On Monday, European basketball great Ramunas Šiškauskas announced his retirement from the game: A story that was noteworthy enough for even North Korean sports fans to be notified. In his official statement, Šiškauskas said that he’d “made my choice in the middle of the season. It was not connected with anything specific – I just feel I should stop. I can only be excited about my career” and that “I am glad I was able to quit as a significant player, playing for such a great team and organization as CSKA Moscow.”
At 33 years of age, Šiškauskas put together a 16-season career with BC Sakalai Vilnius, Lietuvos Rytas, Benetton Treviso, Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow plus seven years with Team Lithuania in FIBA and Olympic play – good for a gold and two bronzes.
And in that decade and a half, Šiškauskas amassed just under 1,500 points in seven Euroleague seasons on 49.8% shooting including 42.3% on threes. His back-to-back EL titles earned in 2007 and ’08 are among his many individual-career and team highlights … aw, hell. Let’s dispense with further formalities and get to the Ramunas Šiškauskas career tribute in traditional BallinEurope fashion, i.e. with lots of YouTube clips! We’ll miss ya, Ramunas…
Relatively little English-language information and essentially no video appear to be freely available online from Šiškauskas’ premier seasons with Sakalai in 1996-97 and 1997-98, but check out this reportage from the University of Arizona in 1998. One wonders why more interest wasn’t shown in the man by NBA clubs after these scrimmages…
Šiškauskas, who noted in his statement of retirement that he’d “started playing basketball late” without “any basketball school behind my back,” demonstrated an insane learning curve, enough to put him on Team Lithuania in time for the 2000 Olympics – no mean feat that, considering that year’s Lithuania side included names like Sarunas Jasikevicius and Saulius Štombergas.
The Lithuanians fell to the Team USA of Garnett, Kidd and Carter in the semifinals, after taking the eventual champions to the wire in an 85-83 contest. Nevertheless, Lithuania did reach the podium to earn its third consecutive Olympic bronze medal.
In club play, Šiškauskas climbed the career ladder to sign with Lietuvos Rytas for 1998-99, ultimately playing six seasons with the club, helping them to two LKL championships plus one trophy and two second-place finishes in Sarunas Marciulionis’ Baltic League precursor, the North European Basketball League.
Of numerical note from Šiškauskas’ days with L. Rytas was his 2002-03 season in Lithuania, statistically his peak at 16.4 ppg with ridiculous 68% success rate to go with 3.4 rpg.
This must have been the time when the call “When Will I Be Famous” first went out…
Incidentally, between seasons with the Lithuanian powerhouse, Šiškauskas was helping the national team to achieve its greatest modern-era finish alongside all-tournament teamers Jasikevicius and Štombergas for the gold-winning Eurobasket 2003 campaign. Šiškauskas hardily played shabbily as a “mere” third option, however, running up 14.8 points and 4.7 boards per in six games.
In fact, after taking the Continental prize, Team Lithuania missed the podium for the next three years. Lietuva again drew their old adversaries twice that year, beating them in group play, 94-90, before losing to the memorably bounced Team USA in the third-place game in a 104-96 shootout. Lithuania’s losses in the final two games sadly capped a prior six-game winning streak in the tournament.
Meanwhile, back in the pro ranks, Šiškauskas left the homeland to sign with Benetton Treviso for 2004-05; in his two seasons with the club, the team took a league title and an Italian Cup. And it’s here where Šiškauskas first encountered European coaching mastermind/current Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Ettore Messina, who would dub the Lithuanian “the best wing player in Europe right now” the following season.
In fact, let’s get those glory days in Greece … with career still ascending, Šiškauskas got with Panathinaikos for a year. His production for PAO was immediate, and the 2006-07 season earned the Greens a triple crown of Euroleague, Greek League and Greek Cups.
Later in the year, Šiškauskas and Team Lithuania reemerged to take the bronze medal at Eurobasket 2007 in topping Greece, 78-69. Ramunas led his team in scoring at 13.8 ppg in the tournament; this effort combined with the PAO triple crown was enough to have him named Lithuania’s “Sportsman of the Year” for ’07.
And Šiškauskas would further etch his name in the Euroleague record books by making it back-to-back EL titles with different teams after joining CSKA Moscow for 2007-08. Named MVP for the season, it would be his second of four consecutive all-Euroleague team bids.
Even in the imaginary sphere, Siskauskas was exemplary in 2008 in winning BallinEurope’s own 1-on-1 Euroleague tournament. His reward? Immortalization in the BiE logo — and the T-shirt with which he so graciously posed.
His chance for an ultra-rare personal threepeat was stymied in 2009, though, when the Panathinaikos of Jasikivicius and Dimitris Diamantidis nipped the Red Army in the Euroleague championship game, 73-71. Šiškauskas experienced an extreme high and deep low in clutch time of this match, first sinking a three to make it 70-69 to PAO with under 30 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, his missed top-of-the-key three was the last play of the match and CSKA had to settle for second place.
This season was also of note for Šiškauskas, as he put in his career high single-game effort in CSKA’s Final Four match with FC Barcelona.
Such a run of success in the big league naturally gained Šiškauskas entry onto the 2001-10 All-Decade Euroleague Team.
Šiškauskas of course stayed with CSKA until retiring, with the team winning the Russian league three more times, the VTB United League title thrice and the Russian Cup once. Having been armed with a superstar free-agent lineup, the 2011-12 edition of the Red Army saw the Lithuanian earning just 23 minutes of playing time per game.
Despite taking another VTB United and PBL titles, the season must be considered a slight disappointment against already high expectations. Poor Ramunas missed two FTs in that memorable upset final with 10 seconds on the clock after an otherwise solid game of 4-of-6 overall shooting, three rebounds and a steal.
Šiškauskas and CSKA was still offered one final opportunity to go out on a high note, however, and did so in sweeping BC Khimki Moscow region in the PBL championship series. The record will show that Šiškauskas’ contributions in the final game totaled five points and four rebounds.
And so the all-time great may be gone but hardly forgotten for some time to come … “Šiškauskas 4 Ever,” indeed.