On a recent visit to the website of Spartak St. Petersburg club, I found an interesting article with some famous names. It says that the club and players made a visit to the graveyard where legends of Russian basketball, the coach Vladimir Kondrashin and Alexander Belov lays, who died a long time ago, as a remembrance, to show respect and appreciate their contribution once again. I said to myself: I am lucky because Sergey Belov is still there, he’s alive and may be, one day I will have a chance to speak with him.
Russian basketball is still in crisis. The presidency election for the basketball federation is highly controversial and there remains a lot which stays under the carpet. They made a bold decision to replace Fotis Katsikaris with Vasily Karasev just a few weeks before the Eurobasket and the team returned with a catastropical series of results from Slovenia. The Russian media asks for the reasons although there is a variety of reasons suggested; they agreed on one thing: The team lacked a leader.
Everybody knows what a leader is. Despite that, somehow, it is confused by other qualities. Scoring all the points is not what makes a leader. It is not related with the ability to make a 360 turning dunk. It is not about being the star, the popular guy, constantly encircled by media officers, photographers. You cannot be a leader all of a sudden, for instance in a couple of tournaments. The leaders are the memories of the team. When you look at them, you remember how much the team achieved or failed. You can recall how long the team has been struggling to improve. You remember the disastrous defeats or epic victories of them. Leaders are like water to drink. When they are there, you generally do not notice their real contribution. Their true value, however, is best understood when the team lacks them. The leaders are like the older brothers of the team, they suffer the most when the team loses but the important thing is the team and the goals of the team.
Sergey Belov, at the age of 70, on the 3rd of October this year, took his last breath and left us. Was he the greatest player of the Russian or even the Soviet history of basketball? It can be questioned and discussed. Of course I did not have a chance to watch him closely, only from the old vintage records, provided by various sites, downloaded to PC. Here is my conviction: Sergey Belov, is the leader of Soviet basketball during the 70s. The Soviet Union was huge, they were capable of choosing the right player from a rich player selection options from all over the country. However, while new players coming up and older ones are going out. Belov was always there. His national team story began with 1967 and lasted until 1980s. There were new assistants for him all over the way. Zharmukhamedov, Kovalenko, Paulauskas, Edeshko, Mishkin, Belostenny, Tkatchev, Eremin, Jovaisa, Chomicius. They were all great players but always waited for the ball from Belov.