1972 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball players want silver medals in Hall of Fame

1972 Olympic Basketball

Members of the 1972 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team have talked about finally retrieving those silver medals they vowed to never accept and left behind in Germany.

No, they still don’t want them for themselves.

They believe the medals belong in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but the latest attempt to get them from the International Olympic Committee has been thwarted.

To get the medals a home in the Hall of Fame — which is holding its induction ceremony for the Class of 2022 this weekend — the IOC told the players they first have to accept them.

“If we have to accept them, then that’s not going to be an option,” said Tom Burleson, a center from North Carolina State who played on the team.

It’s the same non-starter it was 50 years ago Friday.

The Americans’ first loss in Olympic competition remains one of the most complicated and controversial finishes ever — there’s little question it’s part of the sport’s history, which the Hall preserves.

It’s not that the IOC disagrees with the Hall of Fame option. The Olympic governing body would let members of the team do what they want with the medals — once they’ve followed the organization’s procedure for obtaining them.

Tom McMillen, a forward from Maryland and a member of the 1972 team, said the IOC saying players having to accept the medals is “sort of ridiculous” and came up with a possible solution to the impasse: Have a third-party accept the medals so they could be placed in the Hall of Fame.

“What we talked about was, given what the IOC’s position is, we could say, ‘OK, give us the medals,’ and then we reject them by giving them to the Naismith museum,” said McMillen, now president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association, representing college Football Bowl Subdivision athletic directors and programs.

“In other words, we say, ‘We don’t want these, we don’t think we deserve them, we think we deserve the gold,’” McMillen said. “But I think everybody’s got different views. I mean, it’s really hard, so it’s probably going to stay the way it is.”

At least for the foreseeable future.

The sting of the loss still lingers.

The United States brought a 63-game Olympic winning streak into the final against the Soviet Union on Sept. 9, 1972, in Munich. It appeared the Americans had extended it to 64 when the horn sounded to end the game with them leading 50-49.

The game was restarted — twice — during what even the players struggle to define as errors by the officials or an outright attempt to cheat them.

Referees initially put time back on the clock after the Soviets argued they had called a timeout and the horn had sounded. The clock was still being reset when the ball was put into play and the Soviets didn’t score, so R. William Jones, the secretary general of FIBA, again ordered the clock reset to 3 seconds.

Given another chance, the Soviets fired a long pass to Aleksander Belov, who scored to give the Soviets a 51-50 victory.

Ed Ratleff, a forward who played at Long Beach State, believes it’s possible some players may have softened on their stance after 50 years, but said neither he nor anyone he still talks to has. One of them, Kenny Davis, has in his will that his family is to never accept silver.

“I tell you what, I am the same way I was 50 years ago,” Ratleff said. “My mother always taught me you won’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you, and I didn’t think the silver medal belonged to us.

“I’m not taking it and I’m sure 100% we got cheated out of it and I think they knew that, too.”

McMillen hopes the entire team will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame and with this being the 50th anniversary of the Munich Games, this weekend would have been a fitting time. It’s an honor Olympic champions such as the 1960 and 1992 U.S. teams have earned.

Short of that, he hoped at least the medals could have a home in the Springfield, Massachusetts, museum. McMillen, a former Congressman from Maryland, asked IOC member Dick Pound about putting the medals in the Hall of Fame.

The IOC let McMillen know earlier this year — and reiterated its position again this week — that nobody could accept the medals except the players themselves.

“The IOC expressed its appreciation for his efforts but felt that appointing an attorney to accept the medals would not be appropriate,” an IOC spokesman said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press.

Previous conversations about awarding dual gold medals also had been denied and McMillen was disappointed to learn his latest attempt wouldn’t work, either.

Given that, McMillen said the medals might still be in a vault in Switzerland in 1,000 years, but in fact they’re not even all together now. The IOC said it received seven medals in 1992 from the local organizing committee, which are now kept in its Olympic Museum collections. The others remained with the organizing committee.

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Hall of Fame board, said the Hall is aware of the players’ wishes and would like to help them. However, it appears those steps are out of the Hall’s hands.

“There’s a scar on the hearts of each one who has participated,” said Colangelo, also the former chairman of USA Basketball, adding that any decisions will have to wait.

“It still needs to be addressed as it pertains to the Hall of Fame.”

There have been attempts to heal the scar, or at least ease the pain of the loss for players.

During the 2008 Olympics, the next generation of stars – NBA standouts make up Olympic teams now, unlike the college players in 1972 – went over to the broadcast table to acknowledge Doug Collins, whose free throws with 3 seconds left had given the Americans the lead in 1972, and they believed, the victory, after he worked the gold-medal game at the Beijing Games.

Four years later, members of the team held a 40th reunion, where they remained united that there would never be accepting of silver.

Two of them, James Forbes and Dwight Jones, have since died. McMillen hoped there was a way to get the rest together sometime this year, though it seems there would be no change given what they’ve heard from the IOC.

“We’ll just let them keep it,” Burleson said. “I hate it, it would be nice to think they were on U.S. soil somewhere. But then again, if they want them, they can keep them.”

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Faith Kipyegon breaks second world record in eight days; three WRs fall in Paris


Kenyan Faith Kipyegon broke her second world record in as many Fridays as three world records fell at a Diamond League meet in Paris.

Kipyegon, a 29-year-old mom, followed her 1500m record from last week by running the fastest 5000m in history.

She clocked 14 minutes, 5.20 seconds, pulling away from now former world record holder Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who ran 14:07.94 for the third-fastest time in history. Gidey’s world record was 14:06.62.

“When I saw that it was a world record, I was so surprised,” Kipyegon said, according to meet organizers. “The world record was not my plan. I just ran after Gidey.”

Kipyegon, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion, ran her first 5000m in eight years. In the 1500m, her primary event, she broke an eight-year-old world record at the last Diamond League meet in Italy last Friday.

Kipyegon said she will have to talk with her team to decide if she will add the 5000m to her slate for August’s world championships in Budapest.

Next year in the 1500m, she can bid to become the second person to win the same individual Olympic track and field event three times (joining Usain Bolt). After that, she has said she may move up to the 5000m full-time en route to the marathon.

Kipyegon is the first woman to break world records in both the 1500m and the 5000m since Italian Paola Pigni, who reset them in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m over a nine-month stretch in 1969 and 1970.

Full Paris meet results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, live on Peacock.

Also Friday, Ethiopian Lamecha Girma broke the men’s 3000m steeplechase world record by 1.52 seconds, running 7:52.11. Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen set the previous record in 2004. Girma is the Olympic and world silver medalist.

Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway ran the fastest two-mile race in history, clocking 7:54.10. Kenyan Daniel Komen previously had the fastest time of 7:58.61 from 1997 in an event that’s not on the Olympic program and is rarely contested at top meets. Ingebrigtsen, 22, is sixth-fastest in history in the mile and eighth-fastest in the 1500m.

Olympic and world silver medalist Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won the 400m in 49.12 seconds, chasing down Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who ran her first serious flat 400m in four years. McLaughlin-Levrone clocked a personal best 49.71 seconds, a time that would have earned bronze at last year’s world championships.

“I’m really happy with the season opener, PR, obviously things to clean up,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who went out faster than world record pace through 150 meters. “My coach wanted me to take it out and see how I felt. I can’t complain with that first 200m.”

And the end of the race?

“Not enough racing,” she said. “Obviously, after a few races, you kind of get the feel for that lactic acid. So, first race, I knew it was to be expected.”

McLaughlin-Levrone is expected to race the flat 400m at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, where the top three are in line to make the world team in the individual 400m. She also has a bye into August’s worlds in the 400m hurdles and is expected to announce after USATF Outdoors which race she will contest at worlds.

Noah Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 100m in 9.97 seconds into a headwind. Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy was seventh in 10.21 in his first 100m since August after struggling through health issues since the Tokyo Games.

Lyles wants to race both the 100m and the 200m at August’s worlds. He has a bye into the 200m. The top three at USATF Outdoors join reigning world champion Fred Kerley on the world championships team. Lyles is the fifth-fastest American in the 100m this year, not counting Kerley, who is undefeated in three meets at 100m in 2023.

Olympic and world silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson won the 800m in 1:55.77, a British record. American Athing Mu, the Olympic and world champion with a personal best of 1:55.04, is expected to make her season debut later this month.

World champion Grant Holloway won the 110m hurdles in 12.98 seconds, becoming the first man to break 13 seconds this year. Holloway has the world’s four best times in 2023.

American Valarie Allman won the discus over Czech Sandra Perkovic in a meeting of the last two Olympic champions. Allman threw 69.04 meters and has the world’s 12 best throws this year.

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Iga Swiatek sweeps into French Open final, where she faces a surprise


Iga Swiatek marched into the French Open final without dropping a set in six matches. All that stands between her and a third Roland Garros title is an unseeded foe.

Swiatek plays 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova in the women’s singles final, live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Swiatek, the top-ranked Pole, swept 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (7) in Thursday’s semifinal in her toughest test all tournament. Haddad Maia squandered three break points at 4-all in the second set.

Swiatek dropped just 23 games thus far, matching her total en route to her first French Open final in 2020 (which she won for her first WTA Tour title of any kind). After her semifinal, she signed a courtside camera with the hashtag #stepbystep.

“For sure I feel like I’m a better player,” than in 2020, she said. “Mentally, tactically, physically, just having the experience, everything. So, yeah, my whole life basically.”

Swiatek can become the third woman since 2000 to win three French Opens after Serena Williams and Justine Henin and, at 22, the youngest woman to win four total majors since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Muchova upset No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to reach her first major final.

Muchova, a 26-year-old into the second week of the French Open for the first time, became the first player to take a set off the powerful Belarusian all tournament, then rallied from down 5-2 in the third set to prevail 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

Sabalenka, who overcame previous erratic serving to win the Australian Open in January, had back-to-back double faults in her last service game.

“Lost my rhythm,” she said. “I wasn’t there.”

Muchova broke up what many expected would be a Sabalenka-Swiatek final, which would have been the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 match at the French Open since Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the 2013 final.

Muchova is unseeded, but was considered dangerous going into the tournament.

In 2021, she beat then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make the Australian Open semifinals, then reached a career-high ranking of 19. She dropped out of the top 200 last year while struggling through injuries.

“Some doctors told me maybe you’ll not do sport anymore,” Muchova said. “It’s up and downs in life all the time. Now I’m enjoying that I’m on the upper part now.”

Muchova has won all five of her matches against players ranked in the top three. She also beat Swiatek in their lone head-to-head, but that was back in 2019 when both players were unaccomplished young pros. They have since practiced together many times.

“I really like her game, honestly,” Swiatek said. “I really respect her, and she’s I feel like a player who can do anything. She has great touch. She can also speed up the game. She plays with that kind of freedom in her movements. And she has a great technique. So I watched her matches, and I feel like I know her game pretty well.”

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