Russian Sergei Belov, a legend of European basketball, died on Thursday of heart disease, the spokesman for Russian league club CSKA Moskow said. He was 69.

"I just found out 15 minutes ago," his teammate on the Soviet Union's national basketball team, Ivan Edeshko, told Efe.

The Siberia-born Belov died of heart disease in the Russian Ural Mountains city of Perm.

Belov, who after his playing days were over served as national team head coach and president of the Russian Basketball Federation from 1993 to 1998, had one of the greatest hoops careers of any player outside the NBA.

But the highlight of his career unquestionably came at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, where the Soviet Union defeated a seemingly invincible U.S. squad in a gold-medal match marred by controversy.

Although Alexander Belov (no relation to Sergei Belov) scored the winning basket in that game, which pitted the world's two superpowers during the Cold War, Sergei was the game's top scorer with 20 points.

Sergei Belov also was a part of bronze-medal-winning Olympic teams on three occasions, as well as a member of Soviet squads that captured two Basketball World Cup and four EuroBasket titles.

He also was a key member of CSKA Moscow teams that won the Soviet league crown 11 times and the former European Cup in 1969 and 1971.

FIBA honored him as the best European player of the 20th century, while in 1992 he became the first European to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

As the coach of Russia's national team, Belov led the country to runner-up finishes at the 1994 and 1998 editions of the FIBA Basketball World Cup and a bronze medal at the 1997 edition of the FIBA EuroBasket tourney. EFE