1972 Olympics: The most controversial 3 seconds in basketball history

At the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, the Soviet Union officially beat the United States in the Men’s Basketball Final by 51 – 50, ending the US Team’s 63 – 0 domination of the sport. In reality, the confusion, and multiple breaches of the international rules of basketball that occurred on the court at the very end of the game became one of the most hotly contested moments in the history of the sport and the Olympic Games.

Confusion and controversy during the final 3 seconds of the game saw the Americans file a protest which also did not go their way and finally for the first time in Olympic history, athletes boycotted the awards ceremony, leaving the stadium and steadfastly refusing to accept their medals to this day.

Olympic rules demanded only amateur athletes compete. As a result, the U.S team included several 20-year-old students who left the professional players watching from the sidelines. The Soviets, however, called on experienced veterans who had no official affiliations with any professional sports associations.

Going into the Games, the U.S consisted mostly of talented college level players with little exposure to international competition, whereas the Soviets comprised of a team where the starting five players had competed in a total of 739 international matches in contrast to only seven matches for the US team.

Another serious error saw Hank Iba in the position of team coach, as a result of a powerplay between the NCAA and the AAU Iba seemingly became a compromise of convenience instead of a rating based on current accomplishments. Iba, aged 68, had taken the Americans to two previous Olympic Gold Medals but had lost contact with the evolution of game play into an up-tempo affair.

The 3 Most Controversial Seconds in Basketball History

The US struggled for most of the game against the Soviets who were much more experienced and adept at controlling game tempo. The Soviets had also done their homework properly, during a preceding 1971 tour of the U.S, they captured victory in 8 out of the nine matches. This was good news for punters who had done their research and ultimately chose to back the Soviets. The best advice if you’re unversed in the topic of sportsbooks is to simply take a look at how to download pinnacle mobile app. This is perfect for those wanting a reliable new online bookmaker that delivers it’s all in modern online sportsbooks.

The Americans trailed the Soviets for the duration of the match. With 10 minutes to go in the game, the US team were still down 10 points, at 38 – 28, before reducing the Soviet’s lead to 8 with just over six minutes left. The players in the huddle decided to turn it up a notch and applied full court pressure. This allowed the USA to rally.

The defense made the Soviet players uncomfortable and helped Team USA cut the deficit to one point. The trapping defense was key to the critical play that set up the high controversy.

With less than 10 seconds to play and the Soviets up 49-48, US player Doug Collins stole a pass near half court. Collins took the ball the other way, streaked to the basket and was fouled hard by Soviet forward Zurab Sakandelidze. Between Collins momentum to the hoop and the force of the foul, it knocked him into the basket support.

Now with just three seconds on the game clock, Collins stepped up to take his two free throws. The future #1 pick of the NBA draft sank the first to tie the score at 49, but just as Collins lifted the ball to begin his shooting motion in attempting the second free throw, the horn from the scorer’s table sounded. Collins didn’t lose focus and continued his shooting motion; hitting the second free throw to put the US up 50-49.

That’s when things got really weird. With three seconds still on the clock, the Soviets had to throw the ball the length of the court and score — not great odds. But mishap after mishap, re-do after re-do and a set of events and non-players that ultimately allowed the Soviets to inbound the ball three different times. And on that third inbounds play, Soviet star Sergei Belov caught the Hail Mary and answered. Calmly laying the ball up as two US players collided in the air.

In-Game Fixing

The game had ended after a series of controversial actions and decisions that allowed the Soviet team to replay the final three seconds of the match several times. To any objective viewer, these actions were motivated to give every opportunity to the Soviets to win the game

This left the Americans feeling defeated and cheated. It was 3 seconds that totally changed the face of basketball forever and started what was later called the Sports Cold War between the USA and the USSR.

Despite and perhaps in some small part because of this contentious incident the sport of baseball endured and grew into the internationally televised juggernaut it currently is. Basketball has long been one of sports punters’ favorite markets offering loads of betting lines and options. Whether you have become a recent, or are a long-standing supporter of the sport, nothing raises game level excitement as much as placing a wager. As a result, this sees plenty of new potential entrants to the sports betting arena, with many left to their own devices to find a reliable, trustworthy bookmaker as a betting partner.


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