Game events:

Last 3 seconds:

Last 3 Seconds: First Play

This episode begins with Doug's two free throws and ends with bedlam number one.

Here you see the main video of the game. There are a lot of things that appear in this video, I will bring your attention to it again and again, focusing on different people.

There are 3 seconds left in the game. Doug Collins, although shaken, puts both balls into the basket, and the American team takes the lead for the first time in the game. When Doug is about to throw the second ball, the horn sounds and referee Renato Righetto turns his head towards the officials' table to see why. Then he turns his head back to Collins. Doug puts the ball in the basket, and the second field referee, Artenik Arabadjan, commands the Soviet team to start their attack immediately. S. Belov receives a pass and starts dribbling towards the center line, where his movement is interrupted by Righetto, who shows that a time-out is to be called. In front of the officials table stands Soviet second coach Sergey Bashkin, frantically showing that they requested a time-out. According to the rules, the Soviet coach deserved a technical foul for leaving the designated area, but, given the following events, I don't believe that was seriously considered by referees. Righetto thought that the time-out should be given and didn't even think about a technical foul.

So, the horn sound was a signal for a time-out called by Soviet coach Kondrashin.

Lets read the rule (full article 41 is here):

The Scorer shall indicate to the Officials that a request for charged time-out has been made by sounding his signal as soon as the ball is dead and the game watch is stopped but before the ball is again in play (see article 37).

Let's read the article 37 (full article is here):

The ball goes into play (is in play) when

a. any goal is made,

b. the Official takes his position to administer a free throw


We also need extractions from article 39 (full article is here):

The ball becomes dead when:


b. It is apparent that the ball will not go into the basket : on a free throw for a technical foul by Coach or substitute, or a free throw which is to be followed by another throw,


f. A foul occurs while the ball is in play

According to the rules, the coach had a choice as to when to take a time-out - before or after the first free throw.

Before we try to assess the different versions of what happened, we should know that in that Olympics an electronic device was used to request a time-out, which is allowed by the rules (see article 41).

Version one (supported by Soviet coach Kondrashin):

In this Olympics, a special procedure was developed for requesting time-outs during free throws. The coach had to press a button the first time, requesting a time-out, then press it a second time if he wanted it before the first throw. If he wanted it after the first throw, he didn't need to press the button again.

So, Kondrashin decided to wait and see how successful Collins would be with his first. But an inexperienced referee misinterpreted the absence of a second signal from the Soviet coach as a decision not to take a time-out at all. Moments later, he realized his mistake and gave the signal, but it was too late. Collins already had the ball and almost immediately after the signal was given, apparently undistracted, threw the ball into the basket.

This version doesn't answer the simple question: "Why create such complexity when, according to the rules, a coach can request a time-out any time during the first free throw if he wants to take it between the first and second throws?"

Version two (supported by the rules):

Kondrashin sent a time-out request by pressing the button. At that time (a matter of seconds), the scorer was distracted by something and missed the red light on the board. When he saw the light, it was already too late, but he gave the signal anyway.

Choose the version you like the most.

When Soviet players were starting an attack, the Soviets on the bench still expected a time-out to be given. They were right - the ball was dead after the successful second throw, so if the scorer was quick enough, he could have given a time-out signal at that moment. This time, everything would be happening according to the rules, so the time-out would likely be given. At the 16th second of the video, just before the Soviet player on the court started his attack, the assistant coach, Sergey Bashkin, jumped off his chair having realized that a time-out was not going to be given. You could see his head bobbing up in the bottom right corner and moving to the right, towards the Officials' desk. He managed to attract attention just in time; the game was stopped by Righetto with only one second left. Righetto showed the players that a time-out should be given to the Soviet team. According to the rules, however, it shouldn't!

Referees could have differing opinions about the situation. Righetto was going to resume the game with one second left on the clock (source).

At the same time, another important event happened behind the Soviet bench, where FIBA Secretary General William Jones was sitting watching the game. Soviet Yury Ozerov approached him, requesting that three seconds be put on the clock and a time-out be given. Jones agreed and decided to intervene. Here is Ozerov's testimony (in Russian). In the following video you can see Ozerov on the left side of the frame wearing black suit.

Let's get back to the main video. At second 25.6, three of Mr. Jones' fingers appeared at the bottom left corner; they are followed a moment later by Mr. Secretary himself. These fingers appear again at second 35, then at second 48, then yet again at second 55.5. That signified that the Soviet team should be given another chance for an attack with the clock rolled back to 3 seconds.

Mr. Jones had absolutely no right to interfere with the game. Official referees are the only ones who can make decisions about a game that is in progress. Nevertheless, he stepped in and ordered that the clock be rolled back to 3 seconds, and the officials complied. There is no rule justifying that decision. Those who disagree can search the rules themselves.

This game, by the way, wasn't the only time William Jones intervened in the normal course of a game. It had already happened several years before, ironically, during a game between the same teams during the 1967 world championship. At that time, he made a decision in favor of the USA team. Who knows, maybe he just wanted to even the score in the 1972 Olympics.

Now let's return to the video. After some dispute, the referees managed to get everyone who wasn't directly involved in the game back to their seats.

No time-out was given, and it is important to establish that fact. If you trust me on that, continue reading. Otherwise, you are invited to a "Time-out Controversy" page.

Now it's time to formulate the decision that was made: teams were put in the situation just after the second free throw, with three seconds on the clock and no time-out having been given.

Kondrashin took the opportunity to explain to the players what to do.

Also, one very important event happened - Edeshko replaced Zharmuhamedov.

I think the substitution fact is clear, but if you want proof, read this.

Edeshko had no right to enter the game! The time-out was not given, and the substitution request was not made. Kondrashin made the "silent" substitution. That requires proof as well.

First, I'll explain why Edeshko was so important. He was the best long-distance thrower on the Soviet team. Moreover, he had experience with similar situations. Even more, at least once, that combination with his pass was successful! So, he was the Soviets' best chance.

Well, how did Edeshko get onto the court? Did the referees allow him? Let's read the rule first (full version of article 46 is here):

A substitute before going upon the court shall report to the Scorer...

The Scorer shall sound his signal... as the consequence of one of the following situations:

....................................................................... has been stopped ... for any other reason, ordered by the Officials.


The substitute shall remain outside the boundary line until an Official beckons him to enter whereupon he shall report immediately to the nearer Official telling the Official his name or number and the name or number of the player he replaces.

I want to note that no official would allow a substitute to enter the court before the player he replaces has left the court.

It's important to establish whether, according to the rules, substitutions were allowed at this moment.

The rules a few lines above say that the scorer shall sound a signal upon a substitution request. Let's assume that he forgot. Substitution can be made if the game has been stopped by officials for any reason. So, it looks like subs should be allowed. However, remember the decision to roll the situation back (together with clock) to the moment after the second free throw. At that moment, the ball was dead, so technically substitutions were allowed. However, Soviets didn't ask for it! So, it's either that there is one second left and subs were allowed, or it's three seconds left and no subs were then allowed.

Still, the situation was very unusual, and fell into a grey area, so it was subject to a judgment call.

Let's go back and watch the main video again.

At 27.1 seconds, both Soviet coaches are still beside the officials' desk.

At 34.7 seconds, both referees and the officials' desk appear in the video.

If we can assume that the substitution was made during this time frame, let's try to reconstruct the events we missed.

Kondrashin made a decision, and the substitute had to report to the scorer, who then sounded a signal (which surely didn't happen); then the sub had to tell the ref on the court the number of the one he is replacing. They would then wait until the replaced player leaves the court, before the sub would enter the court, and therefore disappear from the vicinity of the officials' desk. All of this action would have had to occur in 7.6 seconds! It isn't likely.

At 37 seconds, the official farthest to the left behind the desk (could be the scorer) disappears from view; then, at 40.5 seconds, both court referees are in the view. This means that the Soviets had 3.5 seconds to make a substitution. Again, this seems unlikely.

At 41 seconds, the video switches to show the scoreboard for 2.5 seconds, and then returns back. Obviously, there were no subs within that 2.5 seconds.

At 45.1 seconds, in the left edge of the view, there appears the player who was supposed to be replaced, Zharmuhamedov (#7). Apparently, he is still there!

At 48 seconds, the sub, Edeshko, runs onto the court (and the view), so both substitute and the one he was supposed to replace are on the court at the same time.

At 55 seconds, there are 6 Soviet players on the court. All but one (Sakandelidze, #6) gathered around Kondrashin. That included Zharmuhamedov (on the right), who apparently is not aware that he is being replaced.

Let's look at the video from the Soviet camera:

Kondrashin talks to the players. Five of them are listening while a sixth one (Sakandelidze, number six) is wandering around. Again, there is an extra player on the court (it wasn't a time-out, remember?). Edeshko (number nine, second rightmost) and Zharmuhamedov (number seven, rightmost) are both listening. Apparently, the latter is not yet aware that he's about to be pulled from the court. At second seven of the video, Kondrashin makes a gesture that removes Zharmuhamedov. In the next second, another camera view shows Zharmuhamedov approaching the bench. As you already know, substitutions must be done in a different way, and officials definitely have to be involved.

You can draw your own conclusions, but I think (given that the time-out was not granted) it's been proven that Edeshko "silently" replaced Zharmuhamedov. As we all now know that it was Edeshko who made a winning pass seconds later, you can understand the importance of this substitution.