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U. S. team still not interested in silver medals, 40 years after refusing them at Munich games

Kenny Davis speaks at 'Courage in Munich' news conference. (Photo by Jon Hale)


The U. S. men’s basketball team recently won its 14th Olympic gold medal during the London Games, but one U. S. team maintains that number should be 15.


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The 1972 U.S. Olympic team led the Soviet Union 50-49 with just seconds remaining, but officials stopped the game and added time to the clock due to a Soviet dispute about a timeout that hadn’t been awarded. The Soviets failed on a second buzzer-beating shot attempt, but officials once again decided to add time to the clock. On the third try, the Soviets converted a layup as time expired for what officially went down as a 51-50 win. (For more on the controversial end to the game, click here)


After an official protest was denied, U. S. players unanimously decided to refuse their silver medals. Now, 40 years later they still haven’t accepted those medals, and many of the team members say they never will.


“If we would have lost that game by the rules, we would have proudly taken the silver medal,” said Kenny Davis, captain of 1972 Olympic team and former Georgetown College basketball player.


For the first time since leaving Munich, the 12 member team reunited for the 40-anniversary of their controversial Olympic Games this weekend in Central Kentucky. Players participated in a day of seminars at Georgetown College on Friday and a banquet at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort in Lexington on Saturday.


Speaking at a news conference Saturday, players said they left Munich as “12 angry men,” but were honored and humbled at the chance to relive memories from one of the defining moments of their lives.


“I think that we’ve all said that we’ve grown through this experience,” said 1972 Olympic Team member and current Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins. “We’re better men.”


In addition to Collins and Davis, the 1972 team included retired NBA players Mike Bantom, Jim Brewer, Tommy Burleson, Tom Henderson, Bobby Jones, Dwight Jones, Kevin Joyce, Tom McMillen and Ed Ratleff.


Friday seminar topics during the reunion included history of Olympic basketball, how the 1972 gold-medal game changed international basketball, the ethical debate about not accepting the silver medals and a discussion of terrorism and TV coverage surrounding the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli Olympians at the games.


On Saturday, the team members were honored at a VIP reception and banquet with a video testimonial from current U. S. Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and a speech by Gov. Steve Beshear.


While it had been 40 years since all 12 members of the 1972 team were together at the same time, many of the players said it seemed like little had changed since the summer they spent together.


“In my 50-plus years as a sports writer, It’s been my honor and privilege to be around a lot of really good teams, but I have never been around a finer group of gentlemen than the 1972 U. S. Olympic basketball team,” said Billy Reed, executive scholar in residence at Georgetown College and founding member of the event’s planning committee.


The 1972 Olympians have gone their separate ways since the Munich games, but the group still represents a rare collection of personalities, Collins said.


“When you’re a coach you think about bringing guys together,” he said. “I can tell you I wish I could coach you guys.”

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