Stop calling Team USA the Dream Team
NBA stars like Kobe Bryant will soon be able to do their talking on the court again (AAP Image/Alan Porritt)
There will only ever be one Dream Team, and it’s the 1992 United States basketball squad at the Barcelona Olympics. Every subsequent US basketball team, whilst talented, should never, ever be labelled the Dream Team.
To do so is sacrilegious to what is arguably the greatest sporting team ever assembled.
It’s an easy mistake to make, and one I’ve done many times myself. ‘Dream Team’ has become somewhat of a nickname for USA basketball teams, but it’s important to remember that the title was given to the 1992 team to reflect just how truly amazing and unique that squad was.
Memories fade, but we should never forget how dominant that team was. On its way to the gold medal in Spain, the team thumped opponents by an average of 44 points per game, thereby dramatically backing up the hyperbole that surrounded its formation.
Yet it seems there are some not willing to give the Dream Team all the kudos they fully deserve.
A few weeks ago, current Team USA player Kobe Bryant stated that the 2012 team could beat the 1992 team. Calling it “a tough one”, Bryant told ESPN that the 2012 team would likely win because of “young racehorses” who are “eager to compete” and a collection of faster wings who could outrun the older players from 1992.
The comment by Bryant was met with the derisive backlash it deserved.
However, it did provoke a classic response from Dream Teamer Larry Bird. The all-time legend replied to Bryant’s comment by saying: “They probably could. I haven’t played in 20 years, and we’re all old now.“
Others weren’t so humorous or diplomatic.
Michael Jordan laughed when he heard of Kobe’s comments, before stating: “For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done.”
Charles Barkley said the 1992 squad would crush the current incarnation. And as for Kobe’s suggestion that the Dream Team was too old, Sir Charles quite rightfully pointed out that the Dream Team wasn’t as old as people seem to remember:
“How old is Kobe? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? At the time, we were only like 28, 29. Michael Jordan and me were the same age. We were both 29. Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.”
Now Barkley isn’t shy of an outlandish and controversial statement. Few other athletes have such a vast array of colourful quotes on their resume. However, Chuck was right on the money this time.
The 1992 Dream Team consisted of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner.
The overwhelming majority of those names will go down in history as some of the finest to ever play the game.
As the last player selected, Laettner has become the difficult answer to a tricky trivia question. He was a token selection as the lone college player included in the squad. It was a bizarre inclusion back in 1992, and time only serves to increase the strangeness of the decision.
The 2012 squad contains LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, James Harden, Andre Iguodala and Anthony Davis.
A fantastic team, no question, but hardly one that dreams are made of. I personally don’t believe they would get within double figures of the Dream Team, let alone beat them.
Additionally, Barkley’s assessment that just three of those players would earn selection in a combined team is spot on. LeBron James would easily assume Laettner’s place, while Kobe would beat out Drexler, and Durant would probably displace Mullin.
An argument could be made that Larry Bird was at the very end of his career and severely hampered by injuries in 1992. But it would be a brave person that would select any other current squad member over Larry Legend.
All other members of the 1992 Dream Team would easily hold their place against any 2012 challengers.
So only three players from the current squad could make the 1992 team?
I think that puts the argument about which team was better to rest once and for all. And I would suggest that Kobe, like many others, need to show a little bit more respect.
That respect can start by remembering that there is, and will only ever be, one Dream Team.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.