The question has been the hot topic of late regarding U.S.A. Basketball and the 2012 London Olympic Games. The discussion came up in 2008 when our NBA superstars won Gold in Beijing, and naturally, it is here four years later.
When Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was asked if his 2012 Olympic basketball team could beat the famed 1992 team, he said, “It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.” And then the Dream Team responded:
“I absolutely laughed…there’s no comparison.” – Michael Jordan
“No chance this year’s team would take us.” – Magic Johnson
“I just started laughing.” – Charles Barkley
So to settle it all, who would actually win? Let’s look at the stuff that matters: talent, leadership, coaching, strength of competition, best player and heart.
The 1992 team’s 12 members compiled these numbers in the NBA before the start of that summer’s Olympics in Barcelona: nine MVP Awards, 12 NBA titles and 37 All-NBA First Team selections. In comparison, the 2012 dozen accounted for four MVP Awards, 7 NBA titles and 22 All-NBA First Team selections. Each squad also had the NCAA Player of the Year from the preceding college season – Christian Laettner in ’92, Anthony Davis in ’12 – who both won the NCAA title that year as well with Duke and Kentucky, respectively.
Magic, MJ and Bird all fought to be the top dog for the U.S. in Barcelona. The two veterans (Magic and Bird) were ultimately granted captaincy, but Jordan visibly and athletically ran the court when it came down to making plays. The 2012 squad has a similar story: Kobe as the seasoned vet with past success (i.e. Magic & Bird) and LeBron as the confident playmaker (i.e. Jordan). However, this summer’s U.S. team runs through Chris Paul, the best point guard in the world.
This category shouldn’t mean anything considering that the best basketball players in the world are playing on a team with each other. There’s only one outcome that should, and does, happen: a win. Nevertheless, it comes down to Chuck Daly (’92) vs. Mike Krzyzewski (’12). Daly won back-to-back NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons and retired with 638 career wins. Coach K (as everyone calls him, thankfully) has led the Duke Blue Devils to four NCAA titles and the 2008 U.S. team to a gold in Beijing to go along with his 927 career victories. He also was an assistant coach under Daly in ’92. But this contest doesn’t come down to wins or numbers. Before the Dream Team competed in the Barcelona Games, Daly staged a scrimmage between his NBA All-Stars and a team of NCAA superstars from that year. The head coach admitted later that he “threw the game,” as his team lost 54-62, in order to teach his players that they could be beaten (even though they weren’t).
Strength of Competition
Croatia proved to be the toughest challenge for the Dream Team. Not only did they hold the Americans to their lowest amount of points throughout the whole tournament (103), but the Croatians also put up the most points (83) against the U.S. out of all of their opponents. As for the 2012 team, No. 2-ranked Spain and an experienced Argentina pose the biggest threats. NBA stars in Marc and Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon lead Spain while Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili. The Spanish did their best to un-seat the Americans of gold in ’08, and it looks like they will do the same this summer – they are undefeated so far in group play. Also note that the 2012 squad only beat the Argentineans by six points on July 22.
Well the argument for best player comes down to five letters: MJ vs. LBJ. Michael Jordan is obviously the greatest player to have ever played basketball, and LeBron shouldn’t even be in that discussion yet. However, there is an upside that gives the most recent NBA MVP a slight edge over Jordan. James is physically and athletically the most dominant basketball player in the world right now, and he can’t be stopped by anyone. Period.
NBA players were allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time in 1992. So the Dream Team had something to prove to the world in a sense. Also, it was the Dream Team – they just had a small piece of expectations to live up to. And for the 2012 team? Well they already know they are the best team in the world – and they play like it. But they also have something to live up to and that’s the very reason we ask the question at the title of this article.
So, who wins? I’ve got the 1992 Dream Team all the way. It would definitely be a close, physical, high-scoring game – but for the reasons above, Coach Daly’s team is one of almost-perfect qualities from top to bottom. Now that you know my opinions, there’s something to ponder as you imagine a game between both U.S. teams: on Thursday, the 2012 squad scored an Olympic-record 156 points against Nigeria and set U.S. records for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field goal percentage (71). That’s something the Dream Teamers never accomplished in Barcelona.