SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Tommy Burleson, a native of Avery County, and his teammates on the 1972 US Olympic Men’s Basketball Team were first nominated for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the category directly elected by the Veterans Committee. , announced the organization on December 21.
The 2022 class finalists will be announced during the NBA All-Star Weekend in February.
Burleson, a member of the US silver medalist hoops team, was on the eve of one of the biggest controversies in Olympic history, as the team representing the Soviet Union succeeded in defeating the United States. United by a final score of 51-50 in a game that featured professional league players from the USSR facing off against college players from the United States, as American teams at the time were not allowed to send professional players to the Olympics.
The match ended an Americans ’63-game winning streak dating back to the sport’s introduction at the 1936 Olympics, and was marred by a controversial ending as officials’ confusion and multiple restarts allowed the Soviet team three distinct opportunities to return a basketball with three seconds left after two free throws from American Doug Collins gave the Americans a 50-49 lead. The third attempt resulted in a winning basket from Alexander Belov.
Burleson was joined as Olympic team players by teammates Mike Bantom, Jim Brewer, Doug Collins, Kenneth Davis (captain), James Forbes, Tom Henderson, Dwight Jones, Robert Jones, Kevin Joyce, Tom McMillen and Ed Ratleff, and was coached by legendary head coach Henry Iba.
After the 1972 final, and until today, the American Solidarity Team refused to accept its Games silver medal because the medals remain in a safe in Switzerland. Repeated appeals of US interest were made in the wake of the match result, but the result was left unchanged by the International Olympic Committee or FIBA, the international basketball federation.
High-profile nominees for the 2022 Hall of Fame class include first-time candidates including Manu Ginobili, Tom Chambers and Lindsey Whalen, as well as candidates who have already been on the ballot in Chauncey Billups and Swin Cash.
Another first-time nominee is Lenoir-based Bob Gibbons, known to specialize in scoring and evaluating American high school basketball players. Gibbons is often credited as one of those who revolutionized the screening of school-aged basketball stars in an industry.
Gibbons publishes an annual ranking of the top 150 high school players in the country, as well as separate rankings for Seniors, Juniors, sophomores and freshmen. He has also served on committees that select players for the annual McDonald’s All-American high school game and the Nike Hoop Summit.