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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Dream Team – 20 Years Later

Top Row: Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner, Magic Johnson, David Robinson
Middle Row: Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, the late Chuck Daly (Head Coach), Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin
Bottom Row: Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler 1
The 1992 USA Olympic Basketball team, known as “The Dream Team”, won the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain nearly 20 years ago. They did so by running roughshod over every single opponent in their way. A documentary baring the team’s name debuts tonight at 9pm EDT/8pm CDT on NBA-TV. To describe this team as a dominant gold medal Olympic team would be the understatement of the century.


The phrases “greatest ever” and “greatest of all time” are used SO much in sports media that the moniker loses its impact. Greatest – unsurpassed in excellence and quality. Ever – includes all time in history, often within the context of a subject area. The buzz in many sports media, as the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Summer Olympics approaches, has been that The Dream Team was the greatest team ever assembled in the history of sports.

“Greatest ever in the history of sports,” sounds like hyperbole, a loaded statement to grab one’s attention. There are a lot of sports, there have been a lot of teams, and a lot of those teams have been great. To describe any one team as the greatest ever in the history of sports could sound over the top.



I completely agree. The Dream Team was the greatest ever. Just because a statement is bold, includes a superlative, and is sweeping in its scope does not necessarily mean that the statement is wrong.

Let’s look at the break down of the team:

Christian Laettner, PF – Possible future Basketball Hall of Famer, 2 NCAA Tournament Championships, 1991 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, 1992 Associated Press (College) Player of the Year; many writers have argued that Christian Laettner is the greatest player in the history of college basketball, a position with which I could empathize.

David Robinson, C – Basketball Hall of Famer, 1995 NBA MVP, 2-time NBA champion (1999, 2003).

Patrick Ewing, C – Basketball Hall of Famer

Larry Bird, SF – Basketball Hall of Famer, 3-time NBA MVP (1984-1986), 3-time NBA champion (1981, 1984, 1986).

Scottie Pippen, SF – Basketball Hall of Famer, 6-time NBA champion (1991-1993, 1996-1998).

Michael Jordan, SG – Basketball Hall of Famer, 5-time NBA MVP (1988, 1991-1992, 1996, 1998), 6-time NBA champion (1991-1993, 1996-1998); greatest player in the history of the game in the opinion of many, myself included.

Clyde Drexler, SG – Basketball Hall of Famer, NBA champion (1995)

John Stockton, PG – Basketball Hall of Famer

Karl Malone, PF – Basketball Hall of Famer, 2-time NBA MVP (1997, 1999)

Chris Mullin, SF – Basketball Hall of Famer

Charles Barkley, PF – Basketball Hall of Famer, NBA MVP (1993)

Magic Johnson, PG – Basketball Hall of Famer, 3-time NBA MVP (1987, 1989-1990), 5-time NBA champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-1988).


Twelve players…all NBA All-Stars…11 players in the Basketball Hall of Fame with one possible future Hall of Famer (the Basketball Hall of Fame includes all contributions to the sport by all people involved in the game at all levels in all leagues, not just NBA personnel)……six NBA MVPs…six NBA champions.

All of these players were on the same team at the same time. The aggregate level of fame, achievement, and athleticism on the floor at any one time is staggering. At the time, I was 17 years old and, upon learning that NBA players would be on the Olympic team, naturally assumed all of the above players except for Laettner (I expected Isiah Thomas, Hall of Famer, instead) would be on that team. It thought it would be cool to see them play together and expected them to win.

One of the few benefits of getting older is gaining wisdom and perspective. One of the disadvantages of being young is, sometimes, not being able to appreciate the profundity of an event of moment. I am happy that I was young enough to have witnessed this greatness and still be a relatively young man so many years later, yet old enough to put the special quality of this assembly of great players in proper perspective.

There will probably never, ever be an assembly of all-time great athletes together in any sport ever again. It was unprecedented in 1992. The odds of that many great players at that level of greatness being active in sports at the same time, let alone playing together, in my lifetime is not likely.

The Dream Team: a Magic time. 3
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