Kobe Bryant, Please Cool It with Your Dream Team Comparisons

Dallas Mavericks ExaminerCorrespondent IIIJuly 21, 2012

Mike Powell/Getty Images

Well, boys will be boys.  It used to be we could rely on women for public cat fights but with the advent of social media it seems men cannot resist the urge to jack with each other via the internet either.

You know a story is good when it isn't only featured in B/R and ESPN, but also shows up in People Magazine and E!.  This is why it's critically important that more NBA players marry Kardashians, but I digress....

The cyberworld has been all *ahem* atwitter with the recent exchange between Mark Cuban and Bill Simmons.  If you haven't checked in on that party, be sure to read about my "Ultimate Final Answer."

But a longer ongoing discussion has come from Kobe Bryant's contention that Team USA 2012 could beat 1992's Dream Team.  

Larry Bird probably put the comment in the right perspective: his thoughts?  "They probably could.  I haven't played in 20 years and we're all old now."

This is the kind of conversation basketball geeks have amongst themselves but leave it to Kobe to comment publicly, instead of the obvious appropriate response laced with some shred of humility along the lines of "We have a great team but those guys are legends and I think it's silly to speculate" or somesuch.  

In fact, even Lebron had the right idea when he stated in a Nightline interview, "As a competitor you never want to say that you will lose no matter who you are going against.  We understand what they did for our game, but we also are big-time competitors as well so if we had the opportunity to play them in a game, we feel like we would win too.”   That, of course, was after he acknowledged the Dream Team for paving the way for all future NBA Olympians and setting a very high standard.

He added "as a competitor and as a fan of those guys you try to live up to that—you try to be better than them." 

Kobe even felt compelled to backtrack a bit later, admitting “You didn’t ask me if we could beat them in a seven-game series. In one game, we can beat them.”

Okay, fair enough.  Any team can win on a given night.   But it really isn't about that.  It's more of a bit of basketball heresy.  Without doing extensive research, I don't recall hearing Tiger Woods talking about how he could beat Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, or Tom Brady boasting how his Patriots would beat Roger Staubach and the Cowboys or Joe Montana and the 49ers, etc.

You can go down the stat sheets position-by-position, but what stands out in my mind is that the Dream Team was more than just a collection of great basketball players.  They basically defined a generation of basketball and, in many ways, the game itself.

Jordan alone is widely considered to be the greatest player to ever lace up high tops.  Bird and Magic are two of the other players typically discussed in a conversation about that subject.  Beyond that, these three are largely given credit for rejuvenating and defining an entire era of NBA basketball.   

Jordan's legacy began even before he hit the NBA, winning a national championship at North Carolina in 1992 and going on to win six NBA Championships and a laundry list of offensive and defensive accolades, as well as MVPs.   But his real impact is echoed by outside observers such as Andrei S. Markovits and Lars Rensman who wrote in their 2010 book Gaming the World: How Sports are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture:

Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation and was considered instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press's list of athletes of the century.

This doesn't directly translate to how Jordan performed on the court but is largely a result of it.



By the same token, Magic and Bird also started in college with an epic battle between them for the NCAA title, a 1979 game which remains the most watched basketball game in the history of the sport, college or pro.

Their pro resumes look similar to Jordan's, with numerous individual and team accomplishments. Their play as individuals and as rivals also lives well beyond their careers, including a Broadway show about their relationship.  

Wait, you haven't heard about the new play in the works about Kobe and Lebron?  Oh that's right, because there isn't one.  

Other players on the team, by position, also rank as among the best of all time—for example, John Stockton, the NBA's all-time assist leader, and his Utah Jazz running mate Karl Malone, considered by many to be the greatest power forward of all time and second leading scorer in NBA history. Who on Team USA is going to approach that plateau?  Maybe Kobe?  Maybe Lebron?  It's way too early to tell.

The Dream Team was rounded out with other players who were also not just perennial All-Stars but ranked among the best ever.  While there is no denying the immense talent on Team USA 2012, it will be many years before we can make any sort of comparison.

For the most part, Kobe's statement mostly seems to be nothing more than what I like to call premature ejerkulation.  Team USA has a number of great players who will probably be in the Hall of Fame and be considered the best players of this day and age; only time will tell what their legacy is.


But the percentage of Dream Team's key players who rank amongst the NBA's all-time elite is not likely to be matched.  Their status is an indication of how they played over long and productive careers and the youngsters on Team USA have a long way to go before they have proven they are at that level.

Beyond that, if you insist on getting into the minutia of the matchups, supporters of Kobe's comments seem to focus on which members of the Dream Team were not in their prime or that Team USA has too much quickness and athleticism for Jordan & Co. to contain.  The latter makes little sense to me when you consider the kind of defensive presence the Dream Team put on the floor.

Team USA also has a gaping hole in the middle which not only makes their ability to challenge the Dream Team questionable, but also shows there is no guarantee they won't have a great deal of difficulty with Spain.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Tyson Chandler fan; but he is the only true center on the roster and his offensive skills are decent but far from great.  

Without Dwight Howard, there is a very good chance that Spain's big trio of Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will cause problems for Team USA inside.  Needless to say, trying to match up with David Robinson and Patrick Ewing would be a very lopsided advantage for the Dream Team.

The bottom line is, of course, there is no way to know.  Personally, I think there would have been a classier way to handle such a question and unfortunately that was a giant #FAIL for Kobe.  Let's hope that impending retirement brings with it a little maturity.