Of Scandals and Controversies: The 1972 Injustice In Munich

John Louie RamosSenior Writer IJanuary 17, 2009

For most people, the year 1972 will always be associated with the Munich Massacre.

Terrorist attacks, hostage taking, and mass murder in short non-sense killings.

Well to Doug Collins, Tom Henderson, Dwight Jones, and the rest of the USA Men's Basketball team, there was a different massacre.

A massacre in the basketball court; perhaps the most disputed and controversial outcome of any sporting event.

The United States versus the Soviet Union. The political and athletic rivals, winner take all final game, two countries, one gold medal.

"I've hardly got a scrap of evidence that I played in those Games, except for a letter from Richard Nixon on my basement wall, saying, You're still champs in my eyes." -Kevin Joyce

That time, the United States still remains unbeaten in Olympic competition. Seven out of seven, 63-0. The most dominant nation in terms of basketball.

The team rolled on to its first eight games in impressive fashion, entering the finals still undefeated.

The Gold-medal game started slow for the Americans, as the Soviets jumped to an early 7-0 lead and dictated the tempo in the whole first half, leading by five at halftime 26-21.

The second half continued to favor the Soviets, but the Americans just won't roll over and die, trading basket after basket, defensive stop after defensive stop.

"We played their game, the slow down game, we should have ran, and we'd have ran them back to Russia."  -Tom Henderson

12 minutes to play, it got ugly, Dwight Jones the American's leading scorer and rebounder was ejected out of the game.

"They're ahead in the second half, but we're coming back. I rebound and dunk, and then I dunk again. They stick another guy in, and he's on my back, and then he hits me in the back of the head. I raise my fists and the ref says, Both of you are gone. There I am, the team's leading scorer in the big game—gone." -Dwight Jones

The U.S. deficit grew to 10 with under 10 minutes to play then a furious comeback aided by the play of guard Kevin Joyce shrunk the Soviet lead to one point with 38 seconds remaining.

With 10 seconds left Soviet Center, Aleksander Belov's attempt was blocked by U.S. forward Tom McMillen, and Doug Collins controlled the loose ball.

Collins drove to the basket and was fouled intentionally with three seconds left on the clock.

"A Russian goes under me as I'm going up for the layup. I'm KO'd for a few seconds; the coaches run to me. John Bach, one of the assistants, says, We gotta get somebody in to shoot the foul shots But coach Hank Iba says, If Doug can walk, he'll shoot. That electrified me. The coach believed in me" -Doug Collins

Although groggy and shaken, Collins sank in both charities to give the Americans their first taste of the lead 50-49.

With three seconds left, The Soviets have the ball. Forbidden by international rules to call timeout after a free throw, they must inbound the ball, and then their coach must push a button on the sidelines, activating a red light, to arrange a timeout.

The Soviets inbound went into chaos, at this moment the U.S. team was off their feet enjoying their triumph.

Is it really over?, well not yet.

Apparently an official signaled a stop of play during Colin's second free-throw, the Soviets insisted that they had called for a time-out.

Justice was given, time-out was given.

Resume of play with a second remaining, the Soviets to inbound. The Bulgarian referee calls a halt, reason? fans are on the court. Take a second look and you'll see that no one is in the court except for the players and the entire Soviet bench plus it's coaching staff hence they re-inbound for the second time.

The buzzer sounds, the Americans go nuts. Over? not yet.


When the play resumed the clock was reset to 50 seconds instead of three. Meanwhile,  R. William Jones of Great Britain, the secretary general of the International Amateur Basketball Federation (FIBA), who has no jurisdiction in the Olympic games rise from the stands to overrule the decision, giving the Soviets possession and resetting the clock at three seconds.

The Soviets again inbound, the Brazilian referee ordered McMillen to back off and give space to the inbound passer threatening McMillen that he'll call a technical foul if he fail to do so, while there isn't any existing rule on that, McMillen backs off midway the 15-foot line.

The inbounder threw a perfect pass to Aleksander Belov, who barrage his way knocking down two Americans in the process, converting the winning basket.

Soviets go wild.

The Americans filed a protest that was earlier rejected 3-2 by a five-jury panel.

Final score: Soviets gold, Americans silver

The team did not accept the silver medal because they believed that they won the gold.

Up to this day, 36 years had passed and the silver medals remain untouched, kept on a vault in Switzerland.

"I've gone 20 years without it and I can go 20 more." -Jim Brewer, 1992

Moral lesson: If you were given three chances to score and the first two went into chaos, you'll definitely convert on the third try.

Does the Soviets really won the gold?, on the record book it says yes but you be the judge.

Sour-graping, I think no!

"Who knows? maybe in 80 years, like with Jim Thorpe's medal, Justice will be done" -Bobby Jones



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