Over the past month, there has been a ton of talk regarding United States basketball Olympic supremacy. The 1992 Dream Team that won gold and had a margin of victory of 32 or greater in every game is being verbally challenged by the 2012 Olympic team during its 20th anniversary celebration. This shouldn’t be happening.
The talk started with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant saying the 2012 team could beat the Dream Team. Bryant basically said the Dream Team was old and not athletic enough to hang with the “young racehorses” on the current team. Such talk is so ignorant and immature.
Of course, Kobe wasn’t going to get away with saying that without repercussions. Dream Team forward Charles Barkley quickly replied the Dream Team would beat the current team by double digits.
“Oh yeah, that’s no disrespect,” Barkley said. “I ain’t got to badmouth them. But like I said, their point guards weren’t going to beat us. That’s a no-brainer.”
Upon hearing Kobe’s boast, Dream Team guard Michael Jordan was quite humored.
“I absolutely laughed,” Jordan said. “For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done.”
Both Barkley and Jordan chastised Bryant for calling them “old,” pointing out that Bryant is 34 and they were all under 30 and “in the prime” of our careers in 1992. That’s not even the half of the argument, though. Like Jordan said: “To me, it’s not even a question what team is better.”
First of all, the game was very different in 1992. There were no “touch fouls” as they’re called today. Players like Barkley were rough and tough, ensuring basketball wasn’t called a non-contact sport. Nowadays, players are flopping all over the floor and crying if someone gets too close and breaths on them.
It’s sad, really. Current Olympic players, including Bryant and teammates LeBron James and Kevin Durant, stand at the top of the key, throw the ball into the air, flail their arms and holler to try and get a cheap trip to the foul line. It’s disgusting and it’s not basketball.
If these players went head to head against the Dream Team, they’d get pushed around by Barkley, Jordan, Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen. Do you think Barkley would allow the 6’8″ and 250-lbs. James to fall on the floor for no reason to try and draw a foul? Absolutely not. Barkley would probably take a swing at James for such a Bush League move and would be justified for doing so.
The Dream Team was disciplined; they didn’t rely on their athleticism to just outrun other teams. They put on offensive and defensive clinics. They scored well over 100, but their opponents were held to less than 80. The current team doesn’t play basketball the way Jordan and company did.
“Most of us were in the prime of our careers, at a point where athleticism doesn’t really matter,” Jordan said. “You have to know how to play the game.”
Truer words were never spoken. The Dream Team played a brand of basketball that’s long been forgotten, one that actually died with Jordan’s final retirement. Very few players play with the true grit, hustle and determination that the Dream Team displayed on a consistent basis.
Aside from that, the current team isn’t built like the Dream Team was. Dwight Howard, who won’t be playing this year due to a back injury, was the primary center for the 2012 team, but even he couldn’t hang with the likes of David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.
Indeed, the current team is full of “racehorses” as Bryant calls them and that’s actually a weakness, not a strength. Another lost art of basketball is solid play in the post and the Dream Team had that. Barkley, Malone, Ewing and Robinson were fed the ball on a consistent basis and they used drop steps, power spins and jump hooks to consistently put points on the board.
But it didn’t stop there; then those same guys would guard the paint like Fort Knox on defense, physically denying anybody that dared enter it. Fast breaks were a rarity then. Now they’re a necessity.
The current team would just stand around and shoot jumpers from the perimeter and cry about not getting enough looks. If they did try to drive into the paint, they’d be thrown around like rag dolls, but they wouldn’t get those phantom fouls against the Dream Team.
The only player who could even begin to contend with the physicality of the Dream Team is Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, who is the only superstar aside from Tim Duncan who plays the old school game. However, he’s outnumbered 4 to 1 in the post, so that battle wouldn’t end well for him.
Barkley summed it up well by changing the apples-to-oranges comparison to a more appropriate one:
“Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.”
In short, the Dream Team simply played better basketball than the current team and they were simply a better basketball team. That’s even more evident because Bryant’s comments weren’t taken angrily by the Dream Team; they were taken comically.
However, Pippen made a serious statement on Thursday by boasting the Dream Team would beat the current team by 25 points. That sounds about right. But Jordan really put the icing on the cake in response to Bryant’s comments – plain and simple.
“For him to make that comparison, it’s one of those things where it creates conversation,” Jordan said. “I guess we’ll never know. I’d like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”