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Basketball Legend "Pistol Pete" Maravich Shares His Life Story... Just Days Before His Death

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 23, 2023 3:02 am

Basketball Legend "Pistol Pete" Maravich Shares His Life Story... Just Days Before His Death

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 23, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, just days before his death, the 40 year-old Maravich shared his story to a small audience about his life pursuing success and fame—until that pursuit brought him to his knees. This is the story of him coming to Christ.

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Happy streaming! This is our American Stories. Pistol Pete Maravich is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in basketball history. Also one of my personal hoops heroes. Maravich started in college with the LSU Tigers while playing for his father, head coach Pres Maravich. He's the all-time leading NCAA Division 1 scorer still with 3,667 points and he averaged 44.2 points per game. All of his accomplishments were achieved before the adoption of the three-point shot and the shot clock, and despite being able to play varsity as a freshman under the NCAA rules.

That's crazy. Maravich played 10 years in the NBA and is considered by many to be the best ball handler of all time. Just days before his death on January 8, 1988, the 40-year-old Pistol Pete spoke to guests who gathered near the poolside of Jimmy Walker's house, an NBA All-Star. We'd like to thank Vision Video for giving us special access to this rare bonus footage you are about to hear from their fantastic uplifting movie, The Pistol, the birth of a legend, Theta G. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1947, basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich was born.

Here's Pete Maravich looking back on his life just days before his death. I grew up in Clemson, South Carolina. When I was four years old, the only thing I ever knew was basketball. By the time I was five years old, I was already playing organized basketball. My parents baited me into the game.

They never forced me. When I was seven years old, my dad came to me and he says, Pete, he says, I don't have any money to send you to college. You're going to have to get a scholarship. And if you get a scholarship, they'll pay your way.

I only make $2,900 a year, and that's just not going to pay your way by the time you get there. And if you're good enough, Pete, you might even make it to the pro basketball. That's where the greatest players play.

And there's so few. And if you get there, you might play on a team that wins a world championship. And you'll get a big diamond ring, Pete, so big, and it has on there world champions, and you'll be declared as the rest of the team one of the greatest at that particular time. Not only that, Pete, you'll be able to make money. They'll pay you for doing it.

They'll pay you for playing something that you enjoy doing. Well, from that day, I decided to commit my life totally to basketball. I was dedicated, possessed, and obsessed by it. I was so dedicated to it, I'll tell you some of the things I used to do. We lived two and a half miles outside of town in Clemson, South Carolina. And I used to get to basketball, and I'd dribble in all the way.

I would not accept a ride. I would dribble in with my right hand and dribble back home with my left hand, five miles a day, to the gym where I'd play eight to 10 hours a day. When I finally got a bicycle when I was about 11 years old, 10, 11 years old, I learned to dribble the basketball on my bicycle all the way in.

It made it a lot easier to get into town, too, and I got there quicker. And I dribbled the ball by riding the bicycle. It got so bizarre that my dad came to me one day, and he says, Pete, come on, get your basketball, and let's go in the car. I said, where are we going? He says, I'll tell you when we get there. He went over, and he went on this specific highway, and there weren't many cars there. And he said, now look, I want you to get in the back seat, stick yourself out that back window there, and you start dribbling the ball, I'm going to drive at various speeds. I want to see if you can really control this thing. And so I did that, and he'd go 5, 10, 15 miles an hour, and 20 miles an hour. And of course, if you realize when you're trying to dribble a basketball out of a car or on a bicycle, you got to throw it way out in front because he's going, and it's coming back.

It really comes back quick, along with a lot of rocks. And to see the faces on the people that just happened to be driving by was something in itself. It really was. I used to take the basketball to bed with me. I slept with the basketball until I was about 13 years old.

I would get in bed, and I'd lay in the bed for one hour before I ever went to sleep, and I would repeat three things. Fingertip control, backspin, follow through. Fingertip control, backspin, follow through as I released it laying down. I was completely possessed by the game. I used to go around my house blindfolded, dribbling the ball because I knew where everything was. Of course, to the dismay of my mother, sometimes I didn't, and I knew how to dribble the ball very fast out of the house. I used to get the basketball, and I would dribble out in thunderstorms, lightning, everything else. You couldn't even see. I used to sneak out my back window.

I'd go to this little spot where there was a mud hole. It was kind of a real hard mud, and I'd start dribbling the ball as if mud and everything splashed up on me and literally scared to death because of the thunder and lightning, because I felt like if I could dribble in that mud and that water and everything else and control it, I could certainly do it on a court when someone was guarding me. See, I was so committed to the game of basketball.

In fact, from the time I was five years old to I was 17 years old, I played over 20,000 hours of basketball. In the March Reader's Digest, they had a story in there about television and how it affects young people's minds, or any person. It wasn't for or against television.

It just says how it affects one's mind. It said that the average person by the time he's 20 years old sees 20,000 hours of television. I kind of paralleled that with my life, 20,000 hours of people watching television. I spent 20,000 hours of hard sweat playing the game of basketball. When I was 12 years old, it was my first time I ever played in a regular game for junior varsity. I made the junior varsity when I was 12. At 13, I started on my high school team and played five years of high school basketball. I was four foot nine and a half. At that time, at 12, a reporter came up to me after the game. I used to shoot the basketball from down here because I was too weak to shoot it from up here. So I used to take the ball and take it and release it like this. This reporter saw me and he said, it looks like this guy has drawn a pistol. He wrote that up, and that name has stuck ever since. I just threw that in.

I know that doesn't interest you at all, but I just wanted to say that. But he asked me after the game. He came up and interviewed me.

That was my first interview I ever had, and I wish it had been my last. He said, what are you going to do when you grow up, Pistol Pete? I said, well, I'm going to play pro basketball.

I'm going to be on a team that wins a world championship, get a diamond ring, and make a million dollars. He literally fell off his chair with laughter. I said, what are you laughing about? He said, a million dollars?

They don't make that kind of money. This was in the 50s, and he was right. But I just felt like at some point in my life, I would. My early church life was absolutely probably zero. I was not raised in a Christian home. I was raised in a church home. I was raised with telling Pete, you've got to go to church. You've got to go to church. It's good to go to church. You need church. But when I got into church, I didn't ever hear anything. I never heard who Jesus Christ was when I was young, because I didn't want to hear. See, I would sit in there and literally count ticks in my head, one, two, three, up to a minute, and that would go for an hour until I got out of there.

I felt that if I was in this church for an hour, somebody in Philadelphia, LA, Boston, or New York was playing basketball, and when it came down to get that scholarship, I would not get it. And I progressed on into my teenage years. When I was 14 years old, it was the first time I ever had my first taste of alcohol.

I had a beer at 14 years of age on the steps of the Methodist Church in Clemson, South Carolina. And I liked it. I really did like it.

I liked it a lot. And for something I can tell you young people here tonight, it's this. Don't ever take that first drink, and don't ever take that first drug, because it will never be your last, and it will lead to destruction. Because that's literally what almost happened in my own life. Ninety-eight percent of all people in jails today started with that first drink.

Eighty-five percent of over 500,000 people in correctional institutions today committed their crimes while under the influence of a mind-altering substance, drugs or alcohol. And all of a sudden, this tremendous commitment that I had and everything else kind of went down the drain. I didn't have it anymore, and I had played so much up until that time when I was 14, 15, going on to 16, 17. But all of a sudden, I had time on the weekends to do other things. I saw the opposite sex for the first time in my life. You see, I was completely obsessed with basketball.

I didn't do what other people did. My God was basketball. Their God was sex, alcohol, and whatever else. But I didn't see any of that until I was 14, and then my eyes opened up. And I enjoyed it, and I started getting into it.

And then that toehold became a foothold, and the foothold became a stronghold, and that stronghold became an entire possession. I'm not scared to tell you here, I was an alcoholic. I can't get people to write that up, because I've never been to a clinic or anything. And all my friends drank just like I did, and they were alcoholics too. I enjoyed it a great deal, because there's a great pleasure in sin.

There's a lot of pleasure in it, because if there wasn't, nobody would do it. When I was 18 years old, I was asked to go out to Lake Arrowhead out in San Bernardino, California, to a campus crusade for Christ. They asked me to come out there and do what you just saw here, what was called Showtime. They said, would you come out here and do your clinic, Pete?

I said, well, sure. That'd be great. I'll bring one of my friends, and we'll just come out there.

California, I've never been there. That'd be fun. So we got in the car, and I was just reaching my 18th birthday, literally right before what was to be called the Pistol Pete era in Southeastern Conference basketball. And you're listening to Pistol Pete Marovitch reflecting on his own life just days before his tragic death and a premature death at that.

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Wear it like no one else. And we're back with our American stories and we're going to continue with Pistol Pete Maravich, who was born on this day in 1947, one of the all-time greatest players and an idol of mine. I can't tell you how many hours I spent watching him on television, the rare times he would come on and then trying to copy every single thing he did. Let's go back to Pistol Pete. I told my friend, I said, Hey, we got to hurry and get out of here. I'm going to do this clinic and get out. These people are nuts. I mean, what are they smoking? And put that beer down.

We don't want to see them with this beer. So I checked into this place. It was for three days. And I asked them, when am I supposed to do my clinic? And they said, Well, Pete, we're not sure yet, but if you just bear with us, we're going to have you over here with this group. I said, What do you mean? What am I going to do? He says, Well, nothing. Nothing to do. We'll just put you here.

Would it be all right? And I said, Okay. So I stayed with this group.

My friend went with another group. And for three days, I finally heard who Jesus Christ was. I wasn't concerned about that. To me, it was just a story. It was a story. It was nice. That's nice.

But after the end of three days there, there was no impact on my life. We went out to the beach, Bill Battle, who was an All-American football player, with a bicep as large as my thigh. Said, We're going out to the beach. I'm taking this group with me. We're going to witness for Christ. And I said, What do you mean witness? Well, what is this, Bill? What do you mean witness? What are you talking about? He said, You just come along, Pete.

We just want to show you what we do here. So I went along with him, and we went out on the beaches out there, California beaches, and he goes up to the worst-looking group. This was back during the 60s. This was the most revolutionary time, the rebellious time in our history, probably.

This led to so much of the rebellion today. And yet he went up to the worst-looking group. The guy had tattoos all of his own, hair down here.

He was smoking a joint, drinking. There was about four or five of them. They were mean-looking, ugly.

They didn't smell very good, everything. And I stayed way in the background. But you know, the Lord has a way to use people. You see, he went up to this guy who was the meanest-looking guy right behind his head. He says, You know something?

I would really like to share something with you folks. And this guy was literally going to turn around and punch him, I know. Because he turned around and he said, Look, go right ahead.

Because that mindset was right in his face. And if anything impressed me, it was that. That did impress me. I said, Wow, how God gets people's attention.

It's amazing. So they witnessed, and I don't remember, I think some of them left right away. They said, Oh, you Jesus freaks and all this kind of stuff. And I just kind of turned my head.

I didn't want no part of it. At the end of three days, there was a thousand kids. And I was part of it. And Bill Bright, who's founder of the Campus Crusade, gave a message, much like Billy Graham, had an invitation for people to come receive Christ. Then he had them come publicly and receive him.

Lo and behold, my friend was sitting next to me. He got up. I said, What are you doing? He says, Peter, I don't know what to tell you. I really don't know what to tell you. I've just received Christ.

End of my life. I said, Kenny, that ain't just something you ate or something, son. And I grabbed him by the arm. I literally tried to steal away his salvation. I said, Don't go up there.

You're embarrassing me. I remember saying that. And he pulled away, and he went up there. He says, You don't understand. I said, No, I don't.

And he walked up there. And I remember sitting there and saying, Well, you're not going to get me, God. I'm going to play pro basketball, be in a world championship team, and make a million dollars.

Boy, that's what I want in life. But you know, as I've reflected over that time, how many times I've cried and wished that I'd received Christ in my life then. You know why? Because God had sent me there for a purpose. Not to do a clinic. I never did one.

Nobody even asked me. But he put me there for one reason. Pete, come home now. Come home now because you're about to embark on a tremendous amount of personal tragedy and destruction in your life. And it doesn't have to be that way. But you can choose that way.

And you don't have to. And I went on into college. And I did a lot of things in college. I've set something like around 50 basketball records from high school, college, and pro. The amount of trophies and awards and plaques that I have, the amount of honorary mayorships and keys to cities that I have, except the time when I go to those cities and try to get the keys, they don't ever give them to me.

It could literally, really, could go around this entire pool area. I have a trophy from 1972 in a box that's never been opened. It's 6 foot 5 inches and 1 quarter inch tall.

The exact height of me. I've never seen it. I've never opened the box. But they're all stored away.

They don't really do anything for me. But I've had all those trophies and awards. I've had popularity. I've had fame. I had a tremendous amount of fame back in the 60s. Tremendous amount of popularity everywhere we went.

We played before over right at a million people in college in three years. And that's pretty good. And I had all this adulation. And people wrote me.

I got thousands of letters a week from fans. We idolized you, Pete Mayer. But you're my idol. You're this.

You're that. And I wasn't a role model at all. Not at all.

I wasn't a role model for young people at all. None. Zero. And then after my college, and I was all American, and I'm the leading score of all time in college basketball. It'll be broken someday. But I'm the leading score. I averaged over 44 points a game for a three-year period. I just hold all kind of records. My high school records are still held. I still hold the record for the All-Star game. I scored 47 points in the East West High School All-Star game back in 1965. But it's still there.

It hasn't been broken. And some great players have come through there. And then I went in on the pros, you see. And I'd had a lot of fun in college. A lot of fun. Too much fun. I had a lot of fun.

Too much fun. In fact, I was in nine accidents in college and walked away from every one of them. Knowing that, one time I was coming home from putting on a clinic in Pennsylvania, and I drove 700 miles. And I stopped for the night.

It was a halfway point. And I went down to a local pub, local little bar, sat in there, and had about two beers. And a young lady came over to me and said, how are you, sweetie? I said, I'm just fine. She said, you mind if I sit down here? I said, well, suit yourself. So I was sitting there.

I wasn't there two minutes when a guy came up to me about six foot five, about 270 pounds. I said, what are you doing, my girl? I said, I'm not doing anything with her, sir. I'm just sitting here.

I'm just having this cold beer here. I don't want any trouble. And he started pushing me. He started hitting me in the shoulder. And I grew up as a kid knowing that you never backed down from anybody.

I don't care what the odds. I wasn't going to back down. And I told him to get his hands off of me and all this.

And before long, one thing led to another. And they said, y'all get out of here if you're going to fight. He said, yeah, come on.

So I said, fine. So I got up, and I went out quickly. And I made myself through the crowd. And I got outside. And I stayed behind the door. And I was really going to get this guy when he came out. But he never came.

Of course, I didn't wait there about two minutes. And he didn't come. And so I said, I better get out of here. And I left. And I walked out in the parking lot.

As I was walking in the back of the parking lot, I saw a telephone booth where I was going to call a taxi to go to the Holiday Inn where I was staying. As I was walking out, I heard this guy came out and he yelled to me. And little did I know that another guy had gone around the other side.

And they both had black jacks, which I didn't know. And the old story is that the guy just literally, they just hit me from behind and beat me up pretty good. As I laid there on that parking lot that night, that girl came up. And I was all blood. And she took a.25 automatic pistol. And she put it in my mouth and cocked it. And she says, you're a dead man, Pistol Pete.

How about that? And I remember laying there. And from the depths of my heart, I said, yeah, kill me.

Because then I'll have peace. And you've been listening to Pistol Pete Maravich. And he gave this speech not long before his death, indeed just days. More of Pistol Pete Maravich's life story.

His last story that he told in front of a large audience. Here on Our American Stories. All inclusive vacation packages across tons of destinations to show you the best deals possible. You can go to your favorite beaches like Mexico, Jamaica or Punta Cana knowing you got the best value or explore someplace new if you find a deal you just can't pass up. And when you go all inclusive with cheap Caribbean, it's all included. Pay one price for everything on your vacay. Food, drinks, flights and hotel are all bundled together. Spend less and get more. When you book your next beach vacation with a budget beach finder at

Get symbolic today at or visit a GNC store near you. And we continue with Our American Stories. And with Pistol Pete Maravich's story, one of the last ones he told in his life, this one just days before he passed. back then. And I searched all through the 1970s for what meaning there was to life. I had to know the meaning.

What was the meaning? And I got involved in all kinds of different things. I was involved in yoga and TM. I was involved very heavily in ufology, philosophy. I was involved in different religions, Hinduism especially. I was involved in everything.

But the thing about it is none of it really satisfied me. They were just all brief interludes of satisfaction, much like my life was brief interludes of just ego gratification, satisfaction. And all through that time, in fact in 1976, I decided I was going to live to be 150 years old. And I got very heavily into nutrition because I was into Hinduism and I was into the karma and all these other types of situations. And I became a vegetarian and then a fruitarian and a macrobotic and a mini-dose and a maxi-dose on vitamins.

And I fasted 25 days and I sat in all kinds of different positions. And I was searching for life, friends. I was really searching for life because my life had no meaning at all. My life had absolutely no meaning at all.

And at each one of these stops, each one of these stops, I had to have something else. It just didn't satisfy me. In 1980, I quit basketball. I just quit. I walked away from it because of immaturity and because of the fact that I just got tired of it all. I just got tired of it. I got tired of my life. And I became a recluse for about two years.

I sat in my home. We had our first son, Jason. He was only one and a half years old. And I was sat there for hours at a time trying to teach him seven and eight-year-old puzzles because I wanted my son, Jason, to have what I didn't. I wanted him to have a high intellect. I wanted him to be an intelligent person. I wanted him to be able to go to the right parties and say the right things. I thought that was important.

I really thought that was important. And so my wife used to come to me and she says, Pete, you really need to go see someone because you're really flipping out. I said, what do you mean? She says, you haven't left this house in two weeks. I said, yeah, I have. I'm not.

I go out to the garage and stuff. But I was really lost. And in 1982, I went to bed one night.

It was like any other night. Pete Marovitch had all the material things you could want. I used to carry around $5,000 in my pocket in cash in 20s.

I never carried any change. But I had all that stuff and none of it ever satisfied me, not the money, not the wealth, not the success. And I laid there in bed and I couldn't sleep.

I didn't understand it. And all of a sudden, everything started coming up in my life, all the sin, every sin I'd ever committed. And I've committed many, let me tell you, many sins in my life. And there's nothing hidden. And I'm not airing all my dirty laundry here.

I'm not trying to. I don't want to give Satan any credit. But I can tell you this. It all came up.

And it also came up when I was 18 when I could have received Christ. And it was 5.30 in the morning now. And I laid there crying with two pillows back up in my back with an unsaved wife next to me.

And I was sitting there crying. And I said, God, I've punched you. I've kicked you. I've cursed you. I've used your name in vain. I've mocked you. I've embarrassed you. I've done all those things. And yet, do you really, I mean, will you really forgive me, the things that I've done? And I was about to get over on the side of my bed. And what happened to me doesn't happen, everybody. And what happened to me, happened to me.

And that's why I'm talking out of my shoes. Many people don't believe it. Many theologians don't believe it.

Many people, many theologians don't believe in God. God spoke to me honorably right there in the room. He said, be strong and lift thine own heart. Literally, honorably, I looked around the room. I was in total shock.

I'd never heard anything like that before. And I was so shocked that I reached over and I woke my wife just shaking her like crazy. I said, Jackie, did you hear what the Lord said to me?

Did you hear that? You must understand, Jackie had seen me go through all kind of trips in my life. And she just kind of looked at me in the dark. And she said, Pete, you really have gone nuts, haven't you?

And she just went back to sleep. You know, I was sitting there and all of a sudden, about a year and a half ago, my wife and I went through a terrible tragedy. I was restoring an old Victorian home.

And I'd just gotten back from China. Some friends came over and we were showing them the house. We'd gone upstairs with them. And they said, you know what?

I'm going to go back to the house. And we'd gone upstairs with them. And there was no banister. So we told our kids to, you know, stay away from the stairs.

It's going to be here a second. And we were showing them. And as careful as we are with our children, I'd forgotten that they didn't even really think about it. I'd built in a little closet and upstairs room. And in that closet was an air conditioning vent, an old one that had been stuffed up with insulation. And it really happened very quickly. They both kind of ran in there.

We didn't see them. And all of a sudden, it was like that. My wife heard a very loud thump.

And when she went back there, Joshua, my little two year old at the time wasn't there. I just kind of knew what happened. And I dashed down the floor. And I went in there and I saw my little son lying there in a pool of blood.

He had landed and impact had hit him directly in the eye is where he hit on this part of his head. He was in a semi-conscious state. I'd taken CPR in the past. And my wife never did see him.

I'm glad she didn't because it's something I'll live with all my life. Well, anyway, I picked him up and he was just a lifeless little body. His heartbeat was so faint that I didn't know whether he was going to make it or not. But I rushed him to the hospital and I got him there.

There wasn't even any doctors there at this particular hospital. The guy that was supposed to be there was off. He was in lunch or something like that. It just so happened I had a Christian painter there and a Christian carpenter and they started praying. They found a doctor and he came in and they checked him out. I was in prayer in the other room.

My wife was literally away with just had lost it completely. And we didn't know what was going to happen to Joshua. About 10 minutes later, the doctor came out.

He happened to be an eye surgeon. And he says, Pete, Joshua is going to make it. And I said, thank God for that. I said, that's just great. He said, but we've looked in his eye just very quickly.

And it looks like all the muscles of his eyes have been torn away. So I'm going back in there and check him out. And you're just waiting here. I said, fine. I just went back in prayer. And my prayer wasn't that Josh be healed.

My prayer was according to God's plan in Joshua's life that it just be worked out. And so about 15 minutes later, the doctor came back to me and he says, Pete, he says, I really can't believe what happened. And I said, what's that doctor? He says, we look in Joshua's eye just now and it's as clear as a bell. There's no contusions. There's no broken bones. His neck is, there's nothing. I mean, it's just absolutely clear. Plus the fact he's just going to be perfect.

There's nothing wrong with him except this massive swelling that is taking place. Well, that was just a little miracle in my life. And as I thought about this, I started reflecting back on my own life.

And it's been that way in my life, hundreds upon hundreds of times that I've literally reflected back at the times that I really shouldn't be here, but I am here and I'm here for one purpose. Jesus Christ changed my life. Money didn't do it. Women didn't do it. Friends didn't do it. Pastors didn't do it. Wealth didn't do it.

Success, present and being a company, owning your own business, having your own boat. I don't have much time left. And the time that I have, I'm giving to the Lord Jesus Christ. And you've been listening to Pistol Pete Maravich, one of the last talks he ever gave here on this earth. He suffered a heart attack and he died on Tuesday, January 8, 1988 after playing a pickup basketball game at a Pasadena, California church.

He was only 40. Quote, we were on a break and he walked up to me, said, focus on the family's James Dobson. I asked him how he was feeling.

He said, I feel great. He took one step and fell. And Dobson continued, quote, I tried to do what I could, but he'd had a seizure. That was easy to see. He was jaundiced and his eyes rolled back in his head. His body was rigid. It was clear he was leaving.

I called out to him, asked him not to go, but it was much too late. Pete Maravich died in Dr. Dobson's arms. The story of Pete Maravich in his own words, who was born on this day in 1947 here on Our American Stories. From OutTV and HearTV. Then kick back with nature scenes from Music Choice Relax and jam All June with iHeartRadio's Songs of the Summer Radio. Discover new shows and movies for free, no strings attached.

Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. For each person living with myasthenia gravis or MG, their journey with this rare condition is unique. That's why Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis, a new podcast from iHeartRadio in partnership with Argenics, is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Host Martine Hackett will share these powerful perspectives from real people with MG so their experiences can help inspire the MG community and educate others about this rare condition.

Listen to find strength and community on the MG journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Malcolm Gramble. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-23 12:42:00 / 2023-06-23 12:57:23 / 15

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