USA Basketball: The Dream Team Scrimmages Revisited

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IJuly 25, 2012

BARCELONA, ESP - JULY 26: (L-R) Larry Bird, Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone of the USA Olympic Basketball Team (The Dream Team) walk on the court during a game against The Republic of Angola Olympic Team on July 26,1992 in Barcelona, Spain. The USA won 116-48. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Twenty years after Barcelona, the Dream Team still sets the standard as the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled, the benchmark by which all exceptional teams are judged.

The London Olympics marks the sixth consecutive time the United States has sent a squad of seasoned pros to the Games, but none has been able to capture the public's imagination quite like its first rendition.

The 1996 team counted five Dream Teamers among its cast (Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton), and yet that ensemble of stars rang hollow without headliners Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

The Dream Team's mystique seems to grow with each passing year. Though their dominance is hardly in need of hyperbole, we can't help but picture players whose abilities were waning (Bird, Johnson) or burgeoning (Robinson, Pippen) as though they were at the apex of their careers in 1992.

The aura surrounding the Dream Team is so strong that even their scrimmages are the stuff of legends. Shortly after the team's formation, they tested their chops against a group of college stars and lost. With little available evidence to explain how such a thing could happen, the public was left to ponder.

While the scrimmage will likely be shrouded in mystery for years to come,'s basketball simulation engine allows us to take the speculation to another level.

Dream Team vs. Select Team

While Chris Webber, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Anfernee Hardaway, Allan Houston, Jamal Mashburn, Eric Montross and Rodney Rogers formed an exceptional corps of college talent in 1992, it's more than a stretch to suggest they could compete with, much less beat, the best the NBA had to offer. And yet that's just what happened when the U.S. Select team upset the Olympic squad in a 20-minute scrimmage. Though the final tally was never disclosed, the Dream Team lost by eight points.


We simulated the teams against each other 1,001 times in a 48-minute tilt.

Dream Team vs. Select Team
Matchup Win% Avg PPG WIS Interactive
Select Team 0.5 87.7 Simulate Matchup
Dream Team 99.5 122.5 Build your own Dream Team

We used the first NBA season of each Select Team member for the simulation. The eight members of the team received all of the minutes distribution and the rest of the roster was filled out with All-Americans Calbert Cheaney, Isaiah Rider, Chris Mills and Nick Van Exel.

Magic's Blue Team vs. Jordan's White Team

As the Dream Team prepped for the Olympics by playing exhibition games against foreign competition, coach Chuck Daly wasn't convinced they were properly challenged. He split the team up for a full-throttle pickup game. And who better to lead each team than two of the fiercest competitors to ever play the game, Johnson and Jordan.

Johnson's team included Barkley, Robinson, Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner. Jordan's team countered with Bird, Malone, Pippen and Patrick Ewing. John Stockton and Clyde Drexler sat out, both nursing injuries.

While the matchup could have easily filled the NBA's largest arenas, no one was there to witness what has been described as an intense, physical bout with plenty of trash talk. Not to worry though, footage of the game was released online Wednesday. 

Magic's blue team led for much of the scrimmage, but Jordan's white team rallied for a 40-36 win.


We simulated the opponents 1,001 times in a 48-minute game to learn which team had the upper hand.

Magic's Blue Team vs. Jordan's White Team
Matchup Win% Avg PPG WIS Interactive
Magic's Blue Team 48.6 107.3 Simulate Matchup
Jordan's White Team 51.4 107.4 Build your own Dream Team

We assigned all minutes to the five members of each team. The rest of each roster was filled with members of the 1992 Select Team.