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    Description

    The first ever Gold Medal for basketball with image of James Naismith presenting it!

    1936 Berlin Summer Olympics Gold Medal Presented to American Basketball Team Captain Bill Wheatley. It was the very first time that the game of basketball would be contested as an Olympic medal sport, with twenty-three teams from four continents vying for the prize on offer here in the largest tournament of Berlin's team competitions. The Canadian-born inventor of the sport, Dr. James Naismith, made the Atlantic crossing to serve as the honorary chairman of that tournament, and to award the medals at the conclusion.

    As the brackets narrowed under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler, it became increasingly clear that the USA and Canada were destined to collide in the Final. On a rain-soaked outdoor court on August 14th, the battle between the sport's North American superpowers began.

    In the damp and dreary setting, it quickly became apparent that dribbling was a lost cause, the growing puddles deadening any attempted bounce of the ball. Thus the advantage swung to the American side, their greater height giving them superiority through the air. By the time the final whistle blew, it was the USA holding the advantage in a nineteen to eight result.

    Bill Wheatley, the captain of the American team, wrote about the experience for his hometown newspaper, the Gypsum (KS) Advocate, in a front page article on September 17, 1936, recalling, "Someone would pass to you and sand would fly in your eyes and the ball would slip out of your hands. The court was so slick and muddy that we could hardly stand up."

    Wheatley would pass up an offer to join the 1937 New York Celtics upon his return to the States, but he'd remain active in the game as an amateur-level coach for most of his life, always ready to regale his players with tales of Olympic glory. Presented is the ultimate symbol of that groundbreaking moment in basketball history. As team captain, Wheatley was first to receive his prize from Dr. Naismith, thus establishing this as the very first Gold Medal for basketball ever awarded.

    This singularly unique example of amateur sports' highest achievement features Victory figures on obverse and verso, the former bearing raised text reading, "XI Olympiade Berlin 1936." Edge bears proper "B.H. Mayer Pforzheim 990" maker's stamping. The medal measures fifty-five millimeters (55 mm.) in diameter and tips the scales at seventy-two grams (72 g.). Minor handling and storage wear is apparent.

    The medal was displayed for some time at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and is consigned to this Platinum Night auction by Wheatley's son-in-law. His signed letter of provenance is included, as well as Xeroxed copies of photographs of Wheatley with the victorious team, most notably as Dr. Naismith presents the medal to Wheatley on the top step of the Olympic podium. Letter of provenance from son-in-law of Bill Wheatley. Various copies of photographs and other documents.


    1936 Olympics




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2020
    22nd-23rd Saturday-Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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