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Historical Vignette: Ed Palubinskas - Australia's first basketball great

1 January 2009

HISTORICAL VIGNETTE: More than a decade before Andrew Gaze, Mark Bradke and Luc Longley announced Australia’s arrival as a power on the world basketball stage Australia already had an internationally-rated male star. His name was Edward (Ed or Eddie) Sebastian Palubinskas.

By the end of the 1960s Palubinskas, who was born and raised in Canberra, was displaying his prodigious talents, particularly in shooting baskets.

In 1970 he moved to Melbourne, then the mecca of Australian basketball, and promptly became Australia’s basketballer of the year.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, where Australia finished ninth, Palubinskas top scored in six of the nine matches played and was the second top scorer in the other three. He missed being the Olympic tournament’s top scorer by a solitary point.

Of the twelve Australian players in Munich, eleven represented Victorian clubs and the other came from South Australia.

By the time the 1976 Montreal Olympics came around, Palubinskas had completed a basketball scholarship at Louisiana State University, represented Australia at the 1974 world basketball championships in Puerto Rico and been drafted first by the Atlanta Hawks in the National Basketball Association and then by the Utah Stars in the American Basketball Association.

In the event, Palubinskas did not play major-league professional basketball. Palubinskas played Olympic basketball in Montreal and there he proceeded to go one better than his achievements in Munich. He was the tournament’s top scorer by a whopping 52 points, in the process leading Australia to, at that stage, a best-ever placing of eighth.

In every one of Australia’s seven games Palubinskas was the top scorer, with a best performance of 48 points against Mexico (one newspaper report at the time credited him with 50 points but the Official Report records him with 48 points).

Of the twelve Australian players in Montreal, ten represented Victorian clubs with the other two coming from South Australia.

Since 1976 Palubinskas has primarily lived in the United States and his life has revolved around coaching basketball at all levels from high school to university. His short time away from living in the United States involved him being the national coach of team handball in Bahrain.

In recent years, he has established the Palubinskas Basketball Academy which is based around coaching and advising on shooting baskets. He has provided consultancies to Shaquille O’Neal other male and female basketball stars in the United States. Personally, he has retained his shooting expertise and has set a number of world records as well as winning lucrative basket-shooting competitions.

Ed Palubinskas at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games:

1972 Munich Olympics
Spain d Australia (79-74, Palubinskas 25, Crosswhite 16) USA d Australia (81-55, Duke 14, Palubinskas 10) Czechoslovakia d Australia (69-68, Palubinskas 27) Australia d Japan (92-76, Palubinskas 21, Crosswhite 19)
Cuba d Australia (84-70, Palubinskas 23)
Australia d Brazil (75-69, Crosswhite 21, Palubinskas 16) Australia d Egypt (89-66, Crosswhite 17, Palubinskas 16) Australia d West Germany (70-69, Palubinskas 28, Crosswhite 12)
Australia d Poland (91-83, Palubinskas 24, Duke 19)

1976 Montreal Olympics
Cuba d Australia (111-89, Palubinskas 28, Barnett 21) USSR d Australia (93-77, Palubinskas 29, Tucker 10) Australia d Mexico (120-117, Palubinskas 48, Blicavs 19) Canada d Australia (81-69, Palubinskas 28, Barnett 17) Australia d Japan (117-79, Palubinskas 30, Maddock 14) Italy d Australia (79-72, Palubinskas 30, Blicavs 16)
Cuba d Australia (92-81, Palubinskas 26, Tomlinson 12)

Bruce Coe
Olympic Historian