22/12/2022
FIBA90
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The day the USSR stunned America and captured their first Olympic gold in basketball


MIES (Switzerland) - The United States unbeaten run at the Olympics, and a streak of seven straight gold medal triumphs, came to an end when the Soviet Union beat them in the title game at the 1972 Munich Games, 51-50.

As one of FIBA's 90 iconic moments, we remember a showdown that remains to this day one of the most famous Olympic basketball tournaments.

The USA had won all 63 games they had played in Olympic competition and in Munich, only Brazil offered any sort of challenge to a rampant American team that won that battle, 61-54.

The Soviets were outstanding, too, winners of all eight games before the title clash.

The tournament also had an outstanding Cuba team that, led by 14 points apiece from Ruperto Herrera and Pedro Chappe, claimed the bronze medal in a thrilling 66-65 victory over Italy.

Yugoslavia, who had captured the world title just two years before in Ljubljana, won seven of their nine games in Munich and came in fifth place.

Ivan Edeshko and the Soviets celebrated after winning the Gold Medal Game over the USA, 51-50

What everyone talked about at the time, and ever since, has been the Gold Medal Game.

The USA entered the clash with a perfect 8-0 record and the unbeaten Soviet Union had a lot of respect after winning the world title in 1967, finishing third at the 1968 Olympics and also third at the 1970 World Cup.

The Americans were favorites, yet the Soviets also had pedigree.

The contest was not a high-scoring affair yet one that was physical and intense. Toughness and grit were in abundance for both teams.

The Soviet Union and the USA traded blows in a classic Gold Medal Game

With a little more than 12 minutes remaining, the Soviets led 38-34 when the USA's Dwight Jones and Soviet Union's Dvorni Edeshko were ejected following a scrap for a loose ball. The USA's Jim Brewer then went down hard and suffered a concussion.

After USA's Jim Forbes buried a jumper with 40 seconds remaining to cut the Soviet advantage to 49-48, the European team ran the clock down to 10 seconds.

USA center Tom Burleson blocked a shot by Aleksander Belov, and Doug Collins then intercepted a Soviet pass and raced to the other end before being fouled with just three seconds remaining while attempting a go-ahead layup. A dazed Collins got up, went to the free-throw line and made both attempts to put the USA in front.

The Soviets then inbounded the ball and failed to score, yet a referee had whistled for play to stop with one second remaining after hearing a horn and seeing a disturbance near the scorers table.

The Soviets argued that they had requested a timeout before Collins' free-throws and the referees ordered for three seconds to be put back on the clock. The clock was in the process of being reset when the referees put the ball in play, and a length-of-the-court Soviet pass missed its mark as the horn sounded.

While the USA players celebrated, FIBA Secretary Genera William Jones stepped in and ordered the clock to again be reset to 0:03 and for the game to be replayed from that point.

The Soviets then shocked the world.

Belov caught the inbounds pass, from Edeshko, at the free-throw line and drove to the basket for the game-winning layup.

The Soviet Union celebrated after winning the gold medal

The USA filed a protest, but it was denied, and the Soviet players were awarded their gold medals. The USA team voted unanimously to refuse their silver medals, and to this day still have not accepted them.

The Soviets became the first country other than the United States to capture the Olympic title.

FIBA