3 seconds For Dummies

If you are completely unaware of what happened in the final basketball game of the 1972 Olympics, I'm going to start with a few introductory facts for you.

In the 1972 Olympic basketball tournament, the two strongest teams (USA and USSR) met in the final game.

The Soviet team took the lead in the beginning and was ahead for most of the game, sometimes with a gap as large as 10 points. But the closer the final siren came the closer the gap got, all the way down to 1 point with just 38 seconds to play. The Soviet team had the ball, and they had 30 seconds for an attack. They managed to waste almost all of that time as Soviet player A. Belov tried to score, but that was blocked by American McMillen. A.Belov managed to catch a rebound and the Soviets then got another 30 seconds with only 8 seconds of playing time left. A.Belov could have passed to S.Belov who was standing alone 4 meters away, but instead A.Belov made a mistake, passing the ball through the midcourt. That pass was intercepted by American player Collins who ran to the Soviet basket and was fouled just as he was about to make a layup. That happened with a scant 3 seconds remaining in the game. That's when those events started, making these 3 seconds among the most famous in the history of sports.

Collins scored both free throws, thus giving the American team a one-point lead for the first time in the game.

The Soviets began their attack, but it was interrupted in two seconds, so there was just one second left. This was because Soviet assistant coach Sergei Bashkin was standing in the front of the officials' desk, asking for a time out. The time out had been requested by the Soviet coach some time earlier, but was not given. After a few seconds, FIBA Secretary General William Jones stepped in and ordered that two seconds be added to the game timer, so the Soviets could restart their attack.

After relatively little discussion, the Soviet team started again, but the horn sounded during their attack. The ball didn't get into the basket, so the crowd of people flooded the court, celebrating.

It soon became clear that game was not over. The game timer was not set properly, so the referees ordered that it had to be restarted.

This time there was a big argument, though the referees eventually put an end to it. The Soviets started for the third time, now successfully. Ivan Edeshko tossed a court-long pass to Alexander Belov, who managed to outplay two Americans and score at the final siren.

The Soviets won.

This time, a new argument erupted. The Americans filed an appeal that was reviewed for the whole night and eventually rejected. The Americans refused to accept silver medals and left Munich.

They later filed another appeal, this time to the International Olympic Committee, and lost again. The American players to this day still refuse to accept the silver medals.