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Bedlam Three

So, there were three seconds left on the scoreboard. Everyone was ready and the Soviets started again.

Now, referee Artenik Arabadjan managed to attract everyone's attention. When Edeshko was waiting behind the base line for the ball, McMillen approached the line, ready to take a position just in front of the Soviet player. But at that moment, Arabadjan stretched out his hand towards Tom McMillen. McMillen took that gesture as an order to move back, so, being afraid of getting a technical foul, he stepped back about one meter. Now, the referee executed a beautiful, brand new (probably just invented) gesture. He pointed to the line, then to the ceiling. Being completely confused, the American player moved backwards again, and finding himself in an empty space, moved right to cover Paulauskas, who had participated in the previous version of the attack.

Edeshko had no one in front of him, so he gave a long pass (by the way, he didn't step on the line, as some have speculated) to A. Belov, who managed to beat the two Americans as he caught the ball and made an easy layup.

The game was over. The Soviet Union’s team had won the Olympics.

For a cold-minded investigator, one question still remains about this episode: “What was Arabadjan trying to say?

Later, he claimed that he was trying to show McMillen that his hands should not cross the line, but why, all of a sudden, did he decide to teach the rules to the American? Hadn’t that referee just seen Tom a minute ago, in that same position and obviously aware of the rule? That first gesture (hand stretched out) remains unexplained. Also, Arabadjan clearly saw that american interpreted his gestures incorrectly, but made no attempt to explain himself better, apparently satisfied with the result.

Now, why Arabadjan did all this? Conspiracy theory lovers are invited to speculate.

Another question regards how significant that referee's help was to the Soviets in the last episode. Well, it was significant. Was it decisive, however? No. Even without McMillen in front of Edeshko, there still existed only a very small chance for the Soviet team to score.

It's time to pay attention to Edeshko and his behaviour before McMillen moved backwards. He went several meters back, so he could still throw the ball far ahead, into the American half. That means he would do the long throw even with Tom standing in front of the line.

Look at the evolution of the Soviets’ last attack. There were enough “last attacks� to be able to talk about evolution, people!

First try: There was a short pass, then a dribble to the center line, followed (probably, as there was no time to move further) by an attempt to score from the center line.

Second try: The idea was to make a long pass, but, with McMillen just in front of Edeshko, the pass was sent to another player nearby. This player, in turn, attempted a long pass.

Third try: There was another improvement - Edeshko stepped back, so he could throw a ball far ahead.

The Soviets were learning with every failure! It's a really smart thing to do! That's a very good coaching job by Kondrashin!

At the same time, it was very unfair to the Americans. Why didn't they try to improve their defense? They also should have been given a few more rounds!


At the end of this article, I would like to address several alleged infractions committed by the Soviet players during their last play.

  1. Edeshko stepped on the baseline while making the pass.

    In their documentary ":03 Seconds From Gold", HBO proves this to be untrue. Watch a fragment from that video:



    I think it's clear that Edeshko didn't step on the line.

  2. There was a three-second rule violation by A. Belov.
    Let's revisit the video:


    At 1.2 second a group of three players ran into the 3-second area. A. Belov catches the ball, then releases it at 3.8 seconds. So, Belov stayed for 2.6 seconds in three-second area before throwing the ball.
  3. There was a traveling violation by A. Belov.

    Watch the previous video.

    Belov landed on both feet and then made just one step before throwing the ball. That's not even close to traveling.

    That was my initial analysis. However, later I have received a message from Michael from California, that refutes my conclusion. You can find that message in the guestbook (fourth last entry). Michael's analysis is so accurate and complete, so I don't have any choice but to reproduce his message in full here:

    Technically, Belov DID travel. He moved both feet after coming down.

    You're correct when you say he lands on both feet. His right foot comes down a bit behind him and he then takes an easily visible step forward to bring it even with the rest of his body. This step establishes his left foot as his pivot foot and from that point forward, the left foot cannot legally be moved without releasing the ball.

    But look at that left foot. Immediately after he completes that right foot move, he then slides his left foot in closer to the center of his body. Admittedly, he doesn't pick the left foot up off the floor, but that slight little side is still technically illegal.

    That said, the slide was *so* slight, that it just isn't realistic to expect a referee have noticed it in live action. And even if he did, to actually nullify one of the most dramatic baskets in the history of the game on something so slight? That would be the ultimate "ticky-tack" call.

  4. Belov committed a foul when he went up for the pass.
    Watch that video again. Forbes, Belov, and Joyce were moving quickly toward the baseline right before all of them jumped for the ball. I can't see anything that supports the fouling allegation.