Time was, fans really did dream about the Dream Team.
Our sensibilities were injured. We had been swindled out of a gold medal by Russia in the 1972 Olympics – there is a long list of protocol that was broken – and we had finished third in 1988. Our collective nose was out of joint. We were weary of sending our amateurs to play against the professionals of other nations. Why, what if we could send Michael Jordan to the Games? And Magic Johnson? And Larry Bird? And the rest of them.
Then came 1992. And the Dream Team.
It is important to remember that the Olympics wanted the Dream Team. More people would watch, and more countries would flourish. The Americans and Russians both voted against it.
But the vote passed, and the three stars made the team with Pat Ewing, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippin, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin and Clyde Drexler. Christian Laettner was the only college representative, being picked over Shaquille O’Neal.
“Elvis and the Beatles put together,” said coach Chuck Daly.
The Americans won the gold, sweeping their eight matches by an average of 44 points a game.
The term “Dream Team” often has been used to describe the U.S. Men’s team. But to those who were in Spain, there is only one Dream Team. Eleven of the 12 players (all but Laettner) have reached the Hall of Fame. Three of the four coaches did.
How does this team compare? Oh, it doesn’t really. It has some fine players — Kevin Durant and Carmello Anthony, for instance — but the roster is filled with legends the way the ’92 team was. There is no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant. And the competition is better: Other teams have NBA players, too.
Still, there is enough talent for gold. And, as always, it will be an upset if the U.S. settles for anything less.