August 10th, 2012
1972 Olympic Basketball Reunion Seminars
Catholic Sports Network to partner with Converse at '72 reunion gala
Rarely do high school students have the opportunity to hear about an important chapter in world history straight from the people who made it, but such an opportunity will present itself to Kentucky youngsters on Friday, August 24, at Georgetown College.
The 12 members of the 1972 United States Olympic basketball team – the one that was literally cheated out of the gold medal in the most controversial game ever – will appear with distinguished journalists and scholars at a series of four seminars beginning at 9 a.m. in the college’s conference center. All four of the seminars will be free and open to the public.
The Louisville Catholic Sports Network is partnering with the event’s primary sponsor, the Converse Shoe Company, to encourage students and coaches from the school’s Catholic high schools to attend the seminars. For further information, please contact Paul Najjar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seminars will discuss the historical, political, and sociological implications of the team’s decision to not accept the silver medal – the first and only time that has happened in Olympic history. One of the seminars also will be devoted to the invasion of the Olympic Village that resulted in the execution of 11 Israeli athletes -- a tragedy that introduced terrorism to the American TV audience.
The seminars will be a preliminary to a banquet honoring the team on Saturday night, Aug. 25, at the Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington. This will be the team’s first reunion since it got off the plane home from Munich, Germany, in 1972. The banquet speaker will be team member Doug Collins, current head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers and NBC basketball analyst at the London Olympics.
Over the last 40 years, the story has been retold many times and in many forums, including Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and every major newspaper in the world. The gold-medal game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was played not only against the chilling backdrop of the terrorist attack, but of the propaganda Cold War between the super-powers that then was at its peak.
The Soviets and their communist allies around the world were determined to use sports as a forum to promote their system and way of life. Although they had made great inroads in most sports, their No. 1 goal was to defeat the U.S. in the game invented in America – basketball. Going into the 1972 gold-medal game, the U.S. was 63-0 all-time in Olympic competition.
It was Doug Collins, then a star at Illinois State, who hit what some have called the two most clutch free throws in basketball history to give the U.S. a 50-49 lead over the Soviet Union with three seconds remaining. It was the Americans’ first lead of the game and culminated a gritty comeback led by Kevin Joyce of South Carolina (a Roman Catholic) and Jim Forbes of Texas-El Paso.
But Collins’ second free throw triggered a bizarre series of events that ended with the Soviets being able to snatch away the victory. Between Collins’ second free throw and Soviet player Alexander Belov making a basket on the Soviets’ third attempt at in-bounding the ball, there were so many rules violations by the Soviets, the referees, the official timer, and even a high Olympic official that the U.S. team voted unanimously to protest the game.
When an Olympic jury denied the appeal by a 3-2 vote – three of the panel’s members were from Communist countries – the 12 angry young Americans voted unanimously to not accept the silver medal. Over 40 years, despite pressure from Olympic and even some American officials, they have stuck to their principles – a decision that remains as controversial today as it was then.
The reunion is being held in Kentucky because team captain Kenny Davis, the all-time leading scorer at Georgetown College, lives in Paint Lick. Only two weeks after returning from the Olympics, Davis took a job with Converse, maker of the iconic Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, and has remained with the company to this day.
Besides Collins, Joyce, Forbes, and Davis, the members of the 1972 team, with their colleges in parenthesis, are Bobby Jones (North Carolina), Tom Burleson (N.C. State), Tom Henderson (Hawaii), Mike Bantom (St. Joseph’s), Dwight Jones (Houston), Jim Brewer (Minnesota), Tom McMillen (Maryland), and Ed Ratleff (Long Beach State).
Of the 12 members, 10 were selected in the first round of the NBA draft. McMillen was elected to several terms as a U.S. Congressman from Maryland, and Bantom is still a high-ranking member of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s staff.
Here is a tentative list of the seminars and their participants:
9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. — History of Olympic Basketball
• Moderator: Bob Hammel, former sports editor of Bloomington Herald-Tribune, Member of Basketball Writers Hall of Fame
• Panelists: Denny Crum and Joe B. Hall; Jim Klotter, PhD, Professor of History, David Allen, vice-president, Converse shoe company; Georgetown College; John Bach, assistant on the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team; Olympic team members Tom Burleson, Jim Forbes, and Tom Henderson
10:45 a.m. – Noon – How the ’72 gold-medal game changed International Basketball (USA Basketball)
• Moderator: Jerry Colangelo, president of USA Basketball and/or Jim Tooley, executive director of USA Basketball
• Panelists: Billy Reed, Hall of Fame basketball writer; David “Taps” Gallagher, basketball historian and author of Stolen Glory; Susan Johnson, retired Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Georgetown College; Olympic team members Doug Collins, Mike Bantom, and Jim Brewer.
Noon - Lunch
1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. — The ethical debate about not accepting the silver medals
• Moderator: Dave Kindred, Hall of Fame sports columnist for The Louisville Courier-Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; the Sporting News; and Golf Digest
• Panelists: Rufus Friday, publisher of Herald-Leader; Tim Sullivan, Louisville C-J columnist; Roger Ward, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown College; Olympic team members Kenny Davis, Ed Ratleff and Kevin Joyce.
2:45 p.m. – 4 p.m. — Discussion of terrorism and TV coverage
• Moderator: Tom Preston, former director of Kentucky Homeland Security
• Panelists: Gen. Edward Tonini, Kentucky National Guard; Guilherme Silva, PhD, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Georgetown College; Alan Stein, Stein Group; Dick Gabriel, talk-show host; Olympic team members Bobby Jones, Tom McMillen, and Dwight Jones.