Controversial Olympic moments: 1972 men’s basketball final
As we head into the London Olympic Games, I am going to take you through one of the most talked about Olympic events in history. This is a recount of the1972 Munich Olympic games’ Men’s Basketball final.
This was a game no one could ever forget.
September 10, 1972, the Munich summer Olympics was drawing to a close and the United States of America were playing Soviet Russia for the gold medal in basketball. It was a thrilling contest, a fightback was on the cards, but what transpired at the conclusion of the match will never be forgotten.
The USA were down by 8, and they knew they had to come back. So the fast scoring and undefeated (63-0) Americans took to the score board and cut down the lead of 8, to just one. Paul Douglas “Doug” Collins intercepted the ball at centre court and as he drove toward the basket, he was fouled by Zurab Sakandelidze and even knocked out for a few seconds. When he recovered, the referees ordered Collins to take his free throws.
He did so, with precision and class, securing both free throws to put the USA ahead 50-49 with just one second to play.
But out of no where, head coach of the Russians,Vladimir Kondrashin was frantically claiming that he had called a time out between the free throws and that they had played on and ignored the request. After much confusion, the time keepers and referees ordered that three seconds be added to the clock. One of the referees quickly got the game started again and the Russians couldn’t find the basket and the siren sounded.
America celebrated like they had won the gold medal, but out of no where, the announcers were clearing the floor and the clock was to be reset once again. The game was back on after it was determined that the siren they had heard, was in fact the siren declaring that the game was to be stopped until the clock was reset. So after the Americans had witnessed the first short ball moments earlier, the American defender covered that same man. From there, it all happened. Ivan Edeshko threw the ball down the court to centre Aleksandr Belov who caught the ball, recovered his position and performed a well timed lay up. The siren sounded for real, and the score board read 51-50 in favour of Russia.
Everybody, especially the Americans, were confused and upset at the outcome of the match, but the appeals would fail and Russia would claim the gold medal. There was a lot people upset that day. For example, upon the first ‘replay’, Russia used Alzhan Zharmukhamedov to inbound the ball to Sergey Belov, who then fired a hail Mary ball, missing the backboard all together and giving USA the ‘win’. During the second in bound play, Ivan Edeshko was the man to pass the ball. In the confusion, the Russians had made a sneaky and illegal substitution and they knew it would work.
The second problem with the whole scenario is that during the second free throw being conducted by Collins, the Russians had players and staff leave the bench. Under basketball rules, that is a technical foul and the USA should have received some sort of penalty.
The next day, Russia and Cuba (Bronze) appeared at the ceremony for their medals, but their was a vacant podium next to them, as the Americans boycotted the medal ceremony and refused to accept the medals. They felt cheated, and rightfully so, out of a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics.
In modern day sports, it is amazing how the International Olympic Committee and basketball officials let this decision stand. It went against all morals of fair play and it added more controversy to the already controversial 1972 Munich games. As we look to London 2012, we have to wonder what could happen in these sorts of events.
What do you think, Roarers? What is your most controversial Olympic moment?