Olympics Men's Basketball 2011: Comparing the Dream Team Against Team USA 2012
The 2012 London Olympics are quickly coming into view over the horizon.
Of course, that means that we will see the newest installment of Team USA’s men’s basketball team.
The London games will mark the 20th anniversary of the much-famed "Dream Team" took the world by storm on the hardcourt in Barcelona.
Naturally, every team that has followed has been compared to the "Dream Team," and the 2012 unit will be no exception.
Yet, for arguably the first time in 20 years, this team has the potential to not only be compared to the "Dream Team," but to actually surpass it.
The "Dream Team" in 1992 was—for all intents and purposes—the assembly of the best talent the US had to offer on a basketball court.
So for the sake of this comparison, the best talent the US currently has to offer will be assumed available for selection in the 2012 games.
Point Guard: Magic Johnson vs. Chris Paul
Chris Paul vs. Lakers Game 4
It’s borderline sacrilegious to suggest that Paul (or any other point guard outside of a select few) is better than Johnson in terms of career standing, but when comparing Johnson in 1992 and Paul in 2012, Paul has a slight edge.
Johnson was 32 at the time and had been out of the NBA since the 1990-91 season. Magic was still a sensational player, but he was far from his prime.
When the London games arrive Paul will be 27-years-old and in the prime of his career.
Paul’s final few seasons in New Orleans showed what he can do with limited talent around him, imagining the North Carolina native at the helm of Team USA is a tarrying prospect for opponents.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
MJ in action in Barcelona
First, there is a very legitimate argument to be made that Dwyane Wade should be starting for Team USA.
However, Bryant has started the season in much better form than Wade and even though Bryant is battling injuries on a daily basis, the comparison is made presuming the best players will be available.
With that being said, Jordan still wins this one by a landslide.
In 1992, Jordan was at the peak of his powers. He was the reigning back-to-back MVP and had just led the Bulls to the NBA’s best regular season record and the NBA title.
Bryant has turned back the clock to start the season, but the fact is he will be a 33-year-old veteran in London, much closer to the end of his career than it’s peak.
Small Forward: Larry Bird vs. Kevin Durant
In this writer’s humble opinion, Kevin Durant is the best basketballer on the planet right now.
He is long, athletic, can make almost any shot and has a love for the game that means he tackles every contest with vigor and intent.
Durant is as close to unstoppable as it gets at the moment.
Bird again suffers from the fact that he was at the end of his career when he was a part of the "Dream Team."
In fact, the 1991-92 NBA season was Bird’s last in the NBA.
He was 36-years-old in Barcelona.
Durant will be 23.
Power Forward: Charles Barkley vs. LeBron James
It’s easy to think of Charles Barkley purely as the sometimes insightful, oft-controversial NBA analyst.
But for all his on-screen antics and quotable sound-bytes, Barkley is still one of the NBA’s greatest ever power forwards.
In 1992, Barkley was still only 29 years old and had just finished—what would be his last in Philadelphia—the season averaging over 23 points and 11 rebounds.
However, LeBron James (in current form) will head to London on the back of another near triple-double averaging season that will in all likelihood result in another MVP crown and possibly his maiden NBA title.
James (27) will be a similar age to what Barkley was in Barcelona, but his superior height and athleticism gives the Miami Heat star the advantage.
But maybe he should avoid taking the last shot...
Center: Patrick Ewing vs. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is the most dominating center that the NBA has seen since Shaquille O’Neal.
On pure athleticism and explosiveness alone, there is not another big-man in the NBA that can stay with Howard.
With that in mind, he should be dominant in London.
However, for all of Howard’s talent, he is not Patrick Ewing.
Ewing was the best center in the world at the time of the Barcelona games and in the season leading up to Barcelona, he averaged 24 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3 blocks.
It was hard to find another player that had the same sort of dominating presence that Ewing had.
The original "Dream Team" had some future Hall-of-Famers sitting on the bench in Barcelona.
David Robinson, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner could have arguably interchanged into the starting-five, and they would still have been favorites for the gold medal.
With all due respect to the likes of Pippen, Robinson and Stockton; the 2012 bench has a much greater explosive element that could easily fill in for any of the starting-five players and still romp to the gold.
Advantage: Bench 2012
If the 2012 team were to be picked as assumed, they have the edge over the "Dream Team."
Although the team will in all likelihood have a few changes to what I have outlined here, if the core elements of the team stays in place, they will be in the perfect position to supplant the "Dream Team" as the best squad ever assembled.
But what do you think?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.