Putting the Dream Team debate to rest

I woke up late the other morning to find out that the US Men’s Basketball team had barely eked out a victory over Lithuania, by a final score of 99-94.  Apparently, LeBron bailed out Team USA with a strong fourth quarter, scoring nine of his twenty points in the final four minutes.

I am by no means a Benedict Arnold but if any good comes out of this near miss, it’s that we can finally put an end to this whole “Which Dream Team is Better” conversation.

Let me be clear.  I’m not suggesting the original Dream Team is far superior.  I’m just over the hypothetical back and forth of it all.

I guess we can’t help ourselves.  When the 1992 team burst on to the scene, it was like nothing we had ever seen before.   Basketball talent around the world had finally caught up to the Americans, as witnessed four years earlier when a team comprised of college, and not NBA, athletes was embarrassed in Olympic competition.  Their loss to the Soviets prompted the whole “Well, the rest of the world is using professional athletes, so why shouldn’t we” debate.  Enter Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, among others.

The rest is history, and a glorious one at that.  Fans got to witness that team, commonly referred to as the greatest ever assembled, dismantle international competition.  They went 8-0 in Olympic play, beating their opponents by an average of 44 points per game and bringing the gold back to American soil.  It was the second coming of the Beatles.  Every athlete they played against wanted their autographs, as well as a photo with them for posterity’s sake.  They never trailed at any point, in any game, and not once did head coach, Chuck Daly, feel the need to call a time out.  They made the ugly American proud.

Everything was fine until 2004 when the USA lost once again, this time to Argentina, ringing in the blunt truth that we weren’t as good as we thought we were, or that international basketball was better than we thought, or definitely somewhere in between.

Enter the 2008 Redeem Team, which featured many of the same faces as this year’s squad.  The 2008 bunch didn’t exactly skate through its competition, but it did bring back the gold.

Which brings us to today and the fun, yet utterly ridiculous, hypothetical debate over which team, this current one or the original, would win a head-to-head match-up.  Unless we crank up our hot tub time machine, there’s no way to know for sure, which is exactly what makes the conversation so ludicrous, and the opinions over who would win quite generational.

Most of us subscribe to the belief that the original dream team was better, mostly because of what it stood for and the NBA legends it touted: Michael , Magic, Larry, Stockton, Malone, the Admiral, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen and of course, Charles Barkley, all of whom were voted among the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time.

A more fruitful debate would be which players among this current team would be voted onto that list.  Kobe and LeBron for sure, the jury is still out on the rest.

Make no mistake, this current team is insanely talented.  Kevin Durant is as cool, and as deadly, as they come.  Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are among the top point guards in the modern game.  Carmelo Anthony showed the world what he’s capable of when he gets hot, scoring 37 against a hapless Nigeria team and breaking the record for most points scored by an American in an Olympic game, previously held by Stephon Marbury who, like Carmelo, never met a shot he didn’t like.

This team is a nice team, a talented team, clearly a bad-ass team, but no one in their right mind, or at least who is old enough to drink, would suggest this team is better than the original, regardless of whether they are or not.

Sprite and the NBA once collaborated on a marketing campaign that told us image is everything.  That, more than any other reason, is why people still side with the Dream Team of old.

Despite his greatness, Kobe is still haunted by an ill-fated decision in Eagle, Colorado over a decade ago.  LeBron’s likeability still suffers from the day, and the way, he announced he was leaving Cleveland.  And while Kevin Durant is inherently un-guardable, it’ll take a long time before he reaches Michael, Magic or Larry Legend status.

Those three revived the game.  The newbies merely carry on their torch.

Perhaps we suffer from revisionist history.  After all, Charles Barkley was one of the league’s baddest boys back in the day, regularly speaking freely regardless of consequence and throwing elbows in Olympic competition for no reason other than to intimidate opponents.  We tend to forget that because of our newfound love affair with him as the game’s best, or at least most honest, analyst.  Magic Johnson had just discovered he was HIV-positive and while his illness has gone great lengths to educate us about the disease, back then, critics weren’t so kind.  And let us not forget about Michael’s womanizing or gambling for which he gets a pass simply for being the greatest to walk the earth.

Or perhaps it has to do with the way sports are covered in 2012.  The original Dream Team suited up only twenty years ago, yet there is now a world of difference in the way athletes are portrayed.  And that, like it or not, affects the way we see them.

I guess it makes for fun, albeit pointless conversation, the hypothetical discussion over which team is better.  It’s something we will never know.  All that should matter is that this 2012 Dream Team is better than the teams they are currently playing.

31 thoughts on “Putting the Dream Team debate to rest

  1. Pingback: Putting the Dream Team debate to rest - BallHyped, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. What controversy? It will be light years into the future before there’s a USA basketball team that comes close to the ’92 team. Bird was almost 36. Magic was 33 and hadn’t played in a year. Barkley and Jordan were both 29. That’s old by basketball standards. Kobe Bryant is 32. That’s it. Sure, competition has gotten better in the last 20 years but so have the American players. But to almost lose to Lithuania makes my case. Also, its not over yet. Let’s see if team USA can win a gold first. I’m glad that Kobe walked back his claim. Perhaps he meant that this current team could beat the ’92 team today at their current age and condition.

  3. You’re old school, Snake, and that’s why we love you.

    Don’t get me wrong. I agree with you, and most others in the fact that a) the original team was better and b) it’s a game we would ALL love to see but…. although bigger down low, that team would have a big problem covering Durant and LeBron.

    I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

    Magic and Bird in their primes against these guys? Done and done. But an aging Magic and Larry, well, let’s just say those two probably wouldn’t be getting much playing time.

    Remember what Bird said when he first saw Chris Webber in that warm-up match. He said if guys were coming into the league looking like that, it might be time for him to retire.

  4. The Arthritic Semitic is back from traveling the world with the gypsies.

    Welcome home, sir.

    I figured it would take an old school basketball post to wake you from your funky slumber.

    How was the roadie?

  5. Once again, Aer reps the old school.

    I’ll tell you what. Here’s a challenge.

    I’d like to hear someone come on here and explain to us all in vivid detail why this current Dream Team would take down the ’92 team.

    Just be warned that you might be submitting yourself to the ridicule of the rest of my readers.

    Or does proposing such a challenge totally dismiss the point of my article which was that this debate is essentially useless.

    Okay, I take it back.

  6. Let’s play this hypothetical game. How about a team comprised of the 12 best NBA players of all-time, and how many players from either 1992 or 2012 are on that team?

    Here’s the team I would assemble:

    C- Wilt Chamberlain
    C- Bill Russell
    C- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    F- Julius Erving
    F- Larry Bird
    F- Charles Barkley
    F- LeBron James
    F- Karl Malone

    G- Michael Jordan
    G- Magic Johnson
    G- Pete Maravich
    G- Oscar Robertson

  7. I will be short and sweet because I loathe watching the NBA today (sorry chump). Original Dream Team all the way.

    The thing I don’t like about today’s game as I think the players are more athletic and less skilled…by far. I will take skill all day and everyday. I think most of them can jump through the ceiling so they spend less time crafting their sport. Just an opinion. BTW…I love watching our NBA guys get called for traveling in the Olympics. Just not a fan…at all!

  8. There is debate to be had ? Why ?

    Isn’t it bad enough those morons (LBJ & Bryant ) …. backed off their original claims ?

    A four point defeat of Lithuania simply indicates to me how complacent this team happens to be ! So why discuss this matter any further ?

    tophatal ………

  9. Well, Al, as of right now, the Dream Team outranks the new kids on the block by nine votes to nothing.

    That means either I have a whole bunch of old dudes reading my blog, or a bunch of people that know their basketball, or both.

    The more I watch Russell Westbrook in these Olympics, however, I wonder who on the original team would guard him.

  10. It comes down to the fact that you have highly intelligent individuals reading your blog !

    9-0 ? Thank God this isn’t the 2000 Presidential election or there’d be a recount . LOL,LOL !! TO signs with the Seahawks in a one year $1 million deal .

    Speaking of deals ……… the $800 million sale of the Padres now awaits the league hierarchy approval . The O’Malley family and Phil Mickelson were duped into forking out that sum ! $800 million my a#s !

    Giddy up now

    Are the Astros’ fans entitled to a full refund if the team loses 100 games this season ?

    tophatal

  11. Chris

    Garrett Reid’s death should prove to be a sobering reminder why you don’t abuse drugs . Unfortunately the younger Reid eschewed counseling , thinking he could solve his ills by himself . Now he leaves a distraught family behind including his father , Eagles’ coach Andy Reid.

    Dropped these two pieces (I know you’re behind on your reading )

    How to win friends and influence people, and not necessarily be liked

    Giddy up now

    Striking one for the good guys

    Calling all fans , calling all fans

    Westbrook is by far the quickest athlete on the US Men’s basketball team and that includes LBJ .

    Longo is back for the Rays , unfortunately , I don’t believe it’ll help as the offense hasn’t been giving the pitchers any god-damn run support whatsoever . Over his last six games Price has been the best pitcher in the AL ………. run support from the team has been minuscule .

    They may well be a few games out of the wildcard berth but miracles won’t be happening this year unlike in 2011 .

    tophatal …..

  12. 92 in a rout.

    This whole “controversy” is lame. A reported asked Kobe if they could beat the Dream Team, what was he supposed to say? That his team would lose?

    He was wrong of course, but I can see why he would say that. Not the type of dude that would concede defeat…Even in a hypothetical.

    Much ado about nothing if you ask me.

  13. T.O. to the Seahawks, Al? What are the odds he even makes that roster.

    And I know Phil Mickelson has made a fair amount of coin over the years, though golf and sponsors, but buying a major league baseball team requires some serious jack.

    The guy must have been investing wisely over the years… that is, until he bought the Padres, he he.

  14. I’m behind on my reading as usual, Al.

    Sad news about Reid’s kid for sure.

    And we’ll see what Longo’s return to the lineup can do for this team.

    It can’t hurt, right?

  15. TO has made the roster otherwise the $1 million would be mute .

    Longo in the Rays’ lineup is akin to having Lindsay Lohan teach strippers about etiquette . It won’t mean anything . The team hasn’t been giving the pitchers any run support at all .

    $ 800 million for Padres ? Get the ##ck out of here …… they’re not worth ! I don’t care who’s been giving the new owners O’Malleys and Phil Mickelson advice ! .

    It’s not Football ‘til you hear the crunch of that first hit

    tophatal …………

  16. Not exactly sure what made this a debate in the first place. Yes, the 2012 Mens Olympic team did annihilate Nigeria, but this year’s team is still inconsistent despite the raw talent. The 1992 Dream Team will forever stay on top. They were the closest team to perfection.

  17. I’ve no empathy with regard to Garrett Reid’s death . The kid repeatedly abused drugs eschewed choosing not to fulfill the obligations of remaining in rehab . So his untimely death , what should happen now ? Will it change anything ?

    Hell we had the Aurora , Colorado shootings and less than five weeks later we have an avowed White supremacist shooting up a Sikh temple in Milwaukeee and the cops there running for the hills because of their f###ing ineptitude . The head of the temple had been in contact with law enforcement repeatedly telling them about racial epithets thrown at members of the congregation as well as there being attacks on local businesses owned by Sikhs in the area . And the outcome to it all is that several civilians have lost their lives needlessly.

    tophatal ……..

  18. Chris


    So the NFL will continue with the idiocy with using replacement throughout the NFL preseason ? Here’s the caveat to it all , for the first time in NFL history there will be a woman official patrolling the sidelines as part of an adjudication crew .

    It’s yet to happen in baseball (MLB) or the NHL but as we know both of those sport still operate in the “dark ages” to begin with !

    Shannon Eastin ready to make history as first female NFL official

    Over the last 16 years, 42-year-old Shannon Eastin has moved her way up the ranks to the significant title of crew chief in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which is an impressive and groundbreaking feat for any woman. Given the inevitable amount of opposition Eastin has had to overcome along the way, one assumes that she’s mentally ready for her next challenge — to represent the NFL as one of its replacement officials, and the first female official in the league. From a technical standpoint, the move up from the MEAC will be daunting, but Eastin understands the importance of the step she’s taking. In a Tuesday conference call with the national media, she sounded as ready as she could possibly be.

    ”I believe I am ready,” she said. ”I’m a realistic person and I know what is realistic for me. I am not going to play football. I feel it is realistic for me to officiate. I make myself ready for any opportunity that comes my way. I will come in with my eyes wide open.”
    The NFL and the NFL Referees Association are currently locked in a battle over a new collective bargaining agreement, and the league’s officials are locked out as a result. There will be replacement officials in the meantime for the first time since 2001, when a labor battle stretched into the first week of the NFL season. Adding to the pressure on Eastin, who will be a line judge for Thursday’s preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers. The game, which will be nationally televised, will be an interesting forum for all of the replacement officials, and will certainly prompt discussion regarding the value and expertise of the officials who are currently stumping for more pay and a better deal going forward.

    =================================
    Click on link to read article in full .
    =================================

    No disrespect to Eastin and the replacement officials but Goodell and the league hierarchy are idiots if they think that the fans will actually tolerate replacement throughout the entire regular season ! What happens in a postseason game where one of the “zebras” makes a monumental mistake that changes the shape of game ? Does Roger Goodell really want to diminish his stature any further and also make the NFL image a further laughing stock ?

    Your thoughts on the matter ?

    tophatal

    tophatal ……………

  19. Well, at least the Rays managed to win one last night in Longo’s honor.

    All they really need is to get their guys some run support. I’d like to hear the stat of how many wins they have when they actually score first. I bet it’s pretty high.

  20. Al…

    I’m not sure how far apart both sides are in the negotiations but it’s conceivable that the NFL puts out a less quality product with replacement officials, so that’s something the league may want to consider.

    They probably already have, and have faith in those taking their place.

    Either way, I’m pretty sure Ed Hochuli could kick all their asses.

  21. Shannon Eastin (first female official in the NFL) is a nice upgrade ! That being said she’s no Heidi Klum . But who is ?

    I say again with regard to the Rays it’s all about run support if they’re to be consistent .

    How tapped out is the NFL in terms of the legal issues they’re now involved in ? It’s now 25 separate legal issues they’re part of .

    Carl Lewis is jealous Usain Bolt ? Why ?

    Ryan Seacrest is a “tool”. His latest interview encompassed asking an athlete what it was like to travel on the “Tube” (London Underground rail system). For the life of me I can’t understand what NBC is trying to achieve using the guy . Is it that he has appeal for teenage girls ?

    I see the Glazers have now got their soccer team Man U listed on the NYSE ? It’s being done to lower the team’s considerable debt that they created when they originally bought the soccer club. Let’s hope that they can now the same sort devotion and undivided attention as it relates to Bucs this upcoming season .

    tophatal …………

  22. Al…

    The NFL needs to resolve this thing and quick. I mean how much money is the league making that they can’t meet the needs of those who judge it? Or are they just flexing their muscle?

    Yeah, the whole Bolt-Lewis back and forth is pretty menial, but for Lewis to suggest that the Jamaican team is doping, well, what’s Bolt supposed to say?

  23. The ’92 Dream Team never outscored an opponent by less than 32 points in the ’92 Olympics.

    Today the USA barely won the game (7 points). While they deserved the Gold and were the best team, the ’92 team was better in my opinion.

  24. Don’t get me wrong, Sport.

    I mean it’s not like I was rooting against the 2012 team. I happen to be a big fan of most everyone on there.

    LeBron and Durantula showed us why they are going to be the next great NBA rivalry, providing us with plenty of pleasurable ooh and aah moments for years to come.

    But I think you’re right. There’s no beating that original team or what they meant to the league or the growth of international basketball for that matter.

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