Final results for the Basketball competition
at the 1972 Summer Olympics
. It was held from
August 27 to September 9 at the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle.
Pool Play: Group A
Pool Play: Group B
||Philippines (The Egyptian
team forfeited as their entire team left the Games following the
Gold Medal Match controversy
The 1972 Olympic men's basketball gold medal game, marking the
first ever loss for Team USA since the sport began Olympic play in
1936, is one of the most controversial in Olympic history. The
United States team rode its seven consecutive gold medals and 63-0
Olympic record to Munich for the 1972 Summer Olympics
. The team won its
first eight games of the tournament in convincing fashion, setting
up a final against the Soviet Union.
With the U.S. team trailing 49-48, American guard Doug Collins
stole a Russian pass at halfcourt
and was fouled hard, being knocked down into the basket stanchion.
With three seconds remaining on the game clock, Collins was awarded
two free throws and sank the first to tie the score at 49. Just as
Collins lifted the ball to begin his shooting motion to shoot the
second free throw, the horn from the scorer's table sounded,
marking the beginning of a chain of events that would leave the
game's final three seconds forever mired in controversy. Although
the sound of the horn caused at least one official to look over to
the scorer's table, play was not stopped. Collins, apparently not
distracted by the sound, then proceeded to make his second free
throw, putting the U.S. up by a score of 49-50.
First inbounds play
Immediately following Collins's second free throw, with the ball
then being a "live" ball under the rules at that time, a Soviet
assistant coach charged out of the team's designated bench area,
straight to the scorer's table. He asserted that the Soviets had
called for a timeout which should have been awarded prior to that
second free throw, but that it had not been granted to them. Since
a timeout could not legally be called after
free throw, however, the Soviet players had to immediately inbound
the live ball without a pre-planned play for the final three
seconds. They inbounded the ball and began to dribble up the
sideline, but the disturbance at the scorer's table led one
official to stop play just as the Soviet ballhandler was
approaching mid-court. The game clock was stopped with one second
Upon the stoppage in play, the Soviets pressed their argument about
the timeout, with the Soviet coach claiming that he had called it
as soon as Collins was fouled. By the rules at the time, such a
timeout would have been awarded between the two free throws.
Whether he truly had signaled for such a timeout remains a matter
of dispute. The unexplained horn that sounded as Collins was
shooting may have happened because the scorer's table had realized
the error at the last moment and was attempting to stop the second
free throw to award the timeout.Wharton, David. (2002, September
10). " Second-Hand Smoke
", Los Angeles Times
, Page D-3
"On the videotape, a horn sounds just before Collins releases his
second free throw and one of the referees looks toward the
sideline, all of which suggests that someone at the scorerâ€™s table
wanted to rectify the error." For their part, the Americans have
expressed doubt that the timeout was really called,Hennessey, Tom.
(2008, August 2). " U.S. 1972 Olympic team still won't concede
"Whether they really had (called for a timeout) remains in dispute.
Ratleff is inclined to think they did not. 'If you want to call a
time out, there are ways to do it without leaving any doubt.'" and
have argued that regardless of whether a timeout may have been
missed, the ball became live upon Collins's second free throw, and
as such, a technical foul
been assessed against the Soviets because their coach left the
designated bench area during live play.Wharton.
"First of all, Ratleff wants to know why Bashkin, the Soviet
assistant, was not given a technical foul for stepping on court
during play. Then he wants to know why officials made a big deal
about the Soviet timeout. 'If a coach calls timeout and itâ€™s
missed, itâ€™s just missed,' he says. 'It happens all the
Second inbounds play
Ultimately, the referees ruled in the Soviets' favor, ordered the
clock to be reset and the game's final three seconds to be
replayed, which allowed the Soviet coaches to set up a planned
inbounds play. Contributing to the officials' ruling was R. William
, secretary general of FIBA
, who came
down to the court from the stands to insist that final three
seconds be replayed, though he later acknowledged that under the
Olympic regulations, he had no authority to make rulings about a
game in progress.Wharton.
"Jones was known for running his federation with an iron fist.
Sometime around the 'second' chance, he came out of the stands and
instructed officials to put three seconds on the clock. In an
interview a few years before his death, Jones insisted his decision
was correct, but admitted he had no authority to intervene."
However, when the referees subsequently put the ball in play, the
scorer's table had not finished resetting the game clock to three
seconds. The Soviets inbounded the ball and attempted a
length-of-the-court pass, but the horn sounded immediately, with
the pass barely out of the player's hand. The pass missed its mark
and was tipped harmlessly off of the backboard. The players and
observers interpreted the failed Soviet pass and the sound of the
horn as the end of the game, and the U.S. team began celebrating.
But in fact, the quick horn had actually been the scorer's table's
attempt to stop play, since they had not yet reset the
" But when the Soviets got their 'second' chance, the scoreboard
clock showed 50 seconds. And the horn that sounded on the second
inbounds, the one that sent the Americans into a joyous frenzy,
seemed to come too quickly. The timing suggests that, once again,
the scorerâ€™s table was trying to stop the game to correct a
"But the reason for the horn, it was said, was because the clock
had not been properly set to mark the restored three
With Jones still involved in the process, the officials ruled once
again that the clock be reset and the final three seconds be
replayed. Furious over the decision to deny the U.S. victory and
allow the Soviets yet a third inbounds play, the U.S. coaches
briefly considered unilaterally declaring the game to be over by
pulling their team off of the floor. However, head coach Hank Iba
was concerned that such an action would
leave the U.S. vulnerable to a Soviet appeal which might lead to a
ruling that the U.S. had forfeited the game. Iba reportedly told
his coaching staff, "I don't want to lose this game later tonight,
sitting on my butt."Wharton.
"Haskins wanted to end matters by pulling the U.S. team off the
floor but Iba, looking red-faced and confused, was concerned about
a potential appeal. 'I don't want to lose this game later tonight,
sitting on my butt,' he told Haskins."
Third inbounds play
On the third inbound try, American center Tom McMillen
, with his 6 foot, 11 inch frame,
was assigned to defend the Soviet inbounder, Ivan Edeshko
, and make it difficult for Edeshko
to pass the ball into play. However, as official Artenik Arabadjian
prepared to put the ball into play, he gestured to McMillen.
McMillen responded by backing several feet away from Edeshko, which
gave Edeshko a clear view and unobstructed path to throw a long
pass down the court. McMillen later said that Arabadjian had
instructed him to back away from Edeshko, and despite the fact that
there was no rule which would require him to do so, he decided to
comply, fearing that if he did not, the officials might impart a
punishment to the American team. For his part, Arabadjian has
denied that his gesture was intended to instruct McMillen to back
away from Edeshko. In any event, now with no American defender
challenging his pass, Edeshko was able to throw the ball the length
of the court toward teammate Aleksandr
. Belov and the USA's Kevin Joyce
and Jim Forbes
went up for the pass
near the basket. Belov caught the ball, and both defenders landed
out of position. Belov then made the uncontested layup, scoring the
winning points as the horn sounded for the last time.
United States protest
The U.S. team immediately filed a protest, which was heard by a
five-man jury of appeal. In a 3-2 decision divided along Cold War
lines (Puerto Rico and Italy voted to
uphold the appeal, while Hungary, Cuba and Poland voted to reject
it), the jury voted down the protest and awarded the gold medals to
the Soviet team. The U.S. players voted unanimously to refuse their
silver medals. The team and coaching staff refused to participate
in the medals ceremony, and the public address announcer said over
the loudspeaker that "The United States team refuses to accept the
silver medal. They believe they deserve the gold."
ensuing years, USA Basketball has
periodically contacted the 1972 U.S. team members on behalf of the
Olympic Committee to offer them the opportunity to change their
stance and accept the silver medals, possibly being granted an
official ceremony awarding them.
In 1992, two of the team
members, Tommy Burleson
and Ed Ratleff
told Sports Illustrated
they would indeed vote to accept their medals. Burleson said about
the players' initial vote in 1972 that since he didn't play in the
final game, he felt obliged to vote according to the wishes of the
players who did. He said, however, that he viewed having played in
the Olympics as his greatest accomplishment, felt no bitterness
about the outcome, and wanted his children to be able to have his
medal. Ratleff said that although he didn't personally want the
medal, his wife felt very strongly about his accepting it and being
able to show it to their children. He said that his vote would be
to accept the medal, but that he was casting his vote that way only
in deference to her wishes. The ten remaining team members each
told the magazine that they would vote to refuse the acceptance of
With regard to awarding the medals, the IOC has insisted that for
such an action, the entire team would need to consent unanimously.
With that in mind, a few of the ten team members who voted against
accepting the silver medals offered that if most of the rest of the
team preferred to accept the silver medals, they would grudgingly
consent to accept theirs, so that their individual stance would not
block the wishes of the majority. Others remained more adamantly
opposed, making clear that they would never accept the silver medal
under any circumstances. Tom Henderson
said that he felt some of the members of the team were "punking
out" in changing their stance against accepting the silver medals.
reported that he had gone so
far as to have a clause put into his will
forbidding his wife, children or descendants from ever accepting
the silver medal after his death.
Olympic Committee (IOC) chose to resolve the figure skating
scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics by awarding duplicate gold
medals to the original silver medalists, Tom McMillen, who had gone on to be come a
United States congressman,
appealed to the IOC, requesting that the committee revisit its 1972
decision to declare the U.S. team to be the silver medalists of the
men's basketball event.
The 2002 decision arose because one
of the figure skating judges claimed that she had been unduly
pressured by the head of one of the sport's governing bodies. The
American appeal argued that Jones's unauthorized intervention in
1972 brought similar undue pressure upon the officiating crew of
"Jonesâ€™ actions now form the crux of McMillenâ€™s appeal to the IOC.
After the skating incident in Salt Lake City, Rogge was asked if
awarding duplicate gold medals to the Canadian skaters might lead
to revisiting previous Olympic controversies. Rogge said the IOC
acted only because the French judge initially claimed to have been
pressured. The IOC would not reconsider past officiating errors,
Rogge said, only cases in which there appeared to be 'manipulation
of the judgment.' In his letter to the IOC, McMillen cited 'a
blatant abuse of authority by Dr. Jones' as evidence of such
In recent years, FIBA has instituted more stringent rules for
international competitions to attempt prevention of similar
- Only the coach may call the time-out.
- Must be called to the scorer and not the referee.
- Scorer will stop the clock and signal the time-out upon the
dead ball or concession of field goal.
- A time-out can only be awarded upon:
- A dead ball
- When the calling team concedes a field goal.
- It will not be awarded if the team calling the time-out
- The game clock must register tenths of seconds in the final
minute of a period.
- Starting in 1992, a duplicate game clock must be on top of the
- As of 2004, the game shot clock must be seen by players and
coaches on three sides.
- A whistle-stop unit must be installed where the officials can
stop the clock on the sound of their whistle, as of 2004.
- As of 2006, the use of instant replay is permitted on