Sportsquota: Dream Team 20th Anniversary


by Qiana M | ARCHIVES

Twenty years ago the greatest assembly of basketball players took Barcelona by storm and defined team athletics on a global scale as we now know it. That group of superstar athletes consisted of NBA legends Magic Johnson, Michael “Air” Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, John Stockton, David “The Admiral” Robinson, Karl “The Mailman” Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Patrick Ewing and Christian Laettner yet the world would come to know them as the “Dream Team.”  Rumors have always circulated that the team was originally suppose to feature Isaiah Thomas, a rumor Scottie Pippen all but confirms by mentioning the Bulls vs. Pistons rivalry in the Dream Team 20thAnniversary documentary.  “I don’t think we wanted to be on the team if he was on the team. We’re enemies,” Scottie Pippen said of the personal rivalry between his Bulls teammate, Michael Jordan and Thomas.  This rivalry was arguably the reason why Thomas was snubbed and coercion to convince a reluctant Michael Jordan to join the team ensued.  Of course Mike agreed and the rest was golden at least in terms of obtaining Olympic gold.

The Americans would virtually breeze through competitive play averaging blowouts at 43.8 points per game, dominating their foreign competitors with ease. The gold medal game, a rematch with Croatia, proved to be the squad’s closest victory at 117-85.  Sports Illustrated described the 12 man ensemble as “arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport.” Almost a decade later in 2010, they (minus Christian Laettner) would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (one of only eight teams to be granted entry).  Despite the public picture of depicting unity and comradery, the “Dream Team” had more than athletic prowess – there was tough competition in addition to bitter grudges.  In a statement to sports writer Jack McCallum, Clyde Drexler revealed his resentment for Magic Johnson earning a spot on the roster as well as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s petition to keep Isaiah Thomas off citing the “loss of control of the system.”

“He couldn’t play much by that time. He couldn’t guard his shadow…but you have to have to understand what was going on then. Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he’d run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he’d get all that benefit of the doubt. If we all knew Magic was going to live this long, I would’ve gotten the MVP of that game, and Magic probably wouldn’t have made the Olympic team.”

The recently aired 90 minute long documentary gave viewers perspective from all 12 members of the global phenomenon including never before seen clips, behind the scenes footage on the selection process and more exclusive interviews from others associated with the team.  To this day, the effects of what the “Dream Team” meant to Team USA and the world remain staggering.  Both the level of play and the international interest of playing basketball sky rocketed, bursting open the flood gates for foreign players to successfully play in NBA in addition to increasing the popularity among fans young and old. The first team with a roster of all NBA players wowed the media and sports enthusiasts alike, catapulted basketball into the global spotlight and potentially endangered the popularity of the world’s most popular sport, soccer (futbol) in one breath.

“It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together. Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars. That’s all I can compare it to…They knew they were playing the best in the world,” Daly recalled after clinching the gold medal after ousting Croatia in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games. “They’ll go home and for the rest of their lives are able to tell their kids, ‘I played against Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.’”

Since the introduction of American oriented game of hoops to the global community, the basketball rock star has become more of an international brand recognized and worshiped in even the most remote corners of the developing world.  Megastars and league franchise players of the past and present, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James for example are idolized and patterned after from kids shooting hoops in American gymnasiums to kids playing basketball in the dusty streets of Brazil.  The reach of competing with the best has brought in an influx of players from Canada, Spain, Great Britain, Croatia, Serbia and Nigeria to name a few, placing the international playing field on more equal ground.  Prior to the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games when asked who would be the victor between the legendary 1992 Dream Team and the new kids on the block 2012 Dream Team, Lakers frontman, Kobe Bryant proclaimed his squad would win. USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski all but agreed with Bryant arguing an interesting point regarding the meeting of the legends and their successors.

“Right now I wouldn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said, referring to how the team looked after a few days of practices. “But this team can be very good. The one thing about this team they are all kind of in their prime or getting ready to go into their prime, and Kobe hasn’t lost anything. Whereas in ’92 there were guys at the end of their careers. Larry (Bird) had a hard time physically, John Stockton was hurt, Magic had been out a year. In their prime, all those guys together, there was no team ever like that.”

Arguments have been made for and against Kobe’s theory, broken down by position.  The protagonists raise the issue of the defensive power of trio David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and how it vastly outweighed anything Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis and Kevin Love could possibly deduce as being the key difference between the squads that would tip the battle in favor of the legends.  On the flip side, antagonists point out the youth, athleticism and explosiveness of Dream Team 4.0 combined with an over the hill Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the primary reasons that Michael, Magic, Larry and company would fall defeated in a head to head match between the two groups.  Perhaps what’s overlooked and understated is the profoundness that the recruitment of such a collection of athletes had in capturing imaginations around the world delivering with it a sense of greatness previously unseen by the masses.  Flash forward to the 2012 London Olympic Games, three “Dream Teams “ and a “Redeem Team” later the freshness has faded and the profoundness of the magnitude of assembling a medley of basketball greats has long since dulled.  Mega endorsements featuring NBA icons bombard international media and the display of athletic prowess and raw talent are broadcasted around the world year round.  Despite who would ultimately win a pick-up game or best of seven series, the superstars of the past or the superstars of the present, the sheer awe of witnessing these seemingly all powerful figures being introduced for the first time on a world stage is forever ingrained with their debut on June 28, 1992, at the Tournament of the Americas – a coming of age moment for a sport rising in fame and critical acclaim by fans worldwide.  That moment though since imitated can never be duplicated – there’s nothing like the real thing, baby.


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