In 1972, the Summer Olympics were held in Munich, Germany, and the United States of America’s basketball team was unstoppable. In the midst of a terrorist attack, which resulted in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes, the Americans made it to the gold medal game against the Soviet Union, which turned out to be one of the most controversial games in the history of basketball. Illinois State University star, Doug Collins was part of it.
Doug Collins sank two free throws, making the score of the game 50-49, USA. It seemed as if time had expired, making the U.S.A. basketball team gold medalists. Unfathomably, the officials decided to place 3 seconds back on the clock, giving the Soviets a chance to take the lead and break the hearts of Americans. There was much turmoil between the two countries at the time, and the game’s result didn’t help this matter.
With time expiring, the Soviets scored, making the game final at 51-50. For the U.S.A., this was their first ever Olympic loss in the sport, but for Collins, it was an interesting beginning to a career, filled with potential.
In 1973, Doug Collins was drafted first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, after turning down an opportunity to play with the Denver Nuggets, who were a part of the ABA at the time. Collins only played 22 games during his rookie year and averaged 8 points a game, while shooting a career low, 37-percent from the field. He had better seasons ahead of him.
In the next season, Collins’ numbers increased dramatically, from 8 to a 17.9 average in 1974-75. His all around game became phenomenal, and his numbers were consistent throughout the late 1970’s. He appeared in 4 all-star games, representing the city of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his health was a huge issue for him. Many believed his toughness was an issue as well.
“I had my heart questioned as a player,” said Collins, during a post-game press conference on March 30, 2011. “It’s about the most despicable thing you can ever say to an athlete is to question his toleration of pain.”
Collins retired as a player from the NBA at the age of 29 after 8 injury-filled seasons with the 76ers. Half of his career, he was an all star, but his feet failed him. Many wonder what could have been. In his last season, ending in 1981, he only played 12 games due to his injury. Collins finished his career, averaging 17.9 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per-game as a Sixer.
After coaching teams such as the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, the Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards, where he met once again with Jordan, Collins began a career in broadcasting. After a handful of years working for TNT, Collins returned to the city that made him famous, and is currently coaching the 76ers to an unexpected turnaround.
His ability as a coach is incredible, and so were his skills as a player; but we are all left wondering how good could his career have been if only he stayed healthy.