By: Mark Elibert
The 2012 Summer Olympics are underway in London and the United States men’s basketball team is looking to win gold again, much like they did at the 2008 Beijing Games. As usual this year’s roster is full of NBA talent that is expected to win it all. But controversy has surrounded the men’s team this year with Kobe Bryant claiming that this team can beat the iconic 1992 Dream Team, the same team that featured 11 Hall of Famers.
With a roster compiled of LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and others it would be normal for us to compare these two teams. But is the 2012 USA team better than the 1992 Dream Team?
Let’s take a trip back to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The United States national basketball team came out of a disappointing performance in the prior Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. After the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) allowed professional players to participate in the summer games, USA Basketball requested several NBA players to join the 1992 roster.
Those players included were Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and Chris Mullin. The last player added to the roster was Christian Laettner, playing for the Duke Blue Devils at the time. The roster was considered by many to be one of the most dominant teams ever put together to compete in any sport. Dominant was exactly what this team was.
The Dream Team, as they were often called steamrolled through the competition en route to the gold medal at Barcelona. The Dream Team went undefeated throughout the Games winning by an average of 44 points each game. The largest point differential was against Angola where Team USA won by 68 points.
The Dream Team had 12 NBA titles amongst the players, 8 MVP trophies, and multiple All-Star appearances. It’s no question that this team was stacked with greatness. The Dream Team made such an impact on the sport of basketball that their performance at the Barcelona Games granted them a spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
When compared to the Dream Team however, the 2012 USA team shares several similarities. The 2012 roster is stacked with future Hall of Famers with 7 NBA Titles, 4 MVPs, and multiple All-Star appearances. It’s no question that the 2012 team is a great team with the likes of LeBron and Kobe, but who is the better team and who would beat who?
In figuring out who is the better team you have to look at the skills and intangibles of these two teams. Athletically the 2012 team is the better team. Every player on the 2012 team is just as or more athletic than every player on the Dream Team. Basketball has changed since 1992 and so have the players. Today we see some of the most athletically gifted players to ever play the game. The Dream Team had athletic players on their roster but none like the team today.
Today we have players that are 6’8” playing on the perimeter rather than in the post like 6’8” players in 1992. LeBron, Melo, Durant, and even Kevin Love play off the dribble and can shoot it from deep. The only person that could compare to this on the Dream Team is Scottie Pippen. Another reason why the 2012 team could beat the Dream Team in athleticism is the guard position.
The blinding speeds of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams would abuse the Dream Team’s only weakness in guarding quick guards. As stated in the NBATV documentary “The Dream Team” Bobby Hurley, a fast guard who played in college, gave the team some trouble in a scrimmage game.
The skill set of both teams rival each other immensely. Of course the only person to barely come close to matching the skills of Michael Jordan is Kobe Bryant. Other than that the skills of both teams match up well. Several players on the current roster match up perfectly with several players on the Dream Team. LeBron and Magic, Durant and Bird, Stockton and Paul, to name a few were matchups that would have been exciting to see.
The one thing that would have had people believe that the Dream Team was the better team was the competitive drive between the two teams. In the Dream Team documentary, many things made this team truly remarkable. But the one thing that stood above else was how competitive each player on the Dream Team was.
Every single player on that roster made basketball in the 80s and 90s exciting. From the playoff battles of Jordan’s Bulls and Ewing’s Knicks to the rivalry of Magic and Bird, the Dream Team lived on being competitive. In the documentary it was noted that Jordan wanted to play in the Olympics because he wanted to play with those he would compete with on a daily basis.
The Dream Team practices were intense and the each player wanted to prove that they were the best. As told in the documentary, the practice teams rarely changed because they wanted to beat each other badly. In today’s league the only players that show their hatred to lose and will to win is Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
Unlike most players today, players on the Dream Team never played with or against each other until college or the NBA. With basketball becoming more popular, AAU and national camps put the nation’s best against each other at a younger age where they develop unique relationships with each other that go into the NBA. Players like LeBron, Melo, Durant, and Chris Paul have all developed great friendships through playing each other in high school and in college.
The Dream Team didn’t come together as friends, they came together as competitors and that resonated on the court. Not to say the 2012 team isn’t competitive but they all come together as close friends that want to play with each other and have a great time doing it. The Dream Team wanted to prove who the best was.
When it comes to whether the 2012 team could beat the Dream Team the answer is up in the air. The competitive spirit of the Dream Team and the athleticism of the 2012 team would give either team the advantage over the other. When it comes to which team is the better team, the Dream Team takes it. The Dream Team revolutionized the sport of basketball. They brought it to an international scale and made it possible for international players to come to the NBA and shine. The Dream Team made it possible for players like LeBron and Kobe to compete in the Olympics. The success and legacy of the Dream Team will never be duplicated.
Now that it’s all on the table could the 2012 team really beat the Dream Team? The answer is possibly. The 2012 team would give the Dream Team an athletic challenge but the competitive nature of Jordan and company would give the 2012 team an even harder time on the court. As the 2012 team begin to take the court against other international teams one thing is for sure, without the Dream Team many of the players wouldn’t be where they are now, competing for the Olympic gold.