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“My [USA] team bonded in pain and I don't ever want you to have that feeling” — Doug Collins' inspiring speech to the Redeem Team

In 1972, the Americans refused to accept their silver medals because they accused the Olympic committee of fixing the Finals.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins

Doug Collins

In 1972, the USA men’s basketball team was on the verge of nabbing the gold medal. Doug Collins, who at that time was one of the best players on the team, knocked down 2 free throws with 0 seconds left on the game clock to win the game against Russia with a score of 50-48. However, right after Collins hit his free throws, the referees decided to add 3 more seconds to the game clock, which gave the Russians an opportunity to win the game.

Thanks to a late putback by Alexander Belov, the Russians eventually won the game and destroyed USA’s chances of securing a gold medal. The Americans thought it was unfair and didn’t accept their silver medals; they accused the Olympic committee of fixing the game. Until this very day, Collins still believes that the USA team should’ve won and that they were wronged in the 1972 Olympics.

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Collins opens up about what he went through.

In 2008, head coach Mike Krzyzewski requested Collins to give a speech to the Redeem Team. Collins, who admitted he was initially nervous, shared his story about how Team USA was robbed of a gold medal and why it felt personal to him until today.

Collins’ talk inspired Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and the rest of the team, who dedicated their championship game against Spain to the former player.

Believe me, when I walked into that room, my heart was racing and I was nervous. I spoke from the heart about my experience in 1972 and I said, I want you to hear the national anthem. That’s the last song I want you to hear. I want you to get on that podium to get that gold medal for the United States. It’ll be a moment you’ll never forget ever in your life and you’ll be bonded for the rest of your life in joy. My team bonded in pain and I don’t ever want you to have that feeling,” Collins shared in the Redeem Team documentary.

The gold medal game was dedicated to Collins.

After Team USA defeated Spain to claim the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, several players passed by Collins (who broadcasted the game live alongside Mike Breen) to show their love and respect for him. Collins said it was a touching moment that he will never forget because it felt like he also redeemed himself from the brutal loss in 1972. It was also extra special for Collins to be greeted by the team because he has personal relationships with almost all of them.

The victory of Team USA in 2008 wasn’t just a symbol of revenge after a disappointing loss in the 2004 Greece Olympics but also a reminder to the international basketball scene that they were still the best players in the world. 

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