LostLettermen.com is a college football and basketball website. Today it looks at the quest of one lawyer to get the 1972 Team USA men's basketball team duplicate gold medals.
It looks like a mere formality that the 2012 USA men's basketball team will be clutching gold medals after this Sunday's gold medal game in London. And if one Illinois lawyer has his way, the 1972 U.S. men's team will also soon be receiving their gold medals that many believe are 40 years overdue.
It was September 1972. Donald "Taps" Gallagher was about to start his freshman year at St. John's, where he would study law administration. After watching Team USA lose the controversial men's basketball gold medal match to the USSR, he found his first (pro bono) client.
"That was the only time I ever wanted to kick the TV in," Gallagher said. "I said that day, 'If I ever become a lawyer, I'm going to try and get them the gold medal.'"
Now 40 years later, Gallagher has a JD from Loyola University Chicago and he has kept his word.
The personal injury lawyer from Clarendon Hills, Ill. has written a book entirely devoted to the now-infamous game: Stolen Glory, co-authored with Mike Brewster. He also has petitioned the International Olympic Committee to get duplicate gold medals for Team USA because he believes the USSR was unfairly given two extra inbounds plays to pull out the 51-50 victory at the buzzer.
One of the most controversial finishes in sports history, the bitterness over the loss lasts to this day. With the USSR down by one with three seconds to go and inbounding under their own hoop, play was stopped at midcourt because of confusion and the Soviets arguing for a timeout. The USSR was awarded it after FIBA's secretary general R. William Jones came out of the stands and overruled the referees, which he did not have the
authority to do. ( This was one of several apparent injustices in the final moments.)
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The second inbounds attempt failed and the Americans celebrated wildly at the buzzer, but the Soviets were given a third inbounds opportunity because the clock had not been reset to three seconds as instructed. The third inbound was the charm for the USSR as a baseball pass resulted in a game-winning lay-up as time expired.
The Americans skipped the medal ceremony altogether and protested the loss but were denied. The U.S. players never collected their silver medals which sit in a vault in Lusanne, Switzerland, and Team USA's Kenny Davis has barred his family from ever accepting it in his will.
Gallagher is trying to get an affidavit from one of the game's referees that he was unfairly influenced by the FIBA secretary general to award the USSR a timeout, which he hopes would lead to an IOC review of the matter.
Gallagher thinks that duplicate gold medals would be a cathartic moment for a team that never stood on the medal podium.
"When you ask the players point blank, they all say they won the gold medal," Gallagher says. "They just don't have the medal yet. They deserve a duplicate gold and a day in the sun to celebrate."
For now, Gallagher is satisfied with playing a small part in a team reunion — the first to include all 12 players — that will take place in late August.
"I sent everyone each other's contact information, and [team captain] Kenny Davis ran with it," Gallagher says. "As Davis said, 'Who knows if we'll all make it to the 50th anniversary?' "
As the tie that binds, Gallagher will be in attendance for the event.
And just maybe the group will meet again in 10 years with gold medals finally hanging from their necks.
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