Forty-one years later, members of the United States Olympic basketball team still haven’t forgotten. In one of the sport’s most bizarre endings, Team USA lost the gold medal game to the Soviet Union in Munich, 51-50 after the officials awarded the USSR a couple of extra cracks at a last second shot. So incensed, the young American players decided as a group not to accept their silver medals and they remain locked in a Swiss vault to this day. However, a rare award that was presented to members of that team also exists and one of them is now up for sale. A 14k gold “Courage in Munich” ring once owned by guard Tom Henderson is being offered on eBay for a price of $35,495.
“I’ve heard of one ring in a private collector’s hands, but other than that, I’ve never seen one offered for sale,” said Rich Albersheim of Albersheims.com, the Las Vegas-based memorabilia company that is selling it.
According to Albersheim, Henderson sold or pawned the ring earlier this year. Albersheim’s has received offers on it, but so far none have been acceptable. It reads “Courage in Munich” on the front, with the USA logo in the center, the year on each side of the stone and Henderson’s name is engraved in the side.
The 1972 defeat to the USSR marked the first loss ever by an US Olympic basketball squad.
Doug Collins had hit two free throws with three seconds left, putting Team USA up 50-49, the first time they had. The Soviets inbounded but the officials stopped play after they complained they had called for a time out between Collins’ tosses. Whether they did isn’t universally agreed upon even now. The clock was re-set to three seconds. Again, the red-clad team inbounded and the horn sounded but the clock hadn’t re-set to three seconds.
They would have a third chance to inbound because of the mistake on the scoring table and this time, Alexander Belov scored just before time ran out and the game was declared over. The Americans were crushed, feeling that the officials and timekeepers were doing everything they could to give the Soviets a chance to win. Whether that’s accurate or whether the Americans were simply victims of ineptitude isn’t certain but the players have made it clear over the years that they felt robbed.
Henderson, a guard from the University of Hawaii, was the third leading scorer on the team behind Dwight Jones and Mike Bantom. In the final showdown with the Russians, he and Jim Brewer each scored nine points to pace the United States. Henderson went on to a solid nine-year NBA career and won an NBA title with the Washington Bullets in 1978. It isn’t known why he parted with the ring.
“The players all have a pact that they will never accept the silver medals, even posthumously,” stated Albersheim. “So in absence of ever being able to own a gold medal, this would be the next best thing.”
See the auction and get more information here.