USA Basketball: 2012 Team vs. 1992 Dream Team

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USA Basketball: 2012 Team vs. 1992 Dream Team
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant has been described in numerous fashions over his career. Lacking a sense of hubris has never been one of those abstractions.

Though a certain degree of confidence undoubtedly accompanies the attainment of five championship rings and 14 All-Star appearances, there seemed to be a heightened aura of vanity to Bryant's recent declaration that this year's USA Basketball roster could overthrow the 1992 American squad, sanctimoniously referred to as "The Dream Team."

"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," Bryant told reporters in Las Vegas last week (via Yahoo!). "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 audacity to make such an assertion did not sit well with Bryant's elder Olympic brethren, most notably Michael Jordan. Astoundingly, His Airness held a contradictory view on the matter, telling The Associated Press (via ESPN), "For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done."

Fellow Dream Team member Charles Barkley echoed these sentiments, responding in a Philadelphia radio interview (from ESPN), "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 {years old}. Other than Kobe, LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant, I don't think anybody else on that team makes our team."

USA Basketball: 2012 vs. 1992
Matchup Win% Avg PPG WIS Interactive
2012 USA Basketball 24.3 106.6 Simulate Matchup
1992 Dream Team 75.7 115.8 Build your own Dream Team

Perhaps Barkley's contention is similarly ostentatious. Granted, a great deal of hardwood superstars will be on the sideline for Uncle Sam in the upcoming international games, including gold medalists in Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, along with 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose. Yet Sir Charles impulsively overlooked a 2012 crew that would hardly be characterized as short on talent.

Running the show is Chris Paul, one of the purest point guards the game has ever seen. Few players have elevated their performance in international play like Carmelo Anthony, who flourishes when functioning next to luminary colleagues and relishes the global spotlight. The same could be said for James and Durant, who, despite being two of the most dominant entities in the Association, actually improve as performers thanks to the open-floor style facilitated by FIBA rules.

There is a tenor of truth to the allegation of deficiency in the post, as a rash of injuries has left Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler as the only viable big man among this year's group. However, the privation of height is negated by an abundance of depth. Backing up CP3 are Deron Williams, fresh off a campaign featuring averages of 21 points and nine dimes, and Russell Westbrook, a dynamic scoring guard that finished fifth in league scoring.

Kevin Love became the first player since 2000 and just the fourth baller ever to average 26 points and 13 rebounds in a season. Adding to this foundation are Andre Iguodala, one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA, James Harden, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and Anthony Davis, the National Player of the Year in the college ranks.

Again, this is the aptitude coming off the bench.

"The guys on the Dream Team in 1992 would probably have me match up with the trainer or the ball boy. They may try to trade me so I don't have to match up with anybody." - Christian Laettner

However, it is somewhat hard to fathom any congregation of hoops endowment besting the '92 lineup. There is certainly an ambience and exaltation that is emitted when conjuring up the Dream Team, as this company is discussed in tones often reserved for deities. They were old, yes, but a formidable force they were, illustrated by the enshrinement of 11 of the squad's 12 members in the Hall of Fame. So the question remains: could Kobe, LeBron and Durant command an upset over Jordan, Barkley and Magic?

"I should probably say 'heck no, no way,' but I've been watching these guys practice (in Las Vegas) and they do look pretty good," FOXSports.com Olympic basketball analyst and 1992 Dream Team member Christian Laettner told us last week. However, when prodded to make a prediction, Laettner said, "Being on the '92 team, with those guys, the greatest team ever assembled, I got to pick the team that I was on. So I'm going to say, for the record right now, the '92 Dream team would beat any team you threw in front of us."

While normally the collective affirmations from the greatest player of all time (Jordan), the player with one of the greatest shots of all time (Laettner) and one of the greatest raconteurs of all time (Barkley) would be enough to corroborate a conquest for the Dream Team, we didn't want to leave an issue of such severity to rest.

Keeping this attitude in mind, we implemented each roster into the WhatIfSports.com basketball simulation engine to decipher the outcome. According to the award-winning apparatus, the '92 club comes out on top 75.7 percent of the time by an average margin of 116 to 107. As envisioned, the Dream Team took advantage of the perceived shortcomings in the 2012 frontcourt, as Barkley, Ewing, Robinson and Malone averaged 46 points and 25 rebounds in the paint. Jordan paced the '92 lineup with 14 points, while Magic handed out 10 dimes.

In the losing effort, LeBron led all scorers with 17 points, adding seven boards and six assists for good measures. Bryant chipped in 14 points and Durant poured in 12, but it was for naught.

Sorry, Kobe. This year's gang may be favored to bring back the gold from London, yet compared to its counterparts who took Barcelona by storm in the summer of '92, the 2012 team stands at the silver podium.

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