Now that the roster for the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball team has been set, lots of people are making comparisons to the Dream Team from 1992, with some even saying that the current team could beat the earlier version.
1992, as you should remember, was the first time that Team USA team was comprised of players from the National Basketball Association. Prior to that, we had been sending college players to the Olympics. While the United States won gold just about every time (save for some Russian shenanigans in 1972), an embarrassing loss in 1988, also to the Russians, combined with the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA), basketball’s international governing body, wanting the best players in the world to play in the Olympics, paved the way for NBA players to play in the games.
Only amateur athletes are permitted to compete in the Olympics, however in 1986, FIBA eliminated the distinction between amateur and professional players so, by 1992, they made the decision that NBA players were eligible for the Olympics. Pros from European countries had already been playing in the Games for years.
At that point the U.S. put together what is considered the greatest team ever to play the sport. The NBA is considered by everyone to be the best basketball league in the World and The Dream Team was made up of experienced NBA players all of whom eventually went on to be Hall of Famers.
Although he was the last to commit to play on the team, Michael Jordan was the team’s leader… unless you asked Magic Johnson, in which case he was the running the show. Either way, the team was spilling over with talent. The roster included: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton.
The Dream Team went into the Barcelona Olympics and defeated all eight of their opponents by an average of 44 points. But they didn’t just beat these teams, they completely destroyed them and played with a cohesiveness that no one could ever have expected from a team with this kind of talent. These games meant something to them because they were there to restore the U.S.’s basketball reputation. Of course there were great USA Basketball teams after that, but no team ever matched their talent level or necessarily had the desire that Magic 'nem had.
The Dream Team went into the Barcelona Olympics and defeated all eight of their opponents. But they didn’t just beat these teams, they completely destroyed them and played with a cohesiveness that no one could ever have expected.
In 1994, the U.S. put together another team of greats to play in the FIBA World Championships, a tournament where America hadn’t won much over the years. That team had a young Reggie Miller and the leadership of Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas. The most impressive thing about that team was the way Alonzo Mourning, playing the center position, would completely dominate teams and do anything he wanted on the court because no one could stop him. Then suddenly there would be a stoppage of play, you’d hear the buzzer and Shaq would come in for ‘Zo. If these teams couldn’t stop Mourning, what were they gonna do with Shaq?
That team also went 8-0 and beat their opponents by an average of 38 points, but somehow their performance wasn’t as impressive as the original Dream Team who had only beaten teams by an average of six more points.
Every four years moving forward, the U.S. would put teams on the floor that could completely dominate their opponents from around the World, but each team seemed to dominate less and less. This was primarily because of two things. First, the NBA players didn’t quite have the same desire that Jordan’s 1992 team had when they were specifically sent to restore America’s name. Second, the talent around the World was beginning to catch up to the U.S.
This finally came to a head in 2004 when the Allen Iverson-led USA Basketball team went 5-3 in the tournament and won Bronze.
That was 100 percent unacceptable for a team of NBA players playing against teams with one, two or zero NBA players on their roster.
Because of that, the 2008 team – built around Kobe Bryant – was dubbed “the Redeem Team” and once again was charged with the mission of putting the World on notice. We’re still here.
They went undefeated in the Beijing, China Games and put the U.S. back on top, with Kobe acting as an outstanding ambassador for the United States as he was clearly the biggest star in the Olympic Village and fully embraced it.
Which brings us to the current 2012 team that is about to head over to London. For the record this team is made up of some really good talent. Traveling across the Atlantic to represent America will be: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant,