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One of the best referees in the seventies was Artenik Arabadjian, who had the difficult task to call the shots in the always controversial 1972 Olympic final, in which the Soviet Union edged the United States for the first time in this competition. Arabadjian refereed as many as four Euroleague finals from 1973 to 1978, always with Varese as one of the teams fighting for the title. Strict and cooperative, Arabadjian stays not only as the best Bulgarian referees ever, but also as one of the best in European basketball history.
In his 25-year career as a referee, Obrad Belosevic called more than 300 Yugoslavian League games, as well as two consecutive Euroleague finals in 1969, a double-overtime thriller between CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid, and 1970. In 1978, FIBA awarded him with the Silver Whistle in recognition to his career as a referee. Belosevic also took part in European and World Championships. His son Ilija is following his footsteps, becoming one of the best young referees in Europe. He has already called three Euroleague finals in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
One of the best referees in this modern basketball era has to be Romualdas Brazauskas, who started his career in 1973 and became international in 1987. Brazauskas has taken part in three Olympic Games, calling the 2000 final in Sydney, Australia. Two world championships and several EuroBaskets are other highlights, but Brazauskas is already a Euroleague classic. He has been in 9 Euroleague Final Fours, refereeing 5 title games in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005. Brazauskas is possibly the best Lithuanian referee of all-time.
The man who changed Spanish refereeing and took it to the modern era was none other than Pedro Hernandez-Cabrera, who inspired other superb referees such as Miguel Betancor, Vicente Sanchis or Juan Carlos Arteaga. Hernandez-Cabrera already refereed the 1975 Spanish King's Cup final at age 22, shocking everyone with his athleticism and way to see basketball. He would become the best Spanish referee for an entire decade and call the shots in the 1982 Euroleague final in which Cantu downed Maccabi Elite.
As one of the best referees in the seventies, David Turner became a reference for British basketball. Turner became the reference in the late seventies, refereeing as many as three Euroleague finals, always with Varese as one of the teams. Turner was the second referee in the 1976 Euroleague final in which Varese downed Madrid, then became the main one the following season when Maccabi lifted its first Euroleague trophy. He also called the shots in the 1979 Euroleague final between Bosna and Varese, as well as in countless European and World competitions.
One of the best referees in this modern era has to be Carl Jungebrand, who has called almost 1,000 international games since 1986. He has refereed three EuroBasket finals in 1989, 1997 and 2001, as well as the 2006 World Championship title game. Jungebrand has also taken part in three Olympic games, but his career in club competitions is equally impressing. He has called as many as five Euroleague finals in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2005 and 2006, as well as refereeing in 4 other Final Fours. Accurate and even-tempered, Jungebrand is still a reference nowadays.
Arguably the best Russian referee ever, Mikhail Davidov had a long, fruitful career that saw him call thousands of important games not only at home, but also in international competitions. Davidov might have called more EuroBasket and Olympic finals if the Soviet Union was not that powerful those days. Always full of energy, Davidov called two Euroleague finals in 1998, when Milano beat Maccabi Elite, and in 1991, when Split lifted its third consecutive trophy against Barcelona. Davidov now works for FIBA as a Technical Commissioner.
The first top referee in Euroleague history, Ervin Kassai is a living legend. He worked in 4 Olympic Games from 1960 to 1972, calling the finals in Rome 1960 and Mexico 1968. Kassai also took part in 8 EuroBaskets and 2 World Championship throughout his 22-year international career. Moreover, Kassai called as many as five Euroleague finals in 1962, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1971. Kassai refereed hundreds of important games all around the continent and belonged to FIBA's Technical Commission from 1966 to 1995. He set a high standard for fair refereeing in the early days of the Euroleague.
He officiated 4,015 games, including two Olympic Finals, and took part in 5 World Championships, 12 EuroBaskets, as well as six other international competitions outside Europe. Lubomir Kotleba also called 10 European club competitions final, including two Euroleague title games in 1983 and 1989. A former player, coach, team manager, referee and commissioner, Kotleba is a key person to understand European basketball in the last 30 years. Kotleba now workd as FIBA Sports Director and conduct basketball referees clinics worldwide.
The current president of the French basketball federation, Yvan Mainini, was also an outstanding referee who called thousands of games in his country and all around the continent. Mainini was one of the best European referees in the eighties, calling three Euroleague finals in 1982, 1983, both with Cantu wins and 1985, when Cibona downed Real Madrid in Athens, Greece. Mainini also worked in EuroBaskets, World Championships and Olympic games, getting a background that allowed him to become an essential basketball personality in France.
It comes as no surprise that Costas Rigas was chosen as Euroleague Basketball's director of referees. Rigas became an international refere in 1977 and finished his career with the Olympics Women’s Final in 1992. He refereed as many as 23 title games throughout his career, including the 1984 Olympic final and the 1986 World Championship title game. Four Euroleague finals in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1991, as well as 4 Korac Cup title games or an Intercontinental final are other highlights of his long, legendary refereeing career.
Few referees have called two consecutive Olympic finals, but that is what Wieslaw Zych did in Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. Zych also refereed in the 1988 Olympics, as well as in three consecutive World Championships from 1986 to 1994. His career in club competition is equally impressing, as Zych took part in 5 Euroleague finals: 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1995. Once Zych retired, he stayed linked with basketball and refereeing. As a ULEB commissioner and observer, Zych has taken part in three consecutive Final Fours in Barcelona 2003, Tel Aviv 2004 and Moscow 2005.
THE ALL-TIME REFEREE NOMINEES