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1936 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team

Games of the XIth Olympiad -- 1936

  • Date:
    Jun 10, 2010

Berlin, Germany • August 1-16, 1936


Forty-five years after Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, the game took its first step toward becoming one of the world's most popular sports. Basketball became an official medal sport at the '36 Olympics.


1936 USA RESULTS (5-0)
USA 2 Spain 0 (Forfeit)
USA 52 Estonia 28
USA 56 Philippines 23
USA 25 Mexico 10
USA 19 Canada 8

*1936 OLYMPIC GAMES FINAL STANDINGS

1. USA (5-0)      Estonia (4-3)
2. Canada (5-2)      Japan (2-5)
3. Mexico (7-1)      Switzerland (4-4)
4. Poland (5-2) 15. Belgium (3-5)
5. Philippines (5-3)      China (4-4)
6. Uruguay (4-4)      Egypt (5-3)
7. Italy (4-4)      France (2-6)
8. Peru (3-5)      Germany (0-7)
9. Brazil (6-2)      Hungary (2-6)
    Chile (4-4)      Latvia (0-7)
    Czechoslovakia (5-3)      Spain (0-7)


The first USA Olympic Trials were held in April 1936 at the famed Madison Square Gardens in New York. Invited to the trials were the top two teams from the national AAU championship, the winner of the YMCA nationals and five college district champions. The trials were a replay of the national AAU tournament as the McPherson Globe Refiners (Kan.) and Universal Pictures (Hollywood, Calif.) played in the Trials championship game. This time, Universal edged the AAU champion Refiners 44-43. Selected for the 14-member U.S. Olympic team were seven members of the Universal team, six players from the McPherson Globe Refiners, and one collegian.

Setting sail for Europe July 15, on the S. S. Manhattan, upon arrival, the U.S. team was informed of rule changes made more than two years prior. At a FIBA meeting, with no U.S. representatives attending, rules were approved that abolished the three-second rule, limited each team to seven players a game, and designated outdoor facilities as the official playing court. U.S. head coach Jim Needles reluctantly accepted the rules and divided the team into two seven-man units, one featured the six McPherson Globe Refiners and the one collegian, Ralph Bishop, the other featured the seven Universal players. Each unit alternated playing the games. A rule banning players over 6'2' was rescinded only after the U.S. complained.

Spain was the USA's first opponent, but due to the Spanish civil war the team never showed up. Thus the U.S. began what would climb to be a 62-game Olympic winning streak with a 2-0 forfeit. Facing European champ Estonia, the U.S. team consisting of the Universal seven won easily 52-28 as Frank Lubin scored 13 points. Drawing a bye in the third-round, the USA team of McPherson Globe Refiners handled the Philippines 56-23, as Joe Fortenberry and Francis Johnson accounted for 21 and 18 points. Meeting Mexico next, Sam Balter scored 10 points to lead the USA to a 25-10 victory.

Facing Canada in the final, after a day of rain, the outdoor clay and sand court quickly became a swamp. In front of 2,000 soaked fans, the American seven, consisting of the McPherson Globe Refiners and Bishop, took a 15-4 lead at halftime.

The rain continued in the second half and both teams were only able to score a combined eight points as the U.S. held on to claim a 19-8 win. Fortenberry, a 6'8' center, actually equaled the entire Canadian roster with eight points. Because only seven players could suit up for a game, the McPherson Globe Refiners unit, which had defeated Canada, were the only U.S. players allowed to receive their Olympic gold medals at the ceremony.

 

1936 USA MEN'S OLYMPIC TEAM ROSTER

NAME POS HGT WGT AGE AFFILIATION (SCHOOL) HOMETOWN
Sam Balter G 5-10 150 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA
Ralph Bishop F 6-3 185 21 University of Washington New York, NY
Joe Fortenberry C 6-8 185 25 McPherson Globe Refiners (West Texas State) Happy, TX
John Gibbons G 6-1 175 28 McPherson Globe Refiners (Southwestern) La Habra, CA
Francis Johnson G 5-11 175 26 McPherson Globe Refiners (Wichita State) Hartford, KS
Carl Knowles F 6-2 165 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA
Frank Lubin F 6-7 250 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Glendale, CA
Art Mollner G 6-0 160 23 Universal Pictures (L.A. J.C.) Los Angeles, CA
Don Piper G 5-11 160 25 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Peoria, IL
Jack Ragland G 6-0 175 30 McPherson Globe Refiners (Wichita State) Tucson, AZ
Willard Schmidt C 6-8 190 26 McPherson Globe Refiners (Creighton) Swanton, NE
Carl Shy G 6-0 170 27 Universal Pictues (UCLA) Hollywood, CA
Duane Swanson F 6-2 175 22 Universal Pictues (USC) Waterman, IL
William Wheatley F 6-2 175 27 McPherson Globe Refiners (Kansas Wesleyan) Gypsum, KS
HEAD COACH: James Needles, Universal Pictures (CA)
ASSISTANT COACH: Gene Lee Johnson, McPherson Globe Refiners (KS)
MANAGER: Joseph Rilley, Kansas City Athletic Club (MO)
ATHLETIC TRAINER: Eddie Zanzaai, Princeton University

1936 USA MEN'S OLYMPIC TEAM CUMULATIVE STATISTICS

NAME G FGM-FGA PCT FTM-FTA PCT PTS/AVG
Joe Fortenberry 2 13-
3-
29/ 14.5
Frank Lubin 2 10-
2-
22/ 11.0
Francis Johnson 2 10-
0-
20/ 10.0
Sam Balter 2 8-
1-
17/ 8.5
Willard Schmidt 1 4-
0-
8/ 8.0
John Gibbons 1 3-
0-
6/ 6.0
Carl Shy 2 5-
0-
10/ 5.0
William Wheatley 2 4-
1-
9/ 4.5
Jack Ragland 2 3-
1-
7/ 3.5
Carl Knowles 2 2-
2-
6/ 3.0
Art Mollner 2 3-
0-
6/ 3.0
Ralph Bishop 2 2-
0-
4/ 2.0
Don Piper 2 2-
0-
4/ 2.0
Duane Swanson 2 2-
0-
4/ 2.0
USA
4 71-
10-
152/ 38.0
OPP.
4 29-
11-
69/ 17.3

 NOTE:  The USA played five games, however, statistical totals reflect four game totals because the USA was declared a 2-0 winner over Spain by a forfeit.

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