Dream Team: Who Are the Best 12 Players to Win Gold for Team USA?
It seems all we've been talking about in regard to Team USA Basketball is how this recent crop of gold medalists would fare against the 1992 side, with Kobe Bryant or Scottie Pippen or whomever throwing a wrench into the debate. Someone even made a video game about it.
In that spirit, I thought I'd release my XII (two players at each position; two other players) greatest players for Team USA. All players on this list have won one or more golds in the red, white and blue.
This means that, in addition to the great 1992 team and the great teams we've had for the last couple of Olympics, this also considers the Hall of Fame-enshrined 1960 college/AAU team and gives consideration to a number of other great teams that won gold for the Stars and Stripes.
The First Five Eliminated
Here are the five players, two forwards, one center and two guards, who fell just short in my opinion. Note that from here on out, you can assume that the years listed are gold medal-winning years unless otherwise noted.
SF: Larry Bird (1992)
SF/PF: Carmelo Anthony (2008, 2012, 2004-Bronze)
C: Bob Kurkland (1948, 1952)
SG: Adrian Dantley (1976)
PG: Jason Kidd (2000, 2008)
Bird, though the mascot of the 1992 Dream Team, doesn't quite have enough talent to make the final 12. By 1992, he was battling injuries and only started three of the eight games in Barcelona.
The thrice-capped 'Melo falls to the honorable mention slide due to the immense depth Team USA enjoys at the forward position.
You've probably never heard of Kurland (I hadn't either; he never suited up in the NBA). But he was one of eight Americans to receive consideration for the FIBA Hall of Fame.
A 7-footer, Kurland won two gold medals as an AAU representative on the 1948 and 1952 gold medal-winning teams, partially due to the fact that he was one of the first players to use dunks as a consistent part of his repertoire. He also was a six-time AAU All-American and made the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1961.
Adrian Dantley, who later became a Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Braves and a scoring champion with the Utah Jazz, led the gold medal-winning Montreal team in scoring with 116 points in six games.
Jason Kidd has the distinction of starting the most games at point guard for Team USA (eight in 2008, plus four in 2000). Kidd also ranks in the top 10 of Team USA players in career rebounds and assists.
Reserve Point Guard: Magic Johnson, 1992
Magic was one of the first players to be selected to the 1992 Dream Team and played six games, starting five. He averaged eight points, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 56.7 from the field.
Magic was one of eight American players to be considered for induction into the FIBA Hall of Fame but has yet to be selected.
Reserve Combo Guard: Jerry West, 1960
West is one of four Hall of Famers to suit up for the 1960 Rome squad. On a squad considered perhaps the most balanced to represent Team USA, West was one of five players to average in double figures on a team that beat its opponents by an average of 42 points when the stall could still be employed.
West was one of eight American players to be considered for induction into the FIBA Hall of Fame but ultimately didn't make the grade.
Reserve Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, 2008, 2012
Kobe Bryant is sixth all time in career scoring on Team USA, averaging 13.6 points per game in his 16 games with Team USA. Bryant started all 16 games in both 2008 and 2012, contributing 18 steals and 20 assists.
Reserve Small Forward: Kevin Durant, 2012
2012 gold medalist Kevin Durant holds the record for most points (156) and scoring average (19.5) in a single Olympics, capped by 30 points in the 2012 gold-medal win over Spain.
During that Olympics, Durant also shot a ridiculous 52.3 percent from downtown.
Reserve Power Forward: Spencer Haywood, 1968
Haywood is nowadays most noted for being the person most snubbed by the Naismith Hall of Fame, but he also had a notable international career.
Before Kevin Durant broke his record, Haywood had the American single-Olympics scoring record. At only 19, he averaged 16.1 points per game (145 points in nine games).
His 71.9 shooting percentage from the field that would make even Durant jealous. He had two performances in Mexico City of 25 or more points.
Reserve Center: Patrick Ewing, 1984, 1992
Patrick Ewing played for Team USA while playing with Georgetown in 1984 and with the Knicks in 1992. He has two of the top-five American single-Olympics block totals, including six on August 8, 1984.
He has the second-highest career point total among centers with 164 (10.3 per game). He also has a career 58.7 field goal percentage with Team USA and is third in career rebounds.
Reserve Center: Bill Russell, 1956
Russell, a gold medalist in 1956, is the only U.S. frontcourt player in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In his only Olympics, he averaged 14.1 points.
He also probably averaged lots of rebounds and blocks, but we'll never know as FIBA didn't track them back then.
Starting Point Guard: Oscar Robertson, 1960
The only other American in the FIBA Hall of Fame is another participant on the 1960 team, the Big O.
He led America's most dominant college team in scoring and quarterbacked the offense of the first American team to average 100 points a game.
Starting Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan, 1984, 1992
Michael Jordan played for Team USA in 1984 and 1992, winning an NBA Title and NBA MVP in the same year as his second gold medal. His 1984 scoring average of 17.1 points per game is good enough for the fourth-best single-Olympics average.
In 1992, Jordan averaged 14.9 points and 4.8 assists on the dominant Dream Team. He had eight steals in a game twice in 1992. Jordan has the highest point total and scoring average of any U.S. player who participated in two Olympics.
One thing that comes as a surprise is that, though considered, MJ hasn't made it into the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Starting Small Forward: LeBron James, 2004 (Bronze), 2008, 2012
LeBron James is one of three players (David Robinson, Carmelo Anthony) to play in three straight Olympics. By his third Olympics, he was the undisputed leader of Team USA.
He is the all-time leader in points scored and career assists on Team USA, is second in career rebounds and career steals, and has a stellar field goal percentage of 60.1 percent.
Starting Power Forward: Charles Barkley, 1992, 1996
Charles Barkley scored more points than anyone on the Dream Team. His 144 points and 18.0 points per game are good for third and second, respectively, in a single Olympics. He also had 21 steals and was seven-of-eight from downtown. He dropped 30 on Brazil in his biggest game.
When Barkley came back for 1996, he only averaged 12.4 points a game, but he shot a ridiculous 81.6 percent from the field.
Barkley is fifth all time in points scored and rebounds in a USA uniform; second in both among players who didn't play in a third Olympics. He also has the highest field-goal percentage (74.4 percent) among players who suited up for multiple Olympics.
Why FIBA hasn't even considered him for induction in the Hall of Fame, I don't know. But if I was casting a ballot, Barkley would be on it.
Starting Center: David Robinson, 1988 (Bronze), 1992, 1996
David Robinson played on one Olympics while playing for Navy in 1988 and two while with the San Antonio Spurs in 1992 and 1996.
He was Team USA's all-time scoring leader until LeBron James broke his record in the 2012 gold-medal game. He is still Team USA's all-time rebounds and blocks leader, and led the team in scoring in 1996.
Robinson has been considered for the FIBA Hall of Fame, but not selected. He may well make the Hall in 2013.