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A FEW PIECES OF SILVER
Gary Smith
June 15, 1992
Robbed of gold medals in Munich, the '72 U.S. Olympic basketball team will not betray its principles.
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June 15, 1992

A Few Pieces Of Silver

Robbed of gold medals in Munich, the '72 U.S. Olympic basketball team will not betray its principles.

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Age: 40
Job: Director of Player Personnel, Minnesota Timberwolves
Home: Minneapolis
Married, two children

That night was the end of the world for me. It never goes away. A lie is persistent. I was bitter for a long, long time. I remember one day, about three or four years after those Olympics. I was looking for my passport in some cardboard boxes in the basement because I had to leave the country. And I came upon some pictures of the guys on that team, and some letters from that time, and I just started crying. I sat there for a while, alone in the basement, and cried. I finally let it go that day.

I remember some official walking in after we'd voted not to take the medals, and I told him what we'd decided. He said, "Jim, you're not speaking for everybody." I said, "Yes, I am," and I looked at all the other players with this wild-eyed look, and nobody was going to argue. I don't know. Maybe we need to talk about getting those medals. Maybe we could get them to coat the medals with gold. But no, I've gone 20 years without it and I can go 20 more. To accept that medal now is to agree that we lost that game. I vote no.

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TOMMY BURLESON

Age: 40
Profession: Hardware store owner
Home: Newland, N.C.
Married, three children

Sure, I want that medal. I'm not bitter—I'm just not natured that way. Playing in those Games was the greatest accomplishment of my life. I felt real bad for a year, like we'd let America down. But the way I look at it now, some good things came out of it. Little kids in Russia started putting up hoops, from what I hear. By losing first in Munich, we made it easier for the U.S. team in Seoul when it was beaten in '88.

The trouble is, some of the guys on the team are going to get mad when they hear that I've asked for the medal. Most of them still want to blot it all out. I didn't get any playing time in that final game, so when the guys voted on the medals right after the game, I went along with what they wanted. But I've wanted mine ever since I started having kids. I want them to have it. I vote yes.

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KEVIN JOYCE

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