NBA Atlanta Hawks

1992 v. 2012: Only in Dreams

The 2012 London Olympics are quickly approaching and there’s excitement and hype in the air for the 2012 USA Men’s basketball team. Coming off ‘Redeem Team’s’ Gold Medal run of 2008, much of the same is expected in this year’s tournament with the 2012 version. This year’s squad is drawing comparisons to the 1992 ‘Dream Team’. Whether these comparisons are fair or not, outrageous or not, is anyone’s guess.

One can speculate all you want on who would win this match-up, but unless you own a working time machine, this epic match-up can only be played out in the wild imaginations of many.

So why not play it out in mine?

First straight from the man responsible for fanning the flames, let’s hear it Kobe!

‘Well, just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do — you know, with [David] Robinson and [Patrick] Ewing and [Karl] Malone and those guys,’ Bryant said. ‘But they were also — some of those wing players — were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers. We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete…’ ‘So I don’t know’ Bryant continued, the trace of a smile beginning to play its way across his face. ‘It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.’

After being prodded more on the subject, Kobe added:

‘The fact is, they have [Patrick] Ewing and [David] Robinson and those big guys, it’s tough. If you’re asking me, ‘Can you beat them one game?’ Hell yeah, we can beat them in one game. You didn’t ask me if we could beat them in a 7-game series. In one game, we can beat them. No question about it.’

Since Kobe’s ‘controversial’ comment(s), the sports world hasn’t been shy in sharing their thoughts:

MJ insulted Kobe’s intelligence.

Sir Charles laughed it off and stated the ‘Dream Team’ would win by double-digits.

Scottie said 25.

Larry Legend made a joke of the subject matter.

Even President Barack Obama predicted a ‘Dream Team’ rout.

I don’t find this ‘debate’ nearly as comical and one-sided. In a one-game setting, there’s no question the 2012 version could win. Kobe did not claim that 2012 would beat 1992 unequivocally. He merely stated that they could beat them. And why not?

When two immensely talented teams square off in a one-game setting, all bets are off. The best team doesn’t always win a game. The best team doesn’t always win a series.

Kobe didn’t claim 2012 could beat 1992 in a seven-game series. Kobe didn’t even guarantee a victory in one game. Kobe simply believes that there’s no reason that his squad couldn’t beat MJ’s squad. And what kind of competitor would Kobe Bryant be if he didn’t think this way?

I got your back Kobe! I don’t see the controversy or the fodder for laughter that these comments have generated.

Talent wise, the ‘Dream Team’ has 11 Hall-of-Famers. Christian Laettner is the only non-Hall-of -Fame member of the Dream Team. You could argue that the 2012 team has eight players who will be future of Hall-of-Fame inductees: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook.

In all likelihood, Andre Iguodala, Tyson Chandler and James Harden don’t figure to be Hall-of-Fame material. In fairness, it’s way too early to judge Anthony Davis’ future NBA impact.

From an age standpoint, 2012 is younger and beginning to enter the primes of their respective NBA careers. However, the key members of the ‘Dream Team’, notwithstanding Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Chris Mullin; were all in the relative primes of their careers as well and weren’t exactly getting ready to file retirement papers.

Sure the ‘Dream Team’ rolled its opponents by an average of 43.8 ppg in the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona and they were never seriously challenged. And, we don’t yet know how the 2012 version is going to fare from that standpoint. Furthermore, it’s a pretty safe bet that the point-per-game differential won’t be -43.8. Does this tilt the scale in the ‘Dream Team’s’ favor? Not on my scale.

Merit also has to be given to the two-decade generational gap.

Basketball has evolved culturally worldwide in the last twenty-years increasing its popularity, which creates more people playing the game from a young age, which expands competition, which demands better players and improves the overall talent base worldwide, which makes competition deeper and more talented in 2012 opposed to 1992.

To add to the ‘generational gap’ analysis, the fear factor has become obsolete. Foreign country’s neither fear nor are in awe of the American basketball machine as they were in 1992.

With that being said, two clear advantages still emerge in favor of the ‘Dream Team.’ The first advantage has already been noticed by Kobe: Inside presence. 2012 would find it tough to combat the likes of Patrick Ewing and David Robinson down low. As much respect as I have for the defensive prowess and ability of Tyson Chandler, the Ewing/Robinson combination would be too much to handle.

The other clear advantage is simple: Michael Jordan. Having the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All-Time) and the clutch-est player in NBA history makes a significant difference.

On the flip-side, 2012 would create some unique match-up problems. Is it possible to contain Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at once? Could an aging, past his prime Magic Johnson and a 30 year-old John Stockton keep up with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams?

Who wins the battle of the boards between Charles Barkley and Kevin Love? Fighting age and a bad back, could Larry Bird make an impact? Could 2012 slow down the Stockton/Malone pick and roll? Pippen or ‘Melo?

Before jumping to the assumption that the ‘Dream Team’ is untouchable, analyze it from every angle and I think it’s clear to see that this match-up wouldn’t be as one-sided as most presume it to be.

Now add any four out of this group: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin to 2012 instead of Iguodala, Chandler, Davis and Harden and I think you have the greatest team ever assembled.

But, Kobe didn’t bring this argument to light with those pieces at his disposal.

2012 v. 1992 would pit the most talent on one basketball court competing against each other ever—imagine for a moment how epic this one-game setting would be–I’m envisioning Madison Square Garden, the basketball Mecca of ‘em all– the glitz; the glamour; the emotion; the intensity; the egos; the passion and the desire to win for both teams that would be put on display in this titanic match-up would have no parallel.

Yet I keep getting stuck with this image:

MJ seizing up Bryant in the waning moments of a tie game, dribbling out the clock…. at the perfect moment….. MJ attacks, delivers a devastating cross over to shake Kobe… LeBron strides over to challenge, MJ rises up from just beyond the left-elbow from about 18-feet away……. and I think you know how the story ends.