One Team USA member recalls the hostage crisis of the 1972 Olympics

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Last week, the members of the 1972 USA Olympic team got together to remember the good old days.

And most of the focus was on the game and that controversy. That was the team that lost the gold medal game to the Russians 51-50 after Russia got three attempts at a final shot. It was a controversial ending to say the least, with the officials debating whether the Russians called a time out before Doug Collins free throws that should have won the game, how much time was on the clock, and each time the referees changed their minds they allowed another last play again until the Russians made a shot. Then it ended.

Team USA did not pick up their silver medals. They still haven’t.

But that was far from the worst tragedy at the 1972 Munich games — pro-Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and killed them at those games.

And USA center Tom Burleson was closer to it than most. He had been out sightseeing with his fiancé that day and when he tried to come back to the Olympic village his train was stopped outside and a long line formed to get back in and show ID. Burleson had seen a back way into the village before through a parking lot and decided to skip the line with a couple Italian players and sneak in through the lot. But he was stopped there by German police who had automatic rifles and were not playing around.

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com picks up the story from there, with the German police talking to Burleson.

“He said, ‘Son, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’re in the process of bringing hostages out right now. I’ve got to have you stand against that wall, face it, put your hands on it, and let us bring the hostages out.’

“I thought, ‘Oh man,'” Burleson said. “As I looked to my left, the two Italian players were on the ground with guns to their backs. I had a rifle in my back.”

Hands to the wall, he heard the transfer begin through that garage door, the terrorists herding the hostages out of the Village. They were to be taken to Furstenfeldbruck airport by helicopter. From about 60 feet away, he glanced directly at one of the Palestinians.

“When I looked at him, the German soldier took the gun out of the small of my back and placed it in back of my head, and said ‘Face the wall!’ ” Burleson said, his voice thickening. “I still see the blemishes today in that wall. I started praying to God to allow me to get out of this situation and back to the room where I needed to be.”

Then Burleson heard the shuffling of the hostages’ feet as they were brought out. “And I could hear them crying. I could … hear … them … crying!”

At this point, four decades later, a 20-year-old kid turned 60-year-old man began to sob. He leaned back and tried to breathe. He bent forward, burying his face in his hands, his back and shoulders heaving. Jim Brewer, to Burleson’s left, placed a hand on the big man’s back, then his knee.

“They didn’t want to die,” Burleson said in gulps. “They didn’t want … to DIE!”

Powerful.

Charles Barkley on new schedule: “These poor babies can’t play back-to-back games”

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Training camp hasn’t even opened yet, but Charles Barkley is already in midseason “get off my lawn” form.

Barkley — the man who can’t stand jump shooting teams, or analytics, or LeBron James asking for better players, or your newfangled technology — went off on another tedious rant at an SMU event Wednesday, this time about the NBA’s decision to start the season a little earlier and have fewer back-to-backs and eliminate four-games-in-five-nights.

Ugh. Like a lot of former players — and a lot of non-athletes, for that matter — Barkley is convinced his peak as a player coincided with the greatest era of basketball ever. Things were never better than the way they did it in his day.

Which means facts — like pointing to the studies that show players both are less likely to be injured and play better and more efficiently when rested — don’t matter. Barkley did it, so players now should have to do it. Who cares if all these packed in games can shorten their careers?

Then again, maybe a few days off would have helped Barkley in the second half of his career.

B.J. Armstrong, former Jordan-era Bull turned agent, told me last year that if teams and players knew in his day what they know now about rest and injury, you would have seen stars like MJ rest. Over time we learn more information, and the smart people and organizations adjust.

Barkley will make far more headlines over the course of the season, he gets paid to be brash, say whatever pops into head, and be generally draw attention to himself. It makes him entertaining, and that’s what Inside the NBA is about. But I will defer to Steve Kerr’s comments from last playoffs on all these old “get off my lawn” players.

“The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the 50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).