Why Charles Barkley elbowed an Angola player at the 1992 Olympics

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Charles Barkley was prophetic before the Dream Team’s first game at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“I don’t know anything about Angola,” he said in a press conference, “but Angola’s in trouble.”

Two Angolans in particular. In a 116-48 showcase, Barkley shoved one player and elbowed another, drawing a technical foul for the latter that ended a 31-point U.S. run.

The elbow drew particular criticism and headlines referring to Barkley, and to some extent drawing in the rest of the Dream Team, as an Ugly American. It was the first Olympic game with NBA superstars. Aside from the expected blowout, it was not the first impression Americans had hoped for.

“We all tried to talk to him and say, hey, we still want to be liked,” Michael Jordan told NBC afterward. “That’s one of those moves that wasn’t quite smart. Hopefully we can get past that mistake.”

They of course did, steamrolling to gold to spark a new era for Olympic basketball.

But Barkley’s gesture endured, highlighted in Dream Team documentaries on NBA TV and NBC in 2012. Barkley continued to claim that the Angolan, 24-year-old economics student Herlander Coimbra, elbowed him three times before the Round Mound of Rebound had enough.

“That team played dirty,” Barkley, who had a 75-pound edge over Coimbra, said in the NBC film. “I said hey, dude, if you do that any more, I’m going to clock you. So he did it a couple more times, and I clocked him.”

To Barkley’s credit, he obliged to take a picture with Coimbra after the game, according to The New York Times, which reported that Angola had three gymnasiums in the entire country.

Still, U.S. Olympic Committee officials briefly considered sending Barkley home, according to Jack McCallum‘s book, “Dream Team.” They let Barkley stay in Barcelona, where he mingled regularly along Las Ramblas.

Barkley went on to lead the Dream Team in scoring as part of the greatest year of his career. He was also traded from the flailing Philadelphia 76ers to the Phoenix Suns that summer, then went on to win NBA MVP and reach the Finals, where the Jordan Bulls stopped him in six games.

He was one of four Dream Teamers to return for the 1996 Atlanta Games, winning another gold medal that he’s now planning to sell.

“Other players in Angola play against Charles Barkley, and they told us there’s like a kid, a fat boy who is very aggressive in the paint,” Coimbra said in the 2012 NBA TV documentary. “I think he acted like a bully, but maybe it’s his personality.”

Angola, though it has zero Olympic medals in any sport, actually qualified for five straight Olympic men’s basketball tournaments in the 1990s and 2000s and won games in 1992 and 1996.

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Bobby Joe Morrow, triple Olympic sprint champion, dies at 84

Bobby Joe Morrow
AP
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Bobby Joe Morrow, one of four men to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at one Olympics, died at age 84 on Saturday.

Morrow’s family said he died of natural causes.

Morrow swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, joining Jesse Owens as the only men to accomplish the feat. Later, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt did the same.

Morrow, raised on a farm in San Benito, Texas, set 11 world records in a short career, according to World Athletics.

He competed in one Olympics, and that year was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year while a student at Abilene Christian. He beat out Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson.

“Bobby had a fluidity of motion like nothing I’d ever seen,” Oliver Jackson, the Abilene Christian coach, said, according to Sports Illustrated in 2000. “He could run a 220 with a root beer float on his head and never spill a drop. I made an adjustment to his start when Bobby was a freshman. After that, my only advice to him was to change his major from sciences to speech, because he’d be destined to make a bunch of them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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