Can Modern USA Olympic Basketball Team Match Up with the Dream Team?
It's the 20th anniversary of the original "Dream Team." The first U.S. Olympic basketball team with professional players didn't just win the Gold in Barcelona. They took the gold back and reminded the rest of the world who invented the game. They also sparked a worldwide interest in basketball that has led to a revolution.
The competition has gotten much tougher for today's U.S. Olympians. The other countries didn't ask the 2008 team in Beijing for autographs and pictures. While the U.S. again won the gold, it was by 28 points per game, seemingly pedestrian compared to the 44-point margin of victory for the 1992 team.
There have been whispers (out loud it's heresy) that the 2008 team just might be better than the sanctified 1992 team. The whisperers think the old guys have been romanticized to a point where people can't recognize the greatness of today's players.
I'm an old guy and will freely admit that I can't fathom any team in any sport any better than the original and only "Dream Team." But hey, sports is nothing if not an opportunity for a debate.
Let's go through the rosters and line them up. I did the best I could matching up the players. Looking forward to the onslaught of opinions.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
We start with the big one. The sainted Jordan won six NBA championships and the MVP in each of those Finals wins. He won league MVP honors five times and was an All-Star selection all 14 years that he played. The ten-time scoring champ averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Kobe has won five NBA championships and one league MVP award. He has been an All-Star in 14 of his 16 years in the league. His career averages are 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
While Bill Russell won more championships, Jordan and Bryant are generally considered the two most cold-blooded killers in the game. Their ability to simply grab a game by the throat is legendary. They didn't always succeed, but they were always there at the end.
Who would I pick? As great as Kobe is, this is a no-brainer. I'm taking Jordan every time.
Magic Johnson vs. Chris Paul
Magic Johnson won five NBA championships and three MVP awards. He was an All-Star in all 12 seasons that he played and his career average of 11.2 assists per game is the highest in NBA history. He also averaged 19.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Magic went from winning the NCAA championship in 1979 to winning the NBA championship in his rookie season of 1980. The Lakers clinched that title against the Doctor J led Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
They were without league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 6 so Magic started at center. He played all five positions in that game and led the Lakers to the championship by scoring 42 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and handing out seven assists. As a rookie.
Chris Paul has been an All-Star in five of his seven seasons. His career averages are 18.8 points, 9.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
I love Chris Paul. But this is Magic Johnson. Another no-brainer.
Larry Bird vs. Carmelo Anthony
Larry Bird won three NBA championships and three league MVP awards. He was an All-Star in 12 of his 13 seasons.
His career averages were 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Yes, not that far from a career triple double. Oh, and he was half of the duo that saved the NBA.
Carmelo Anthony is a five-time All-Star in nine seasons. He has great numbers, averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
While Carmelo managed to do something Bird didn't, win an NCAA championship, there is no comparing their NBA careers. Three no-brainers for the 1992 team.
Charles Barkley vs. LeBron James
Charles Barkley won an MVP award and was an All-Star 11 times in 14 NBA seasons. He never won an NBA championship and had career averages of 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
LeBron certainly has passed any of the original "Dream Team" players in expectations and scrutiny. He's won three of the last four MVP awards and has been an All-Star in eight of his nine seasons. He's averaged 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.
He's done everything possible in this year's playoffs to change the perception that he can't take over a game like Michael and Kobe. He still needs that ring, probably multiple rings, to get a seat at the table with the all-time greats. He belongs there.
The first win for the 2008 team. LeBron over Charles.
Patrick Ewing vs. Dwight Howard
Patrick Ewing did something no one would ever do today. He stayed in school as a big man.
After an amazing career at Georgetown, Ewing was an 11-time All-Star in 17 NBA seasons. He fell short of winning an NBA championship and averaged 21 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
Dwight Howard is a three-time defensive Player of the Year. He is a six time All-Star in his eight seasons with averages of 18.4 points, 13 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
It's interesting to compare Ewing to Howard in that while Ewing stayed in college, Howard skipped it. I wonder about that hurting Howard's maturity. Nevertheless, he wins the battle against Ewing.
Scottie Pippen vs. Tayshaun Prince
Imagine being considered the second-best player in the NBA and also on your own team. That never seemed to bother Pippen as he won six NBA championships with Michael Jordan.
Pippen was a seven-time All-Star in his 17 years and was All-Defensive first team eight straight times. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.2 assists and 2 steals per game.
Tayshaun Prince has made a terrific NBA career out of low expectations. While he has an NBA title, he has no All-Star selections. His career averages are 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Prince may be a nice player, but he's no Scottie Pippen.
Clyde Drexler vs. Michael Redd
Clyde Drexler always seemed to be under the radar. He was the reason the Portland Trail Blazers passed on Michael Jordan and fulfilled his tremendous promise.
Drexler was a 10-time All-Star in his 15 seasons. He did finally win a ring by teaming up with his old college teammate, Hakeem Olajawon in Houston. He averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
Michael Redd has fought injuries in his career and has been an All-Star one time in his 12 seasons. His career averages are 19 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Another no-brainer for the 1992 team. Drexler wallops Redd.
Karl Malone vs. Carlos Boozer
Karl Malone scored 36,298 points in his NBA career, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone was a 14-time All-Star in his 19 seasons, and the two-time MVP averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Carlos Boozer is a two-time All-Star in his 10 NBA seasons and has averaged 17 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Nothing to discuss. Malone.
John Stockton vs. Jason Kidd
John Stockton is the most unheralded great player in the history of the NBA. He's the all time leader in career assists with 15,806 and steals with 3,265.
He had 38 games with at least 20 assists. He was a 10-time All-Star in his 20 seasons and averaged 13.1 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Jason Kidd is clearly a Hall of Famer. He's a 10 time All-Star in 18 seasons and has a championship. The five-time assists leader has averaged 13 points, 9.0 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game.
I love Kidd, but Stockton is an all-timer.
David Robinson vs. Deron Williams
David Robinson is another unheralded Hall of Famer. The two-time NBA champion was an All-Star 10 times in 14 seasons and All-NBA first team four times. He averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
I know I'm comparing a center to a point guard, but hey the rosters are what they are. Williams is a three-time All-Star in his seven seasons. His career averages are 17.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game.
The Admiral comes out ahead against Williams.
Chris Mullin vs. Dwyane Wade
Chris Mullin epitomizes the term "gym rat." He lived in the St. John's gym and then continued to shoot and shoot and shoot during 17 NBA seasons of practices. The five-time All-Star averaged 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Dwyane Wade came into the NBA in that loaded 2003 draft. Since then he's been an All-Star in eight of his nine seasons. He has a title and has averaged 25.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
This one is a fairly convincing win for the 2008 guys. Wade over Mullin.
Christian Laettner vs. Chris Bosh
The college guy. That's what Laettner was referred to by his 1992 teammates. Perhaps the greatest college career of all time.
He played in four Final Fours, winning two NCAA championships. He holds NCAA tournament records with 23 games played and 407 points. He had a 13-year NBA career.
Chris Bosh also came into the NBA in that 2003 draft. The seven-time All-Star has averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
A no-brainer for the 2008 guys. Bosh over the college guy.
There's Only One "Dream Team"
It's a clear 8-4 win for the 1992 team. There has never been (nor will there be again) a team like that 1992 Olympic team. A team made up of 11 Hall of Famers and the college guy.
This isn't just the old guy on the porch reminiscing about the good old days.
That was the best team ever assembled. In any sport. Ever.
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