VILNIUS - Lithuanian basketball was sent into shock by the sudden death of Hidruvos-Atletas guard Tauras Stumbrys, who tragically died during the second quarter of a Lithuanian Basketball League game against his former team Zalgiris on Oct. 16.
The bizarre tragedy in Kaunas started during a time-out in the 14th minute of the match. The 34-year-old Stumbrys had just come out of the first quarter having played 8 minutes and scored his last three-point shot when he suddenly went into convulsions and fainted on the bench. The game was immediately suspended.
Robertas Narkus, the team doctor for Zalgiris, rushed over to help the other medics. "At first I thought that Tauras was suffering from an epileptic fit - some of the symptoms showed that. I managed to feel the pulse, he was still breathing. But suddenly the pulse disappeared," Narkus said.
In the unbearably tense and confused scene, Stumbrys' coach Ramunas Cvirka shouted "Breath Tauras!" while terrified teammates stood around him unable to help. But neither of the two team doctors nor the three ambulance crews that arrived could revive him. An hour-and-a-half long attempt to revive the player through emergency measures such as heart massage and shock therapy also failed. The official cause of death was given as coronary heart disease.
Donatas Vasiliauskas, a cardiosurgeon from Kaunas Medical University, examined Stumbrys together with other teammates in 1998 and discovered some minor deficiencies in the player's heart.
"Having reached our medical conclusions, Stumbrys needed to have constant heart examinations and he had to avoid other risk factors - to categorically forgo alcohol and smoking. As far as I heard, Stumbrys did not give up smoking," the cardiosurgeon told the daily Lietuvos rytas.
In the days leading up to the game, Stumbrys had been suffering from flu symptoms, which, in Vasiliauskas' opinion, could also have been an additional factor in the player's death as his body was still unprepared for the physical demands of the game. But leading up to the game Stumbrys didn't complain about his health or of any heart pains.
Stumbrys was an extraordinarily gifted natural player, taking after his father, who was also a famous basketball player in the past.
Over 400 people, including Lithuanian basketball legends Arvydas Sabonis and Mindaugas Timinskas, attended his funeral in Kaunas.
Stumbrys' final game was against his former club Zalgiris, where he had played for 10 seasons. During his time there he won eight Lithuanian championships, the Euroleague in 1999 and the Korac Cup in 1998. He was also a member of the Lithuanian national basketball team from 1991 to 1993.
After a season in Hungary, he returned to Zalgiris for the 1999-2000 season. Later he played in Russia, Israel, Germany, Poland and Portugal before joining Hidruvos-Atletas in 2002-03. He then joined another LKL team, Panevezys, last season before rejoining Atletas this summer.
Hidruvos-Atletas and Zalgiris dedicated their rematch on Oct. 25 to Stumbrys and all the proceeds from the game were donated to his family.