Soviet basketball players performed a miracle and beat the USA in the final of the Olympics

This year marks the 45th anniversary of one of the most famous and at the same time scandalous events in the history of basketball. At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the USSR national team in an incredible ending and intrigue ending the final match, having only three seconds at its disposal, wrested the victory from the US national team and interrupted its 36-year hegemony on the Olympic basketball throne. “” – about the champion team and its path at the 1972 Olympics.

Starting position

By 1972, the basketball tournament at the Olympics was held seven times. It was invariably won by the Americans, and the USSR team four times lost to them in the finals. According to the regulations of those years, only amateur athletes had the right to speak at the Olympic Games. Therefore, NBA basketball players could not play for the US team, and the team was formed from scratch before each tournament from representatives of various university teams.

In contrast to them, almost all the players of the Soviet team already had the experience of playing at the European and World Championships, more than once went to the site together. Of course, they could be considered amateurs, not professionals, with a very big stretch. But for American students dreaming of a career in the NBA, basketball was more than just a hobby.


The only regular member of the US team for the previous eight years as head coach Henry Alba. It was he who led the Americans to gold medals at the last two Olympic Games, and the main place of his work was the University of Oklahoma.

Players of the US team before the tournament knew only specialists in their homeland. However, most of them subsequently made a successful career in the NBA, and forward Bobby Jones and quarterback Doug Collins became real stars. Collins then worked as a coach at the Chicago Bulls with the famous Michael Jordan.

The Soviet team was formed not on the basis of one club, as it often happened in those days, but made a real team. It included three CSKA players (Alzhan Zharmukhamedov, Ivan Edeshko, Sergey Belov ), two each of the Kiev “Builder” (Anatoly Polivoda, Sergey Kovalenko ), the Leningrad “Spartak” (Ivan Dvorny, Alexander Belov ), the Moscow (Alexander Boloshev, Gennady Volnov) and Tbilisi (Zurab Sakandelidze, Mikhail Korkia) Dynamo and one – the Kaunas Zalgiris (Modestas Paulauskas). The team leaders were namesakes Sergei and Alexander Belov and Modestas Paulauskas.

Two years before the Olympic Games, the coach changed in the Soviet team. Instead of the legendary Alexander Gomelsky after a failure at the 1970 World Cup, the coach of the Leningrad Spartak Vladimir Kondrashin came. He led the team to victory at the 1971 European Championships, and nine players from that squad went to Munich.

Way to the finale

The main favourites of the tournament, the national teams of the USSR and the USA were divorced into different groups at the first stage. Both teams passed it without defeat, although the Americans lost in the course of the meeting with Brazil, and the Soviet team had a hard time in a duel with Puerto Rico. The semifinal with Cuba turned out to be even more difficult for the USSR. I had to win back six points, but the Cubans too often violated the rules and eventually missed the lead, losing 61:67. The United States, by contrast, easily figured out the semi-finals with Italy, winning 68:38.

Morris Hernandez

Morris is a Technology enthusiast and a writer by night. He has been a part of TheOlympicsToday for quite some time and he contributes knowledgeable news articles from the Technology niche.