong. How sure can you be without any proof? We had just won the Ghetto Basket tournament and were in New York at the time. My girlfriend at the time sent me a message that there has been a Tweet announcing my disqualification. We were scrolling through Twitter and got to know that Miezis just lost his job. New York, 2014 Just got a mesage from my girlfriend. Everythings ruined. You have to start from the bottom yet again. Just recently I got a text from my girlfriend. She asked me if it’s true what they say on Twitter. While I’m in New York, my club is letting me go. Noone had the guts to let me know in person. I’m in for some pro-longed holidays now. …as a free agent. The season is about to end, so everything i Nauris is open for some new collaborations as of now. This story follows me as years pass. I won’t be able to get away from it. It’s a tough subject for me and I try not to talk about all of this. There’s no reason to get into any debate about this as it will only make things worse. About 50% of local basketball pros are playing in various second level basketball leagues. Latvia is not the worst scenario. I’ve been told that Serbia has almost all of their players as part of such leagues. This is the problem of the 21st century. Money is above everything and there will never be enough. Things like honor and self-worth is very delicate. It gets thrown away as soon as very small numbers get put on the table. This is why the bottom levels of the sport are kind of ruined. And the top level or pro level is so out of reach. Same as the overall processes of our society – the rich get richer and the poor make even less. The same gap can be seen in sports. Is my natural instinct to save those that have been left behind by others? At the very beginning of the Ghetto Games movement we started out with something close to this. Back then I tried to talk to various government organizations and commercial enterprises. Without any friendly relationships established. I was given the answer that everything is ok with the youth of today. The commercial enterprises I talked to said they only have budget for their own marketing. And the Latvian Basketball Association labeled all of the young people at Ghetto Games as good-for-nothings. No serious basketball players and fans are attending our events. That is when I felt the urge to get things done. Who else if not me? I always saw talent in Nauris Miezis. I might not have seen 3×3 becoming an olympic sport at the very moment it did. And that we would have such a strong and tight team in the very same time and them reaching such hights of the sport. Noone could have dreamt of this, but it sure did happen. I am truly happy about this. So I told the local basketball association that there’s no point in sending a team to the championships without Nauris Miezis. Because he is the best. He proved it – he earned the MVP title at the European Championships. I still get goosebumps from thinking about that championship. It’s moves me whenever I take a look at some photos or video from that time. It seemed unreal at first when we won the semi-final game. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not. It’s was hard to comprehend what we ourselves have achieved after the semi-final. So we were happy just to get to the finals and decided to enjoy every moment of the game. We proved our worth by doing good so far. We were happy with what we’ve done. So yeah, we won the finals as well. We won the European Champion title. It was unbelievable. I was shaking all over and almost cried from happiness I was barely holding myself together not to burst into tears of joy. Then when I got in touch with my friends and my girl after the game, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was very, very happy at that moment. Most likely Nauris himself never thought that the orange ball would take him so far in life. Nauris Miezis is one of many who has learned a valuable lesson from his experiences on the court. We can only fantasize about what would the European Championship’s MVP life be without basketball. I personally think it’s hard to loose track of what you’re going for. You have to be surrounded by many bad things in order for that to happen. I’m thankful to my friends for being good people. All of them are athletes. Together we’ve taken part in so many various sports activities. Definitely a big thank you to my first basketball coach. Thank you to coach Jānis Rīmenieks. Coach Rīmenieks trained us not just for basketball, but for life in general. He taught us to be good people. He taught us discipline. Starting from making your own bed to brushing our teeth. We were obligated to take a shower even when we were so tired we wanted to go to bed without hesitation. He taught kids the basics of life. Eventually those camps are what taught me right from wrong. I’ve been a basketball coach for 47 years now. Mandatory attendance of basketball practice is not the only thing I taught the kids. It wasn’t just about developing the right technique for the game. Not only tactics of the basketball game. I taught them more important things when we were on our way to tournaments and camps. To be a superb basketball player you need more than good technique and love for the game. You need love for those around you. Your team as well as the opponent. I had a system developed that is still solid even today after 47 years of coaching. During camps my students were scored not only by their skills on the court, but also by how they follow discipline. I asked them for good grades at school. Because basketball is a game for clever people. And as part of the team you have to understand everything going on around you, work with what you have and make your own descisions. And if you can’t do that you might not become a good basketball player. Some may already know that my parents are deaf. I am lucky to be born with hearing. Because I’ve heard people say that it’s a hereditary thing. I am lucky to have good hearing. I could attend kindergarten with other normal children. This is why bringing me up as a kid might have been more difficult at times. I had a tough childhood. I learned to talk pretty late as a kid. I couldn’t understand a lot of the words other kids used in kindergarten. My parents couldn’t explain it to me. Then there’s the years of being a teenager when I was bullied for having deaf parents. It’s tough. There were times I was ashamed to have my parents at certain events in school. I knew other kids were going to make fun of me. Later on in life I understood that you don’t choose your parents. I love them no matter what and I have to live with them no matter what. I owe them a huge thank you for everything they’ve done for me. Family is a key moment in the lives of many athletes. If growing up as a kid it’s just your mom and dad, then later on in life it’s spread to a broad family of fellow sports professionals. In 2018 Ghetto Basket team becomes part of the B-list for the upcoming Olympics. Aldons Vrubļevskis (President of the Latvian Olympic Committee) We are happy to have 3×3 basketball on board with the guys having achieved such success in the sport. Now it’s up to the team itself, the coaches and other organizers of the sport on what’s to come. Their results in 2019 is what will matter the most. After a good 2018 season Riga Ghetto Basket becomes part of the A-list for the Olympics. This is when we sign the contract for 2019. The guys made it into the A-list considering their 5th place spot at the World Cup and 2nd place in the European Championship. We’ll do our best to make it to the Olympics. As we sign this we make it our top priority to qualify for the Olympics. No one believed in us as we started our journey a few years ago. Now we are right where we strived to be and each year we’ve upped our game. The time has come to admit that it would be hard for us to go on being just the 4 of us. We’re getting more professional and are part of the A-list now. People count on us and we have to come through. Raimonds Feldmanis (Riga Ghetto Basket coach) There’s no way we could go on without a coach or a physiotherapist. And also without sparring partners. It’s all gotten very professional all of a sudden. We just have to keep pushing. You can stand against your opponent, you can stand against the system, but there’s no way to avoid all possible injuries. You guys are lame. Not that is a view to be seen. Krūmiņš has a bad knee. It’s definitely taken some serious abuse. First he tore his ACL. Maybe got back into the game a bit too quick after rehab. He tore his meniscus after. All of this together doesn’t leave us with a happy ending. Dr Jānis Viļums has done his best and succeeded. Krūmiņš was able to finish the season. Not a lot believed he would be able to. Even when I first met him and got to know he wants to get back into the game 6 months after injury. I was quite sceptical about it. I hadn’t worked with him yet. We did some tests. Noted what he was able to do. And he was able to finish the basketball season after all. He definitely was able to be a valid asset to his team. He needed some surgery after the season ended. So we would be able to prepare his knee for next season. Pain? There’s no serious pain. It was difficult at first. But everyone who’s tore his ACL goes through this. You lack confidence and are afraid to get hurt all over again. At first it was hard, but I got my head straight by mid season. There’s no pain other than this one time. I probably put too much pressure on my bad leg and developed some fluid in the knee. Playing with a bad knee at the first FIBA 3×3 Challenger (Ventspils, Latvia), Krūmiņš was able to show how to play ball to one of the world’s strongest 3×3 basketball teams Novi Sad. The finals were crazy. The hall was full and everyone was chanting “Go Latvia”. I felt shivers from all the energy around me even though I was battling the fluit that had built up in my knee. At a moment like that I forgot about my injury and felt the consequences slightly later. I got the fluid drained from my knee. I pressed the restart button for my knee and kept going. He is in the hospital now right after surgery. We just want to give him a call and ask him how’s he holding up. Hey Edgars! Looking a bit pale. Stay strong. Kissed and hugs from the team. I’m feeling ok guys. Give us your signature smile a a token of good luck. That’s it! Inner strenght to pull yourself together and play it to the bone. These are the qualities the guys mastered not in some random bar with a drink in their hand, but here in Riga at the Ghetto basketball court. I’ve been playing at the Ghetto Games tournaments ever since season one. Krūmiņš also played ball back then. The others got into the Ghetto movement later on. Lasmanis, Krūmiņš & Miezis took part in the tournaments on the side of their pro careers. As soon as their pro season ended, they took part at the Ghetto tournaments. It was a thing of honor for them. Artūrs Ausējs (Part of the national 5×5 basketball team of Latvia) The Ghetto Games tournaments have developed certain skills in me as a basketball player. Definitely the skills to go one on one with the opponent. Ghetto Games have developed me as a person. Taking part at the Ghetto Games tournaments has upped my dribble game. It’s upped the confidence I have and my skills to outplay others. Aigars Šķēle (Part of the national 5×5 basketball team of Latvia) Each summer I wasn’t fooling around, but at the Ghetto tournaments playing ball with my friends. I enjoyed every moment of it and it has given a lot for me as a professional basketball player. My son plays 3×3 as well. He truly enjoys it and has some good style on the court. He needs to develop some attitude and tournaments like this help him with it. He meets new friends there as well. Jānis Blūms (Part of the national 5×5 basketball team of Latvia) My son enjoys the summer to the fullest instead of sitting at home and doing nothing worth while. It’s a good way to spend your personal time. There’s plenty of physical activities for him as a kid. Ghetto Games are putting on tournaments all over Latvia. He has a reason to travel. See different places. Over the past 10 years the Ghetto Games movement has visited over 50 cities and towns all over Latvia. There’s been more than 230 stops all over different regions of the country. The tournaments are organized in a very professional manner. I don’t see it as competition to the classic 5×5 basketball events. If someone is not as good playing 5×5, he might be outstanding in 3×3. I personally would never be as good playing 3×3 basketball. The top level 3×3 guys might not be so good in a 5×5 game. They’ve found their niche and it’s cool that there’s an event like that. It’s great that we have a national 3×3 team getting ready for the Olympics. There’s also girls getting into 3×3 nowadays. It’s definitely developing as a sport. The progress needs to continue. A lot of Latvia’s 5×5 national team members have played at Ghetto tournaments and had guys from our tournaments be their sparring partners. I’m glad it’s happened so that there’s some proud manliness in all of this. Basketball in Latvia used to be softer. I remember it from when we played in national youth divisions and so on. Back then guys my age were afraid of basketball teams from Russia or Serbia. Nowadays it’s different. We’re ready to face any team out there and that’s what matters the most. This is where I have to thank Ghetto Games for being there for us. I’m thankful for Ghetto Games being the place where you can play 3×3. I wasn’t one of the guys who got into the movement in the early years. I wasn’t the first kid to grow up there. Raimonds has told me stories of how they’ve played ball in the dark with only the headlights of a car shining some light on the court. Back then I didn’t know about Ghetto Games. I got into it rather late. I liked it since the very first moment as me and some friends came over to play for fun. I saw some tough guys playing there. I was drooling over the way they handled the ball. Ghetto Games is sort of a make-it-or-brake-it type deal. I teaches you how to fight until the very end and keep going no matter what. It’s never easy to win a Ghetto Games tournament no matter how good of a player you are. It used to be crazy hard with so many good teams competing there. The emotions after winning a Ghetto Games tournament were more vivid than those after winning an European Championship as a kid I made my way all over from Ventspils to Riga each week to play at Ghetto Games. You need tournaments like that! It’s important for young basketball players and youngsters devoted to any other sport. The more they engage into physical activities, the better. Then they don’t have time to fool around. That’s how you avoid bad things that can hurt the kids and the society as a whole. All those “drugs are bad” campaigns are a waste of time. Big Som (Street sports and culture activist in Kazakhstan) It’s all about creating options for kids. Of course there’s plenty of bad influence in the streets of any city. The so-called “cool guys” that are always up to no good. Movements like Ghetto Games give another option where you define other values for you to be cool. Here in Kazakhstan we face the same challenges as you did in Riga, Latvia. Kids used to have only bad role models. Another choice was to not spend any time outdoors at all. To sit home and do homework… It all changes when you have a choice. Most of the kids want to hang with the right crowd where cool is defined by proper values. Kids rather hang with people who see them as potential athletes and heroes than good-for-nothings. Those who make their way over to Ghetto Games come by choice. It’s a place where people change. It’s a place where the current manager of the national 3×3 basketball team turned into a champion from a bartender. There haven’t been any cases where someone’s been on top level and binged out on their opportunities. We’ve had good players that loved to have a drink or two. Right now one particular case is one of the leaders of a local basketball team. From a lousy guy he has turned a new page in life and become an athlete. We have more cases with party lovers turning into athletes than vice versa. There are some cheerful fellows that can somehow manage both. If we have to go through some good examples, it’s Artūrs Ausējs. He currently has a good contract in a premium local basketball club. Kristaps Dārgais – one of the best slam dunk masters in the world. All of our 3×3 Riga Ghetto Basket team. There are good examples that have only been part of a few tournaments, but still. Aigars Šķēle, another 5×5 national team member of Latvia, is also a great prospect for us. He was part of the Ghetto movement since season one and only kind of quit when he got a proper deal signed. There are many good players that have gone through our tournaments. I believe that any aspiring basketball player should come and at least try to play. If he does good at Ghetto Games, he has hope in the big leagues. If he can’t endure Ghetto Games, I don’t think there’s much to him as a player. I’ve played a few 3×3 tournaments abroad and there’s a difference on how we do it here at Ghetto Games. Here we don’t have any referees and somehow we manage alright. Young players or players from abroad get taught a lesson on how to behave. In Lithuania it’s pretty sad at the moment. There’s 3×3 games with referees, but there’s still brawling during the whole match. The referees there allow a physically agressive game. If feel that there are no rules to a game like that. It goes without saying that streetball events are on a higher level here at Ghetto Games. Here we have more teams. Guys want to come and play here, but in Lithuania it seems like they only come if they are brought out. Ghetto Games season 10 is here! Everything was ready. Our sports complex was good. There’s still stuff that needs to be finished. There’s always something you can do better. Everything was good, but I felt there needs to be something more to it. The tournaments abroad have a cool look to them. I started thinking about how to get something similair done. I thought of doing something different. A multifunctional construction of some sort. I would call it the Ghetto Colosseum. We would undergo some serious construction works and let it be there. If there’s ever need we can dismantle it, but there’s no plan for it currently. You save a lot of funds by having things ready and set out instead of building stuff for each separate tournament. There’s lights there and everything. You just have to turn on the switch and that’s it. You’re all set for a major event. We were close to this dream becoming reality. There was always lack of time and other things. But there was no lack of willpower. I wanted to see this become reality for season 10. I wanted the foreign teams to see that Latvia has one of the most awesome basketball court settings possible. All of the plans we’ve made for the opening of the season. It all adds up to a very exciting experience. We’re recording. There’s only two paths to go by. Either you strive to be somebody or give up and stay a nobody. We don’t play for fame. We fight for our hearts and our country. The Grizinkalns Sports Complex is our home. It’s the centre of our country. A whole generation has grown up where who can’t be deprived of freedom. We’re expanding our borders instead of being afraid someone will box us in. Only the power of will and hard work towards our goals is what we need to become who we truly aspire to be. Every next challange you face will seem easier than it really may be. When someone tries to bring you down to your knees and silence you. Remember about where you’re coming from. Show respect to your opponent, but don’t pity him. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Because the only real opponent your facing is yourself. If you want to experience true freedom, come midst our colosseum and lay down your fear, weakness and insecurity. Here we see it all and there’s nothing to hide from anyone. No need to hide from yourself. You are free. And there are no limits to what you can do! 10 years of Ghetto Games. It’s two and a half olympic cycles during which a team has been brought up that is capable of fighting for olympic gold. There’s still road ahead towards the Olympics, but many raise the question How can a team from such a small country as Latvia place 3rd in the FIBA standings. And all 4 of the team’s players are among 15 top players of the FIBA tournaments. Latvia is not a small country in the world of basketball. Even though it might look so on the map. It has been proven in the very first men’s championship. When latvian boys arrived in Geneva and won the title. Although it is a shame that even though so much time has passed since 1973, we yet again won a European Championship title only recently and in 3×3. A different category of basketball. It proves that basketball is honored in Latvia. It was, is and will be played! We just need to groom our players to their full advantage. The strenght of our 3×3 team is the way they organize themselves. The way they act on the court even though they are not the tallest, nor the strongest out there. They compensate for their weakness with hard work towards their goals. The way they treat each other. They way they support each other. It’s their team spirit that makes them champions! I have a great ambition to win them. Roberts Pāže (3×3 second national team, Olympic B-list) I want to prove that I can do it. But I have to take into account that they are a top level team and they will punish me on the court for each mistake I make. Any mistake I make in offense or defense, they will take advantage. You know you’ll get punished for your mistakes with a long distance shot that’s easy for them. They keep their level very high at all times. You know you have to be more than a 100% when you have to face them on the court. Even 5 or 6 years ago Miezis had the most endurance out of all. He had a nickname Kenya – like the origin of great marathon runners. He had no trouble going for a run after a Ghetto Games tournament. I’ve studied how Miezis plays and I think he might be one of the best 3×3 basketball players in the world. Čavars is sort of a black horse giving the team a proper boost during a match. He manages to get the ball in all the right moments and has no trouble defending his teammates. Lasmasnis is a south paw and that makes him a non-traditional basketball player. It’s hard to play in defense against him and he can make score some serious shots. He is not afraid to go after the ball at any cost. Edgars Krūmiņš can surely score. No doubt about that. Each of the guys plays a significant role in the team. They have the right chemistry. It’s a pleasure to watch them play. They are much quicker than anybody else on the court. They come much more prepared. There are some players that can’t match them at all. Our guys have more skill. They’ve put in work to gain an advantage. They have plenty of discipline. They have the leaders capable of scoring the final shots. They have true emotions on the court. That is very important to have in basketball. They truly want to win! Flaws? It’s hard to single out any flaws because they’re the top players in the world. If you’re constantly placing in the top 3, it’s hard to single out any flaws. Sometimes winning comes down to luck. I wish them to have more luck. They need more luck to make it to the Olympics. At first everyone thought we just got lucky. My team-mate Čavars always judges us against Novi Sad. He says that luck is the only thing separating us from them. All the matches we’ve played against each other have been a close call. Well there was this one game where they annihilated us. Most of the games have been a very close call. It comes down to who is luckier that day. It’s good news that they are afraid of us. They know their reign is coming to an end. And that’s good. I think our best asset is our team chemistry. It’s what drives us. We’ve become such close friends over these past 2 years. We can call each other in the middle of the night and ask for help. No questions asked we will help each other out. We’ve grown tight and I consider that a key element to take us to the next level. Plenty teams have tried to achieve what we have. Somehow we could make it happen. We leave this lock here to symbolize the end of our trip. A shame we’re leaving as 4th place finishers. We’ll be back! Locked forever. So dramatic I might even cry. We’re serious during our training. Even though we’re calling Agnis Čavars “the daddy”. He always has the last word. There’s plenty of good humor going around. Whenever we get into an argument, we still have each others back. There’s no trash talking behind someones back. It’s a good balance in between keeping things fun and being serious about we do. Miezis is like a robot. He’s been designed to play 3×3 basketball. Same with Kārlis. They’re both made for this. They both easily place in the world’s top 5 for best individual skills on the court. Me and Edgars are there to ease things up for Nauris and Kārlis. I’ve told this many times before – Edgars is the heart and soul of the team. We need him on board even when he is having trouble with his knee. I myself think of myself as the bully. Whenever someone is playing rough against Karlis or Nauris, I come at them. There’s great chemistry. Our team is precise as a swiss clock mechanism. Each of us knows exactly what they have to do for the team to prosper. I’m the one who figures out the combinations. I need to be aggressive with my offense. Each of us knows what the others are about to do. We know each others strenghts and weaknesses. I’m the one piecing the puzzle together. I guess you could call me the playmaker. If we miss a shot and end up loosing the game, I’m really, really bummed. We start overanalyzing what we did wrong. Each of us think it’s his fault. We’re all alike. We don’t know how to loose. We talk it through and everything is fine eventually. It’s still a bad feeling if you miss a shot that could have turned things over. Especially knowing that we had such great chances of winning important tournaments. We’ve always lost shots agains Novi Sad. It’s definitely sad. It is what it is though. We have to work towards getting better. We always have a team meeting after each game. We let bygones be bygones. We try to forget our failure and move forward. We support each other. We never blame each other. There was a tournament where we pushed Čavars to take the three-pointers. Afterwards people asked why did we do so? We made a team descision that Čavars is the one to take the shot. He didn’t score. It happens. Noone is angry at him for that. We’re seriously playing 3×3 basketball for merely 2 years now. Novi Sad from Serbia are going down this path for 10 years. They’ve put in work to be the best at this very moment, but we are gaining up closely in merely 2 year time. No other team has gotten so close to their level. We shouldn’t be focused on the shots we miss. We will still have plenty that we will score. Kids have something to learn here, other than just dreaming about playing for NBA. They have to see the work that needs to be put in for it to happen. They have a great example of the work, dedication, willpower and manliness that it takes to move towards the Olympics. Our guys will still have their final word on the global 3×3 scene! What Riga Ghetto Basket have accomplished so far gives us fair hopes for the Olympics. But are the guys ready to face difficulties outside the court as well? I was physically well prepared for this season. Just like the rest of the guys, I am tired as well. The flight schedule is what takes a toll on us. Thanks to my wife for keeping me in tack emotionally. She motivates me whenever I feel like I’m done and just want to get back home sooner. A tremendous thank you to her for keeping me moving. I was really tired by the end of the season. 13 weeks straight. Games each weekend. It was a tough one for sure both physically and emotionally. We pulled it off. Even our physio guy was surprised we made it. With all the love and respect we have for the game, we managed to pull it off. You have to love it to endure. You have to give your whole heart to the game. Wanting to get a foot in towards playing for the NBA is not the reason that will make things happen. It has to be your lifestyle. If it’s not your lifestyle, things get hard. I doubt it’s possible if you don’t live the game. You need to have the right attitude. Discipline and attitude is what makes you a pro. With that you have a chance of doing good. Of course not everyone. Hey hey hey. We’re at the airport yet again. Off to Denmark this time round. Einārs Fogelis (President of the Latvian Sports Federations Council) The competition out there is crazy with only 8 teams making it to the Olympics. I would be very dissapointed if we didn’t make it to the Olympics. By going through all the criteria that needs to be matched to qualify, I think Latvia has to be there. Our A-list players or the Latvian flag as a whole needs to be there in Tokyo 2020. Up until the end of this season in November each country has to collect the points necessary for the rankings towards the Olympics. This November we will know which path our team will have to take in order to make it to Tokyo. Only 8 top countries make it to the Olympics. One way to qualify is to be in the world’s top 4 teams. Currently we’re ranked 4 or 5. The problem is that the top 4 can only consist of 2 countries from the same continent. Europe can have 2 teams, The US can have 2. Same for Asia etc. The top 4 teams that get taken into account for the Olympics can’t be from the same continent. After the top 4 is determined, there will be a special tournament for 20 teams next in line. 3 spots to the Olympics will be given away at this tournament. If we somehow miss all these opportunities, then what’s left is this. There’s yet another tournament where only 6 countries can take part in. But the countries allowed to take part are those who have not had a 5×5 basketball team in the prior 2 summer Olympic games. No matter male of female. We can also take part in this tournament and fight for our last chance to make it to the Olympics. I don’t want to go down that last path, but it should be a fairly easy tournament for our guys. Now remembering it feels quite unreal that I have been at the Olympics. Our girls did make it to the Olympics It’s not like winning a lottery ticket. Only the best make it to the Olympics and with hard work to back it up. I hate loosing. Whatever it is that I’m doing, I’m a sore looser. Whatever sport it may be or just a bet in between friends. I simply hate loosing. I’m a winner because that’s what I go after in any aspect of life. I doubt my passion for basketball will ever fade. It’s been with me for the past 20 years. I can’t live without basketball being there for me. Everything at home is somewhat tied to basketball. There’s things that remind me of basketball in my car. I’m in it 100%. I can’t loose the love I have for the game. I truly believe that we will make it to the Olympics. Each morning I get up with this thought in my head. I believe in my guys and hope they avoid injuries. I want to go to the Olympics with these 4 guys and bring back a medal. For me it’s less important what place they get at the Olympics or what medal. It’s important that they stand tall with dignity, never back down and are supreme ambassadors of our country for the world to see. The Olympics is our main goal. With this team I am willing to go to the Olympics. I want to do it, I want to be there. I want to be there with my team and that is my personal main goal. I’ve had plenty of offers being thrown at me. I won’t focus on anything other than the Olympics. It’s great to be recognized. I helps build confidence. If someone would put A TON of money in front of me I might think differently, but I doubt it. I want to be as close as possible with my team up to the Olympics. I want to play there and win Olympic gold! A ticket to the Olympics is pretty much in the bag for our team. It still won’t be an easy task to face alone. The whole latvian basketball community supports the 3×3 guys. We organize tournaments to popularize their struggle towards the noble goal. We need to help by climbing the national ranks and getting our countries name up there. You have to register on the FIBA website and register for the tournaments. A country gets national points from all the teams involved on a regular basis. Each player can contribute. Of course the ranks that count are the top 100 players, but why couldn’t you be one of them? You just have to get out there and play the game. That’s how you can be a part of us making it to the Olympics. 3×3 enthusiasts just need to play at the official tournaments. You have to visit all the closest tournaments and that’s it. I guess you can score plenty by just playing in Riga. Why not go to Lithuania or Estonia and take some of their points? At the end of the day that might be what makes the difference. There’s plenty of chances. The ball is round and you have to get it through the hoop. Simple as that. Olympic games is a very special event to be at. For our guys to make it to Tokyo 2020, we all have to play ball. Basketball is cool and by playing we can help our national team to make it to the upcoming Olympics. Latvia has an actual shot of making it to the Olympics. We need to play more 3×3 basketball. This has to be done this summer. Let’s support our guys at this historic sports achievement for our country. May it be hard, we need to endure. Endure and take victory! We keep training and moving towards the Olympics. You can also be a part of this. I’ll see you on the court! Ok, let’s begin. I might actually answer some questions if we hurry up. You know where to take me if I’m in labour. We’re not that far from Riga’s Marternity Hospital.

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