Before the 2012 London Olympic Games even began, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the USA Basketball Team would be standing atop the podium, gold medals around their necks and hands over their hearts as the American National Anthem played for all to hear. It was clearly their flag that was going to be raised, not anyone else's. After all, they were the so-called "Dream Team."
It was clearly a stretch for the 2012 squad to compare themselves to the 1992 team that featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, Larry Bird and more Hall of Famers than you could count on one hand. This 2012 gold medal-contending team is good, but they aren't Dream Team good.
It's likely no team ever will be Dream Team good, as it is most often the case in life, the sequel is never better than the original. Therefore, a more proper name for this team would be the "Dream Team: Redux."
Dream Team II was taken by the 1996 squad, Dream Team III was given to the team from 2000. 2004 was supposed to be the Dream Team take four, but when they left Athens with nothing more than a bronze, they didn't have a nickname. They were just a shell of what they were supposed to be. In short, they really were a disappointment to the expectations put on them.
It was easy then to call the 2008 squad the "Redeem Team," as they were out to redeem the country and USA Basketball by bringing home the gold medal. They did in fact do that and did so in style, never losing a game and never winning by less than 10 points. They certainly earned redemption.
Going into London, it was a little trickier to assign a nickname to this team. They already received redemption, so they could not be the Redeem Team anymore. Dream Team IV? Nah, that moniker has been well overused. Dream Team Jr.? Eh, that might be underestimating them a bit. What about the Achieve Team or the Believe Team? It doesn't exactly have a flow to it, though.
What should the 2012 U.S. Team be called?
Essentially, this team could be another Dream Team, but the nickname, it just doesn't seem fitting. They came into these Games with some of them claiming their squad was better than the original Dream Team, but that since has been dropped. They are a dream team, though, without question. The amount of NBA awards and championships and NCAA awards and championships between all of them is incredible.
But still, they aren't and will never be the '92 team.
So really, the "Faux Dream Team" came into London without a nickname. They didn't really have anything to prove, either. Well, except backing up the ludicrous, "We are better than the Dream Team claim." Other than that, this team is just out to win a gold medal because they can, because they are good enough, because they are regarded with...esteem.
To give credit where credit is due, the idea of perhaps calling them "The Esteem Team" was not my own creation. The idea was suggested by Jack McCallum, author of the book on the Dream Team and special Olympic correspondent to NBC. In fact, in an article he wrote just a few days ago after the U.S. completed a walk-over win against Tunisia, McCallum suggested two potential names, one of which was the "Esteem Team."
Calling them the Esteem Team really does make sense. About half of the team—Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, just to name a few—were all part of the Redeem Team. They were also there when the 12-year dynasty started by Jordan and company came to a crashing halt in Athens. Still, they have that esteem from the Beijing gold, and in London, they are looking to start a dynasty of their own, a regime as it were.
And there it is, McCallum's second suggestion: "The Regime Team."
This is the one. This is the one that is going to stick, and it is going to stick for a long time, because if the U.S. wins gold, as per the expectations, they certainly will be forming a regime of their own.
One of the definitions for regime is, "the period during which a particular government or ruling system is in power."
I would say this is a fair way to describe the 2008-2012 team. They have been dominant in the last four years, winning all international competitions and not having any devastating losses. They came into the Olympics on a winning streak and have continued that, as they have gone undefeated so far in the 2012 Games.
It may still be early, but they really are building a regime, one that could last for quite some time. The likes of LeBron and Melo, who are playing in their third straight Olympics, are cementing their legacy, one that could come to an end if David Stern ultimately decides to limit U.S. Olympic players to under 23 athletes, or two Olympic appearances, or some other sort of qualification process.
What it could mean is that this is the last Olympics for veterans like James, Anthony and Bryant, and that, as a result, they are passing the torch to the next generation, including the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, to continue the regime.
It is not an easy decision, choosing a nickname. It will stick with this squad for the rest of eternity. As we all remember the '92 Dream Team and '08 Redeem Team, the 2012 team, by whatever name they choose or is given to them, will be remembered as such.
So yes, esteem does sound nice, but it doesn't seem like enough. Dream? It would never work. Nobody remembers the second and third dream teams; they certainly wouldn't remember a fourth.
Regime—the Regime Team. It has that perfect ring to it; it completely describes the state of this team and the state of future teams likely to be led by the rookies from 2012. And finally, it is indicative of the way the U.S. has and likely will continue to dominate international basketball—like a dynasty, like a regime.