Don’t tell Dick Ebersol, but I highly doubt that I will pay much attention to the Olympics in Beijing. To be honest, the Olympics - Summer or Winter - have never really been my cup of tea. On two occasions, however, the U.S.A. basketball team grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.
Like so many others, I was fascinated by the 1992 Dream Team, the first American Olympic team to feature professional players. Although every single one their games was a blowout, the novelty of seeing Jordan, Bird, Magic and crew on the same team had me glued to the set. That is undoubtedly the greatest basketball team ever assembled. And Magic Johnson’s joy during the medal presentation, less than one year after he had seemingly received a death sentence with his HIV-positive diagnosis, was a truly moving moment.
Still, my interest in the original Dream Team paled in comparison to my obsession with the 1984 Olympic squad, which can be traced in very large part to two factors - Alvin Robertson and Joe Kleine. I closely followed the team try-outs in Bloomington, Ind., hoping that just one of the Razorbacks would make the team (and being a true Hog fan, fearing that neither would). When the roster was announced and both Alvin and Joe were on it, my 12-year-old mind was completely blown.
It quickly became apparent that the two Hogs were part of a very special team. Before the Games started, the ‘84 squad crushed a collection of NBA stars in a series of exhibitions and then cruised to a gold medal with an 8-0 record in Los Angeles. Michael Jordan led the team in scoring, averaging 17 points per game, and Alvin Roberston won lots of kudos from Coach Bobby Knight for his stellar defensive play. Kleine, meanwhile, logged plenty of pine time, sitting next to his rival and fellow Big Hulking White Center Jon Koncack.
If the ‘92 team was the greatest ever assembled, then the ‘84 squad is perhaps the best amateur team of all time. The only shame is that they didn’t get a chance to face the Russians, who were boycotting the games and would almost certainly have provided a stiffer challenge than the other countries. Still, I’m more than confident Alvin and crew would have kicked the Commies’ butts.
Below is some footage from the medal presentation ceremony. The sight of Alvin (I’d forgotten he wore braces during this time - that couldn’t have helped his intimidation factor) and Joe draped in their gold medals, singing the national anthem … why it’s enough to make even the most ardent Berkeley Marxist get all misty-eyed.