Little does the average European fan realise that each one of those Soviet sides would feature a Baltic player including Lithuanian Modestas Paulauskas.
The 26-year-old would collect his fourth straight tournament Gold medal on this day in 1971.
Considered a “foot-ahead” player of his generation having already won an Olympic Bronze medal in 1968, Paulauskas would help guide his side to a 5-0 start in the group stage.
The largest of these victories was a 118:58 thumping of Spain to finish the week with a points difference of +158 points.
Paulauskas and the Soviet team would then travel from the city of Böblingen to Essen where they would face a higher quality of opposition.
Italy was in search of its first tournament medal in 25 years, the “Azzurri” posed as a genuine threat in a side featuring recent NBA draftee Dino Meneghin.
However Italy would have to settle for a Bronze after the USSR had triumphed 99:63, before taking the ultimate prize in a thrilling 69:64 tournament decider over Yugoslavia.
Krešimir Ćosić was Yugoslavia’s best; his tournament MVP award would attract interest from the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA.
More importantly, Ćosić was joined in the All-tournament team by Paulauskas alongside Sergei Belov (USSR), Edward Jurkiewicz (Poland) and Atanas Golomeev (Bulgaria).
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