Today In NBA History 1988: Atlanta Hawks Beat Soviet All-Stars In Russia

Since the Kremlin fell, animosity between the US and the Russian Federation is largely a thing of the past. But when the Hawks went to Russia in 1988, political tensions were high.

31 years ago today, the Atlanta Hawks began a 13-day odyssey on Russian soil, and became the first NBA team to play in Russia, with a 85-84 victory over the Soviet All-Star team Tbisili, the capital of the Russian state of Georgia.

Having just lost a grueling seven game Eastern Conference semifinals series to the Boston Celtics, the Hawks were tired. They gutted out the one point victory in game one of a three game exhibition series sponsored by Hawks owner and entertainment magnate Ted Turner.

The Hawks played game two just two days later on 7/27/88 and won 110-105 in overtime in Vilnius, capital of the Republic of Lithuania.

The third and final game was played in Moscow and the hometown team pulled out a “W” in a 132-123 victory, but the Russians weren’t scrubs.

The Soviets featured Aleksandr Volkov,, a 6’9″ forward, burned Atlanta for 35 points in the third game. Interestingly, he would join the Hawks in the NBA a year later.

They also featured guard Sarunas Marciulionis, who had 23 points in 26 minutes. Marciulionis would ultimately carve out a nice niche for himself in the NBA, scoring 12.8 ppg in eight seasons.

It was an eye-opening experience for a Hawks team, led by Dominique Wilkins, in terms of culture and of how good they have it in the NBA.

In game two, Wilkins scored 29 points, including a slam dunk with 35 seconds left in overtime that drove the crowd crazy and put the game out of reach.

“We had to pull through a lot of adversity on this trip, and maybe that will make us closer,” said Hawks point guard John Battle. “It’ll certainly give us something to talk about during a long season. But if TBS plans another tour for next summer.” he said, “I’d just as soon they make it in the Bahamas.”

I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2000 and have had my work published via AskMen, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Busted Coverage, and Autotrader. I’ve done stand-up comedy. I'm a dad, youth soccer club President, and former team statistician for the oldest indoor football team in the world, the Omaha Beef. I’ve married six couples in 10 years and my Marriage to Still Married ratio is 6:6. I always say, it isn’t so much about the “love,” as it is the tasteless jokes that became vows. I started the I-80 Sports Blog to have all the work I've published located in one place and to write about things I want to write about. I don't take anything too seriously and it is a real time saver.