LEXINGTON, KY – They were just kids then, schoolboy amateurs brought together in the summer of 1972 to continue their nation’s unblemished record in Olympic basketball. They are men now, husbands and fathers and even grandfathers, some who made a career in the sport, others who found success and struggle in other pursuits.
For the first time in 40 years – basically since their flight home from Munich with neither the gold medals they felt they deserved or the silver medals they refused to accept – all 12 members of the ’72 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team were in the same room this weekend.
They came together for a 40th reunion organized by team captain Kenny Davis and longtime Kentucky sports journalist Billy Reed and, as often is the case at reunions, they reminisced, they laughed … and they dredged up the pain of a legacy denied.
“Last night was surreal,” said Tom Burleson, 60, the 7-foot center from N.C. State. After razzing the Kentucky crowd with some Wolfpack antics, Burleson choked up when he spoke about the bonds between these players, forged by what they had endured to get to the brink of Olympic gold and by what they have gone through in living with the controversial loss ever since.