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.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.