SI Vault
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
Profession: Wall Street stockbroker
Home: Long Beach, N.Y.
Married, no children

Burleson wants to show it to his children and grandchildren, huh? Well, that's nice. But his children and grandchildren didn't play in that game. We did. I guess some guys are getting sentimental. I don't have any kids, but I hope that wouldn't affect my decision.

My friends at work call me 77-1—that was America's record in Olympic basketball before the team lost in '88 in Seoul. Yeah, Wall Street's cold. It's funny. When I got back from the Games, the guys in my dorm at the University of South Carolina stole all my USA stuff. I've hardly got a scrap of evidence that I played in those Games, except for a letter from Richard Nixon on my basement wall, saying, "You're still champs in my eyes." Oh, yeah, and one other thing. When I got back to America, my mother had something for me. It was a gold charm that looks like a gold medal, and when I came home she put it around my neck. I've kept it on ever since—it's the only jewelry I wear. My mom's gold medal, that's good enough for me. The guys on the team who want the silver will never get it. I'll always vote no.



Age: 40
Profession: Licensing manager of NBA International
Home: New York City
Divorced, four children

I'm playing for myself only. I don't really consider myself a member of the United States team. I'm no patriot. I'm going to Munich because my family can use whatever I get out of it. I can't buy this 'Win medals for your country' jazz. There's no glory in Munich for the people of North Philadelphia. They're too busy trying to stay alive to worry about the Games. They don 7 really share much in the country's glory, do they?
July 1972

Being an American is something that makes me feel proud. My whole philosophy started changing in those Games—I'm a true believer in our country now. I don't say that blindly. But you cannot go through what we did without having your perspectives expand.

It's not that I was against America before those Olympics. It's just that I had a lot of problems with the way things were going. The day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, we walked out of high school and marched to city hall. I protested the war. I protested at St. Joseph's [University] to create a black students' union. Earth Day. Peace Day. I was in it. There was a lot to believe in back then.

I'd never been out of the country before we went to Munich. Once you got to that Olympic Village, you couldn't help but think about the United States in relation to hundreds of other countries. The Cubans couldn't speak to us. The Soviets and the East Europeans dressed and acted like robots. Then I'd look at us, and we were all such diverse personalities. I realized you can choose your aspirations in America without becoming a clone. We open things up to allow individuals to strive; we make it possible for our people to be great. I was never in another protest after coming home from the Games.

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