The USA Men’s Basketball Team, led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, won Olympic Gold Sunday when they defeated Spain in a closely contested 107-100 game. Durant led the Americans with 30 points, including 5 three-pointers, and James added 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Bryant added 17 points in what he said was his final Olympics game. His Los Angeles Lakers teammate Pau Gasol led Spain with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. It was a closer game than many expected, and made USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski sweat.
With the exception of Lithuania, who the Americans struggled to defeat in a 99-94 game, most of the games were one-sided. The most points scored in the Olympics by an American team, 156, was set when the team crushed Nigeria by 83 points, also a record. Anthony scored 37 points, shooting a sparkling 10-12 from three-point range in only 14 minutes, and the 29 three-pointers made by the Americans is also a record. USA Basketball also had huge wins over France, 98-71, Tunisia, 110-63, Argentina, 119-86, and Australia, 119-86. But a question that has been on the minds of many, is what chance would the
current team have stood against the original Dream Team?
The ego of future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant got the debate started when he made a statement that sparked a lot of debate. When asked how his current team would fare against the 1992 Dream Team, Kobe had this response: “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. 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. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”
The comments by Bryant inspired a response from the best player on the 1992 team, Michael Jordan, who responded “I absolutely laughed” when he heard what Bryant said. Jordan said there is “No comparison” and added “For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done. I heard Kobe say we were not athletic,” Jordan responded, “But we were smart. He said we were too old, but I was 29 and in the prime of my career. Pip (Scottie Pippen)
was 26 or 27, (Charles) Barkley was 29, Patrick (Ewing) was 29 and Chris Mullin was 29. Almost everybody was still in their 20s.”
One of the most outspoken members of the 1992 Dream Team also responded to the comments by Kobe. “I just started laughing” said Charles Barkley, when he heard the statement.” How old is Kobe Bryant? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? At the time, we were only like 28, 29. Michael Jordan and me were the same age. We were both 29. Other than Kobe, LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team,” Barkley said.
Even the coach of the current team, Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach in 1992, disagreed with Bryant. “Right now I wouldn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said, adding “But this team can be very good. The one thing about this team they are all kind of in their prime or getting ready to go into their prime, and Kobe hasn’t lost anything. Whereas in ’92 there were guys at the end of their careers. Larry (Bird) had a hard time physically, John Stockton
was hurt, Magic had been out a year. In their prime, all those guys together, there was no team ever like that.”
My opinion? The 1992 team would crush the 2012 team. The Dream Team of 1992 won their eight games in the Olympics by a combined 360 points, or an average of 45 points per game. The 2012 Olympic team could play my friend and I in one of the eight games and still not win the games by an average of 45 points. The current team won their right games by a total of 257 points, or 32.1 points per game. Impressive, but skewed as well, with an 83-point win, and two wins but margins less than 10 points.
The biggest flaw the current team would face against the 1992 team is rebounding. In Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson, you have four players all in the top 30 in the NBA for rebounding all-time. The current United States team has one center, Tyson Chandler, who may not even be in the same league as an all-around player as Christian Laettner, the 12th man on the 1992 Dream Team. The 1992 Dream Team would get offensive rebound after offensive rebound defended by the 2012 team if the two were to face-off in a fantasy match up. The Lithuanian team outrebounded the Americans by five, 42-37, and there isn’t a rebounder on the team even close to those on the 1992 team. The 1992 Dream Team would get offensive rebound after offensive rebound defended by the 2012 team if the two were to face-off in a fantasy match up.
As great as Kobe Bryant is, he does struggle against great defense, and, at the two-guard position, Jordan is the greatest defender of all time. Jordan is a former winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and was always one to rise to the challenge. Defending Kobe would be one, and Jordan would succeed, as he did most often. The only potential mismatches I see for the 1992 Dream Team guarding the current Olympic team would be James and Durant. Scottie Pippen, a great defender in his own right, would likely get the assignment of guarding James, a match up I would have loved to have watched. They are close in height, but James is a lot stronger than Pippen. Magic Johnson might also be used to guard LeBron James in this fictional match up. Kevin Durant would be another tough match up, and if on the court with James, would also face numerous defenders. Durant is too agile for any of the big men to guard him, but too tall for any of the shorter players to guard him. We did see James have success on Durant when playing him physically, something FIBA allows more than the NBA, and perhaps that would be the key containing him.
Magic Johnson might have been a little passed his prime, but at the age of 32, he was still capable of playing basketball at a high level. Besides LeBron James, the 2012 team would not have an ideal match up defensively for Magic. Stockton, the all-time assists leader, is a master of the pick-and-roll, and running off picks with Karl Malone and David Robinson would be unstoppable. On the defensive end, Magic and Stockton might have problems guarding Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook, but the shot-blocking ability of the 1992 team erased a lot of the shots.
In this fictional match up, I would see LeBron notching a triple double and Durant going for 20+, but Kobe would struggle and Tyson Chandler and the front line would all be in foul trouble. The four big men, Barkley, Ewing, Malone and Robinson would dominate the boards, and lead the 1992 Dream Team to a near-30 point win with very balanced scoring. Not an embarrassment for anyone, as that team is filled with some of the greatest players in NBA history.