Even as the Russian team faces up to being barred from next month’s Winter Games for doping offenses, audiences are flocking to see a movie about Soviet glory on the Olympic basketball court 46 years ago. “Going Vertical” tells the story of the Soviet Union team which won gold in 1972, becoming the first basketball team in history ever to beat the United States at the Olympics.
Actor Kuzma Saprykin used his childhood basketball experience to play Ivan Edeshko, who threw what Russians still call the “golden pass” for the Soviets’ winning basket. “I didn’t think there would actually be this kind of colossal success,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s surprising when people send me videos, how at practically every screening people are clapping, with some kind of patriotism and spirit awakening in people.”
By his side during that fateful 2011-12 Lakers season was Ettore Messina, a four-time Euroleague champion who’s now an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. At the time Messina had plans to go back overseas for his second stint as CSKA Moscow’s head coach. When he did, he asked Snyder to join him.
“I was always curious about basketball over there in the Euroleague,” Snyder told VICE Sports. “I followed the Euroleague for quite some time, and when [Messina] decided to go back to CSKA, he asked me if I wanted to join him as an assistant. So, I don’t know if it was difficult as it was unusual to try and think about what that would be like. My wife, Amy, was really supportive. We had two young kids. So on a personal level, we were doing something that was a little unusual, but we were excited to have the life experience, to be honest with you.”
“There’s innovation going on with this game all over the world,” Snyder said. “And you don’t have an opportunity to be a part of that or see it or watch it sometimes because everything from the time change and the fact that we, in the NBA, are immersed in what we’re doing.”
“I had the opportunity to go back to Maccabi Tel Aviv or to go to Khimki Moscow and, ultimately, because of my desire not to commit long-term to anything beyond this coming season, I decided it would be best for me to stay here, and then after this season, reevaluate what I want to do with my career; whether I’m able to find an opportunity in the NBA next year, which was my goal, or whether I will again commit to a different kind of situation next season.