Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of the 1972 Olympic basketball gold medal game between the United States and the Soviet Union. In an unconscionable travesty neatly fashioned by game officials to resemble an actual competition, the Soviets were awarded a 51-50 victory that day. (Thanks to their performance, the referees went on to wildly successful professional wrestling officiating careers.)
(Thursday: USA-Russia game is 38th anniversary of USA-USSR travesty)
The game is generally regarded as the most disappointing and disputed loss in the history of American international competition. In the aftermath, the entire U.S. Olympic basketball contingent refused its silver medals. (Reggie Bush wasn’t suited up.)
You want the Cliffs?
With three seconds remaining in the game, the U.S. went up 50-49 on two free throws by Doug Collins. (Yes, same dude with the primped, bad dye job.)
The Soviets botched the ensuing inbounds pass, which should’ve given the Americans the win. But the refs inexplicably recognized an official timeout by the Soviets that they claimed was taken before the turnover. (It wasn’t.) The clock, which was down to one second, was then reset to three seconds. (Crack East German engineering.)
Then things really got fun.
The Soviets goofed another inbounds pass, which should’ve give the Americans the win.
But wait, this time the clock didn’t start at all - do over!
The Soviets were then awarded the ball a third time.
Off that inbounds pass, there was a mad scramble under the U.S. basket and somehow, out of the fray, the Soviets scored as time expired.
Thursday, 38 years later to the day, in Istanbul, the U.S. National basketball team will face the former Soviet Union in a quarterfinal game of the FIBA World Championships - which is held every four years and is the most important international basketball competition besides the Olympics.
The Russians are coached by American David Blatt, who grew up outside of Boston and played basketball at Princeton.
Of the 1972 game, Blatt said this week, “I was one of those kids crying when the Americans lost the game in the Olympics, when (Alexander) Belov made the shot at the end.”
Yes … and?
“I hate to say it, as an American, but it looks like the Russians were right that the American team was not cheated. Funny things happened. But, in reality, it was fair. It was fair.”
I’d expect nothing less from an American mercenary coaching Russia. Especially one who apparently has no food taster at his avail.
Not nearly as understanding though was U.S. National Team coach Mike Krzyzewski, who thoroughly mocked Blatt for his thoughts on what has long been regarded by jingo-free hoops aficionados as a downright mockery.
Of Blatt’s remarks, Coach K. said:
“He’s (Blatt) a Russian. You know, he coaches the Russian team, so he probably has that viewpoint, and his eyes are clearer now because there are no tears in them.
“So, it’s great. Whatever he thinks, he thinks. It really has absolutely no bearing on what we’re trying to do tomorrow. Absolutely none.
“And we’ve addressed that that game was played 38 years ago, and five of these guys are 21. So I don’t think they remember it as well. It is what it is. It’ll be a negative from the way the U.S. looks at it forever, and should be. And it’ll be in some ways a positive for those who believe in fairy tales.”
As for Coach K. calling Blatt, who is American by birth, a Russian, what else do you call someone who is charged by Mother Russia with directing the best she has to offer the world?
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