The Greatest Team Ever Assembled
Can you believe it’s been 19 years since the original Dream Team dominated the 1992 Summer Olympics? Perhaps more amazingly, can you believe that in all that time that I have maintained my collection of Starting Lineup Dream Team figurines in its original box, unopened and untouched by human hands?
On a trip to a local Target with my step mother, I conned her into buying for me; $100 when you’re twelve feels like $1,000,000. It was the kind of gift you could only secure via guilt. It was the sort of reverse psychology that women have been employing on me ever since.
I remember one time in 8th grade during my 13th birthday party it was discovered by a party goer named Eric Hoffman who spent at least two hours prying me to open it. It was the ultimate peer pressure situation, but I held firm. It turns out I should’ve probably opened it because since then it’s appreciated roughly $20 in nearly 20 years. But every time I see it, I remember how special that team was, even though Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner, as late additions, were not included in the set.
Did you know that Laettner was actually selected over Shaquille O’Neal for the final spot? We all saw what Charles Barkley did to that Angolan; imagine what Shaq could’ve done. The Dream Team beat their opponents in the Olympics that year by an average score of 44 points a game and looked so cool doing it.
The closest margin of victory was a 32 point win over Croatia which included NBA players Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Drazen Petrovic, Stojko Vrankovic and Zan Tabak. Croatia won the Silver Medal and led by all that talent, ushered in a new era for the NBA where overseas players began to be viewed as valuable as their American counterparts. Today you can look at almost every NBA roster and find a player from another country, but in 1992 it was extremely rare.
Michael Jordan was the only player to start all eight games which really speaks to how great he was. Even surrounded by all those Alpha Males, there was no question who the top dog was. Jordan took 30 more shots than anyone else, but Barkley was the leading scorer putting up 18 ppg. Just in case anyone forgot, check out this roster; it would be akin to playing a game against the Hall of Fame as 10 of the players (minus Laettner and Mullin) are actually in the Hall of Fame:
Michael Jordan- 14.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.8 apg
David Robinson- 9.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
Patrick Ewing- 9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg. 0.4 apg
Larry Bird- 8.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
Scottie Pippen- 9.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 5.9 apg
Clyde Drexler- 10.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.6 apg
Karl Malone- 13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 apg
John Stockton- 2.8 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Chris Mullin- 12.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
Charles Barkley- 18 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg
Magic Johnson- 8.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.5 apg
Christian Laettner- 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.4 apg
Since the original Dream Team won Gold, the rest of the world gradually caught up and no other US Olympic team was even close to being as dominant. In what can only be described as an affront to the supreme quality of the original (and only, in my mind) Dream Team is that each of the next two USA Olympic teams were also referred as the “Dream Team” though really, who are they fooling? A team with Steve Smith on it should never be referred to as a “Dream Team”. A more suitable moniker would be “Team of Guys Who Are Above Average NBA Players”.
The Dream Team wasn’t just the greatest team ever assembled for the way it dominated on the court, but it actually furthered the development of the sport for the entire world.