Mike Sylvester

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Olympic medal record
Men's basketball
Silver medal – second place 1980 Moscow Italy

Michael "Mike" Joseph Sylvester (born December 10, 1951) is an Italian-American retired basketball player who is currently coach at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Due to the United States boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics, he was the only American to win a medal at those games, using a dual citizenship to play for Italy.


Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sylvester graduated from Moeller High School with All-American honors, and played college basketball at the University of Dayton. At 6'5", he was known as an accurate shooter. Sylvester's highlight with the Dayton Flyers happened at the 1974 NCAA championship, scoring 36 points in a game where the Flyers forced three overtimes and nearly upset Bill Walton's UCLA.[1] Following that, Sylvester reported for both the NBA and ABA Drafts, being chosen only in the sixth round by the Detroit Pistons in the 1974 NBA Draft, and the tenth by the Carolina Cougars in the ABA one. Afterwards, Cesare Rubini of Italian team Olimpia Milano invited him to play for the team in the 1974–75 FIBA Korać Cup. Rubini was ordered by Milano president to seek American basketballers of Italian descent seeking naturalization, and Sylvester qualified as his grandfather was an Italian immigrant. Sylvester (known in Italy as "Silvester") would then sign with Milano, and right away be a major part of the team that won the 1975–76 FIBA European Cup Winner's Cup. Milano's victorious years with Sylvester would end in 1980, as after he had a heated argument with teammate C. J. Kupec, coach Dan Peterson would request for Sylvester to leave the team, and he would be traded to Pesaro for a then-Italian record $500,000. His Italian career also included stints with Basket Rimini and Virtus Bologna.[2][3][4]

Sylvester was naturalized Italian in 1977. Three years later, he would be called for the Italy national basketball team, and had a great performance at the European qualifier that gave the Italians a spot at the Olympic tournament to be held in Moscow. However, as soon as Sylvester heard the United States was leading the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott, Sylvester wondered if he needed to adhere, particularly as an Italian player refusing an Olympic invitation could potentially banned from playing professionally. He contacted the U.S. State Department, who advised Sylvester to play. He still abstained from a vote within the Italian team about the boycott, saying he would follow the squad's decision - the Italians eventually played, though under the Olympic flag. Despite suffering a sprained ankle during the 1980 Summer Olympics, he won a silver medal after the Italians upset the Soviet Union before losing the Olympic final to Yugoslavia. Sylvester was the only American to win a medal at those games.[5][6] In the following years,

Sylvester is a current resident of Loveland, Ohio.[7] The Sylvester family has a sports tradition. Mike's brothers Steve and Vince were American football players, with the former reaching the NFL playing for the Oakland Raiders, and the latter being a college star at the University of Cincinnati. Mike's son Matt was also a basketball player, playing in college for Ohio State before going to Europe like his father.[8][9]


  1. ^ Born to Play - Matt Sylvester's Roots Planted on the Court
  2. ^ Mike Silvester (Italian)
  3. ^ Italy Always In the Heart of Mike Sylvester (Italian)
  4. ^ Sylvester Michael Joseph (Italian)
  5. ^ Moeller grad was only American to medal in '80
  6. ^ Sarantakes, Nicholas Evan (2010). Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1139788566. p. 133.
  7. ^ Meale, Tony (2009-07-01). "CHCA lands former pro, Olympian". The Loveland Herald. The Community Press. Retrieved 2009-07-02. Sylvester, who had dual citizenship in Italy and the United States, also helped the Italian team to a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow .... Born in the Elder heartland, the current Loveland resident is eager to begin his tenure at CHCA. 
  8. ^ Moeller star upholds family tradition
  9. ^ How One Shot 10 Years Ago Changed Everything for Ohio State Basketball

External links[edit]