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Cold War on the Courts

U.S. and Russian basketball teams play the most controversial game in Olympic history

by Gerry Brown

Russian Aleksander Belov scores the controversial winning basket in 1972. (Source: AP)

Olympics 2004

It was perhaps the most controversial result in Olympic history. The United States basketball team had been unbeaten in 62 Olympic competitions. Then they met the Soviets in the 1972 gold medal game.

USA guard Doug Collins sank two foul shots late in the game, giving the Americans a 50-49 lead with three seconds remaining and what looked like the gold medal.

The Soviets inbounded the ball right away but the referee, Renato Righetto of Brazil, blew the whistle with one second on the clock.

Following a conference with the officials, it was determined that the Soviet head coach Vladimir Kondrashkin had called a time out. The Soviets were given a second opportunity to inbound the ball with three seconds left. After a Soviet player heaved a desperation miss from half court, the U.S. began their celebration, which proved to be grossly premature. The Soviet coach, Kondrashkin, protested that the clock had been reset incorrectly and demanded a third chance.

The Russian team received the ball, and this time got the ball to their star player Aleksandr Belov, who sank the winning basket at the buzzer. The U.S. team, convinced they were robbed of the gold, flatly refused the silver and did not attend the victory ceremony, filing an offical protest.

A five-man jury, despite testimony from the referee and the timekeeper pointing to the contrary, ruled the result fair.




Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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