Pro Basketball: Original Dream Team inspired today’s stars
By Aileen Voisin
You never forget your first love. You never forget the Beatles. That’s the first thing to remember.
The “Dream Team” nickname should have been retired when Magic, Michael, Larry and Charles – John, Paul, George and Ringo in shorts and sneakers – finished romancing the globe and rocking the world.
“I might be a little biased,” 1992 U.S. Olympic team coach Chuck Daly said Monday on his cell phone, “but I don’t think anyone could beat us. Our team was full of Hall of Famers, legends. A number of our guys had won NBA championships. Plus, we had that mystique, and that’s never coming back.”
He’s right. It’s not. It’s time to move on. Daly, who endorsed coach Mike Krzyzewski’s selection and Jerry Colangelo’s demand for a three-year commitment, also accurately predicted the outcome in Beijing: Early routs. Suffocating defense. Advantage in athleticism. Serious threat in the medal round. Ultimately, victory.
“I know what Coach K was going through,” Daly continued. “I saw those red spots on his face. That’s the pressure. See what we started?”
In that magical Summer of ’92, the Dreamers were the mythical hoopers, the touring rockers who inspired youngsters named Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, along with the other stars who excelled in Sunday’s stirring finale. Krzyzewski ó the first college coach of an NBA-laden Olympic squad ó is to be congratulated. Eight years of frustration ended when the Spaniards finally faltered against an American team that was prepared, committed and starved for success and less so for attention. The players had their priorities straight this time.
But comparing the 1992 and 2008 rosters? Maybe in your dreams. While Team USA’s recent success is generating a chatter that will persist through a few breakfasts, lunches, dinners and late-night snacks, the bunch that owned Barcelona ó the squad Daly labeled “majestic” ó is impossible to replicate.
Just a few munchies to chew on: The 1992 team averaged 29.9 assists, in a 40-minute game, and with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and John Stockton ailing throughout. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen routinely punished opposing ball-handlers. The three-point shooting was exceptional. Karl Malone, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing overpowered inside. The irrepressible Charles Barkley was the best player in the tournament. Daly never called a timeout.
“If we had faced the zone that they (2008 team) did Sunday against Spain,” he added, chuckling, “I would have put (Chris) Mullin on one wing and Bird on the other. That would have been it.
“Those were great, great players and a great team.”
Assuming Colangelo returns as the czar, sustaining the national program will mean avoiding the damaging post-1992 pattern. The lessons are all there. Don Nelson’s aging, selfish, over-hyped 1994 FIBA World Championship team. Lenny Wilkens’ grumbling 1996 Olympic squad. Rudy Tomjanovich’s club that squeaked to gold in Sydney 2000. George Karl’s disjointed team that took sixth in the World Championship in 2002. Larry Brown’s hastily assembled group that managed bronze in Athens 2004. Krzyzewski’s 2006 Worlds team also slumped to third in Japan.
“I read somewhere that they’re building 10,000 basketball courts in China,” Daly cautioned. “Stay ready. Everything is different now.”