Kobe Bryant ruffled some feathers in an interview with Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. The Lakers' future Hall of Famer asserted that this year's men's Olympic basketball team would get the better of the 1992 Dream Team.
That's a bold statement, even for the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history. When asked how the squad this year would fare against arguably the greatest team ever assembled in sports history, Bryant had this to say:
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.
You knew when these statements were made that one of the Dream Team members would fire back, and it wasn't going to be Larry Bird or John Stockton.
It had to be Charles Barkley. When was the last time Sir Charles didn't have something to say? I bet you can't remember.
In an interview with Mike Missanelli on Philadelphia sports radio (per ESPN.com), Barkley fired back at Bryant's absurd comments.
Oh yeah, that's no disrespect. I ain't got to badmouth them. But like I said, their point guards weren't going to beat us. That's a no-brainer.
[Regarding the age comments] I just started laughing. 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.
Both sides have a point, but Barkley's is better. Kobe is old, and I don't think anyone outside of the three players mentioned would make the team. Other players have the talent, but they don't have the drive.
Every player on the squad in 1992 was a bloodthirsty competitor on the court. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love do not. It's nothing against them as players, but they don't stand a chance against the likes of Bird, Michael Jordan, Barkley or any other 1992 participant.
We aren't talking the 2004 team here. We are talking the 1992 Dream Team. Calling that group the greatest team ever assembled in sports history is not a stretch of the imagination.
Maybe Kobe is trying to motivate his squad. He had to know that his comments would make headlines for days to come. The banter back and forth could leave his team feeling like they have something to prove to the NBA's elder statesmen. Bryant had to know that someone (probably Barkley) would fire back. Their pride runs too deep not to.
Barkley, for once, makes some great points. The Dream Team's point guards (even without Isiah Thomas) would win the battle. Chris Paul is good, but he isn't Magic Johnson (even the Magic stuck in retirement limbo).
Also, how does Bryant expect his young power forwards (Blake Griffin, Love) to battle with the likes of Barkley, Ewing, Robinson and Malone? They'd have help from Tyson Chandler, but come on. It wouldn't happen, plain and simple.
Barkley's also right about the players making the team. Representing your country takes more than just talent. These guys are coming off a long NBA season. Players without the necessary drive will fizzle out, but Bryant, James and Durant could play all day. They have a champion's demeanor, and that would grant them inclusion on 1992's elite squad.
This is all mostly harmless banter, at least for the time being. Kobe is a proud player, and his resume undoubtedly lines him up with the Dream Team. He wants to, at least in his own head, recreate the buzz that surrounded 1992's special group.
Barkley is just doing his job. We'd be remiss to think that this generation's best player was going to get away with those comments unscathed. The Dream Team needed to throw a volley of their own, and who else was going to do it?
Add this to Barkley's long list of sound bytes and stay tuned for the next round of chatter leading up to the London Olympics. I'm sure it won't disappoint.