(Note: As a sports fan and aspiring sports writer, I find it frustrating to read reviews of sports books by writers who do not seem to enjoy sports as much as myself. I have decided to review all of the sports books I read, which is usually one or two a month, to help out others who are also avid readers and want a different perspective in their reviews. I hope this helps.)
A "Cultural Phenomenon" may not even do the Dream Team justice. The Dream Team effectively changed the world of basketball forever. It wasn't that they only changed the "culture" per se, they changed everything about basketball in the rest of the world.
Jack McCallum's book entitled simply Dream Team is an absolute must-read for all basketball fans.
I am 26 years old, which means I was only seven when the Dream Team changed the world. I remember a Dream Team poster on my wall, but I honestly can't remember anything about the games in the '92 Olympics themselves. McCallum does an excellent job of taking the reader inside the Dream Team, from the selection of the team straight through winning the gold medal. (I hope NBC has in fact already shown these games and I am not spoiling the ending for anybody).
McCallum breaks the book down into 36 chapters, seamlessly weaving in between Dream Team anecdotes and stories, personal stories about all 12 players and actual game summaries. At no point in the book does McCallum ever make the reader feel he is focusing too much on any particular game, situation or person.
McCallum has at least a chapter about each individual player and how he made the team, performed on the team, behaved in Barcelona or a list of other items about the individual. In my personal opinion, while all the participants were interesting, the Charles Barkley and Larry Bird stories were the most enjoyable and captivating to read.
There is certainly no better person than McCallum to write about the Dream Team due to his proximity to them. He traveled with the team in Portland for tune-up games and Barcelona for the actual Olympics. He reported things the way he saw them and showed no bias. He also showed great patience to release this book 20 years after the fact, with great background and information on what each Dream Team member has done since then, as opposed to rushing it to press in '92 and making it feel incomplete.
McCallum addesses the choice to leave Isiah Thomas off the team, the famous scrimmage in Monte Carlo, the way the other teams and Olympians reacted to the Dream Team and perhaps most interesting and important, the way the Dream Team changed the game of basketball worldwide.
It is rare for me to read a book and not have any points of boredom, skepticism or critique. This is one such book.
If I was forced to make a change to the book, I would have liked a little bit more on the games themselves, in relation to how Coach Chuck Daly arranged his rotations, but that is nitpicking.
It was a fast, fun and enjoyable book that I will possibly read again. I strongly suggest it for all basketball fans.
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