Thursday, June 14, 2012

Remembering the Dream Team

With the Summer Olympics coming up next month, seemingly everyone is looking back to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the original Dream Team. I honestly can't believe it's already been 20 years--I still remember my Larry Bird #7 Dream Team jersey--but given how much the NBA has changed since then (both for better and for worse), it's somewhat unsurprising. Today's stars grew up watching these guys play, and their influence--especially on the international game--simply can't be overstated.

One of the more interesting retrospectives that I've come across is this GQ "oral history" of the Dream Team, as told by the people who lived it. There's some crazy stuff in there (like the fact that Isiah Thomas wasn't even the first alternate for the Dream Team--Joe Dumars was), and it's always entertaining to hear the input of all of the guys.
[NBA Commissioner David] Stern: The opposing teams were more interested in taking photos with our players than playing against them. 
Nathaniel Butler (official NBA photographer): We were sitting on the baseline. Magic is backing a guy down, and the guy on defense is yelling at his bench, "Now! Now!" And on the bench, one guy's pulling a camera out of his sock and taking a photo of his teammate. 
[Newsday columnist Jan] Hubbard: One time they were playing against Venezuela, and the guy who was guarding Magic kept on saying, "I need your shoes! I need your shoes!" During the game. And Magic goes, "Look, I need my shoes!" 
Lenny Wilkens (Team USA assistant coach): We thought it was funny. But it changed over the years. We always said, "Next time, they won't bring cameras. They'll just bring their basketball."
The whole thing is pretty entertaining, particularly the anecdotes surrounding the team of college all-stars (which, incidentally, was loaded--Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, Allan Houston, Bobby Hurley, among others) that scrimmaged the Dream Team, with explicit instructions to jack threes like the international teams always did in those days.

I don't think we'll ever see another phenomenon quite like the Dream Team, and I'm glad I got to witness it back then. There are a lot of guys in today's league that definitely would've fit in nicely on that team, but I have to think that a team of today's stars would still have a pretty tough time beating that squad--the competitive drive of those guys was simply off the charts.


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