10 Worst Calls in Sports History

Three Extra Seconds for Soviet Basketball Team
The U.S. team celebrates, mistakingly thinking they've won over the Soviet Union in the Olympic basketball final of 1972. After the game clock was reset, the Soviets won. The U.S. refused the silver which still sits in a vault in Switzerland. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Coming into the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany, the U.S. men's basketball team had an impressive 62-0 record, the longest winning streak in Olympic history. But not everyone was a fan of the dominant Americans. British-Italian Renato William Jones, president of the International Federation of Amateur Basketball (known as FIBA), worried that another American gold medal would effectively seal basketball's fate as a U.S.-only sport [source: Golden].

Meanwhile, the Soviets had assembled a veteran basketball squad for the Munich games with a lot more international experience than the U.S. side. They also dispatched their basketball emissary with a case of vodka and some fine cigars to woo Jones at a pre-Olympic tournament in Munich [sources: Amdur, Golden]. The wooing must have worked.

In the gold-medal match between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Americans sunk two free throws to lead by two points with only one second on the game clock. One second was hardly enough time for the Soviets to inbound the ball, let along get off a shot.

But the Soviets complained that their time out called before the last free throw had been ignored. Out of the crowd leapt Jones, who commanded the officials to add three seconds to the clock. Inexplicably, they complied, but things got worse. The Soviet pass went astray and the U.S. declared victory. Not so fast: Jones said play had begun prematurely so the clock needed to be reset for another three seconds, giving the Soviet team just enough time to make the winning basket and hand the Americans their first Olympic loss [source: Golden].

Not surprisingly, members of the U.S. team refused to accept their silver medal.