At the 1948 Olympics, basketball returned for its second appearance as a medal event and it also reverted back to an indoor format following the horrendous weather conditions in 1936.
A then 21-year-old by the name of Lionel Price was gearing up for his first Olympic experience, and also his last, but he would never forget it. The now retired Great Britain basketball legend has some very fond memories of playing such countries as Brazil, Canada and Italy.
“Back when I played there was a sign near the basketball court that read ‘It’s not about the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’ and if a player saw that today, he would probably take that sign down and throw it away,” Price jokes.
He added: “Back then, we were amateurs, we paid for our own kit, our own expenses for travelling and we are certainly not like the professionals that will grace you at London’s 2012 Olympic Games, but we played in such great spirit and I for one enjoyed every moment. I felt so proud to be British just like I’m sure today’s GB basketball team will when they play against the USA and in the Olympics.”
Great Britain’s only Olympic basketball campaign ended with a 20th place finish in London, their sole victory coming against Ireland 46-21, which in those days was a normal scoreline as the three-point line didn’t exist. GB ended up finishing ahead of Switzerland (21st), Iraq (22nd) and Ireland (23rd).
Out of the 13 players that represented Great Britain at London’s Games in 1948, Price is the only surviving player left. And the first game he played, a 69-17 defeat to Uruguay sticks well in the memory as the Olympiad describes it as “a magical moment”.
Basketball has obviously come a long way since the Olympic Games of 1948 and Price is pleased with how basketball has evolved: “The players you see now compared to when I played are much more professional, much more athletic and more competent than in my playing day and I’m glad they are closing the gap on the USA, and hopefully one day a British team could even beat them.”
Price then joked: “If we did beat them, that would shut them up, wouldn’t it.”
The USA won the gold medal during the London Games with France picking up silver and Brazil, who beat Great Britain 76-11 in the group stage collecting bronze.
Price, who retired from full-time work in 2006 is looking forward to watching this year’s Olympics and is even more proud of the fact that they are in his own backyard.
“It’s great that not only Great Britain vs the USA is here in Britain but the Olympics is here also and I certainly hope that people buy tickets for these events and get to see what a world-class event basketball is and hopefully the younger generation will want to start playing as well,” Price said.
Lionel Price spoke to TalkBasket during a press conference in Manchester on the day that tickets for Great Britain vs USA were released.