While camping along the North Shore of Lake Superior this weekend, the thought of what to write about upon my return home Sunday night came over me. Surely there would be something going on in the Minnesota sports world, which could garner this week’s focus. The Timberwolves swinging and missing on not only Nic Batum, but also other free agents along the way? No, why add salt to that wound? The Twins threatening to be American League cellar dwellers for the second straight year? Nah, we’ll hold off on that until October 4th, when it’s a done deal. The Wild’s big offseason signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter? Nope, missed the boat on that one…but well done Wild!! I got it… the Olympics are less than a week away, so why not dabble in the in debatable debate? That’s right, could the 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball team defeat the 1992 Dream Team? Usually one to stay out of such ridiculous arguments, I couldn’t help but look at some of the numbers surrounding this “debate.”
First off, let’s get one thing straight. The 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team is and always will be the greatest basketball team ever assembled…period!! The fact that they would defeat our 2012 Olympic squad in any scenario is beside the point and not worth debating, because the possibility of any such game ever taking place is non-existent. What is debatable however, is what squad features the better makeup of players, resulting in the better overall team. And that argument should be short lived. In case it’s been too long and you somehow forgot or in the event you were not even born yet, here are the players who comprised the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team. Below are the players, their NBA teams, and their NBA career per game averages.
PG – Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) 19.5ppg, 11.2apg, 7.2rpg
PG – John Stockton (Utah Jazz) 13.1ppg, 10.5apg, 2.2spg
SG – Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) 30.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 5.3apg
SG – Clyde Drexler (Portland Trailblazers) 20.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.6apg
SF – Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) 24.3ppg, 10.0rpg, 6.3apg
SF – Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls) 16.1ppg, 6.4rpg, 5.2apg
SF – Chris Mullin (Golden State Warriors) 18.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 3.5apg
PF – Karl Malone (Utah Jazz) 25.0ppg, 10.1rpg, 3.5apg
PF – Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns) 22.1ppg, 11.7rpg, 3.9apg
PF – Christian Laettner (Duke) 12.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 2.6apg
C – David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) 21.1ppg, 10.6rpg, 3.0bpg
C – Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks) 21.0ppg, 9.8rpg, 2.4bpg
With the exception of Laettner, who was the lone collegiate player selected to the Dream Team, every player on the roster is in the NBA Hall of Fame. Everyone, including Laettner, has been an All-Star and the group has been selected to a combined 117 All-Star Games, winning 15 NBA MVP awards along the way; Jordan (5), Magic and Bird (3), Malone (2), Robinson and Barkley (1). Every Dream Team member except Malone (No. 13), Drexler (No. 14), and Stockton (No. 16) were Top 7 selections in the NBA Draft. Among those, all were selected in the Top 5, except for Bird (No. 6) and Mullin (No. 7). The Dream Team combined to win 23 NBA Championships; Jordan and Pippen (6), Magic (5), Bird (3), Robinson (2), and Drexler (1). The rest of the team can thank Michael Jordan for never having won one. After cruising through the Tournament of the Americas, the Dream Team continued it’s dominating ways in Barcelona, crushing the competition to the tune of a 44ppg average margin of victory. Between the Tournament of Americas and the Olympics, the Dream Team finished a perfect 14-0, winning their games by 79, 44, 60, 41, 38, 47, 68, 33, 43, 44, 41, 38, 51, and capping it all off with a 32 point win in the Gold Medal game, against Croatia. Here’s a similar look at the 2012 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team, their NBA team, and career stats to date.
PG – Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) 18.8ppg, 9.8apg, 4.5rpg
PG – Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) 17.6ppg, 9.2apg, 3.3rpg
PG – Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) 19.0ppg, 6.8apg, 4.7rpg
SG – Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) 25.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.7apg
SG – James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder) 12.7ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.5apg
SF – Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) 26.3ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.8apg
SF – LeBron James (Miami Heat) 27.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 6.8apg
SF – Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) 15.3ppg, 5.8rpg, 4.9apg
SF – Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) 24.7ppg, 6.3rpg, 3.1apg
PF – Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) 17.3ppg, 12.0rpg, 1.9apg
PF – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets) rookie, yet to play an NBA game
C – Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) 8.6ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.4bpg
Of the players on the 2012 team, Chandler, Harden, and Davis have yet to play in an All-Star game (although Davis has also yet to play in an NBA game of any sort). While it already seems a foregone conclusion that Davis will appear on multiple All-Star teams, Chandler and Harden, especially Chandler, could feasibly never make an All-Star team. The group has been selected to a combined 43 All-Star games, with Kobe and LeBron accounting for over half (22) of them. Only Kobe, LeBron, Durant, and Paul have been selected to the All-Star game in more than 50% of the seasons they’ve played in. LeBron (3) and Kobe (1) are also the only NBA MVP’s of the group. Even more impressive than the Dream Team, is the fact that every member of the 2012 Olympic Team, with the exception of Kobe (No. 13) and Iguodala (No. 9), was a Top 5 NBA Draft pick. Again, Kobe (5) and LeBron (1) account for the team’s only 6 NBA Championships. So, while most members of the 2012 Olympic team still have many years ahead of them, they are not nearly as decorated a bunch as the 1992 Dream Team was, just looking at the percentages. While Laettner is the only member of the Dream Team to not be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Paul, and Carmelo figure to be the only locks on the 2012 team. Others have a lot of work to do, while Chandler and Iguodala figure to be long shots at best, and Harden would be hard pressed to make it, unless he ever fits himself into a starting lineup somewhere. Of course the fact of health comes into play here, but let’s also not forget that some of the NBA’s elite players of today are not on the 2012 Olympic Team. The loss of Blake Griffin is not as significant as some may feel. However, the additions of Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, and Dwight Howard would greatly improve the quality of this USA squad, at least on paper.
To choose the best team, you must choose the best players, correct? Exactly, let’s do this right now. Position by position, which players would you take, given the opportunity? We’ll comprise a mixed “Dream Team” with two players at every position, PG, SG, SF, PF, and C, as well as two “flex” players, who can be any position. Here’s the squad I would trot onto the court…
PG – Chris Paul: the fact that Paul is in the prime of his career and Magic’s NBA career had already ended prior to the 1992 Olympic Games, is why Paul gets the nod here. He is the most complete PG in the NBA today. Paul also gets the starting nod over one of the best PGs in NBA history, because of his versatility.
SG – Michael Jordan: he is and will be the best player of my lifetime.
SF – LeBron James: the selection of James over Bird is similar to why I selected Paul over Magic. James is one of the best players in the game today and Bird, who was one of the best to ever play, was at the twilight of his career, with major back issues.
PF – Karl Malone: Looking back, The Mailman was one of the most under rated players of his generation. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t been involved with basketball since retiring that we don’t hear his name often, but Karl Malone was really, really good.
C – David Robinson: With only two real centers to choose from, I went with The Admiral simply because he enjoyed a better, more complete career than Ewing.
PG – John Stockton: again, this choice was solely made on the fact that Magic’s playing days were already over. Magic was my favorite player, growing up, and it pains me to leave him off my team.
SG – Kobe Bryant: This is no knock on Clyde, who was a fantastic player, you just have to go with Kobe here, selfishness and all.
SF – Kevin Durant: see LeBron James, above.
PF – Charles Barkley: Just as I’d love to have Magic on this team, I’d also love to include KLove, but his body of work, while nice recently, is nothing compared to the career Sir Charles showed us. However, Love is on his way.
C – Patrick Ewing: Ewing was almost as great as Robinson, just didn’t have the titles to go with it.
11th Man – Larry Bird: though his back was almost completely shot, how could you possibly leave Larry Legend off of this team. He was one of the greatest off all-time.
12th Man – Magic Johnson: Ha!! There’s no chance Magic isn’t making this team. Although his playing career was cut short after contracting the HIV virus, he still had the ability to compete and the will to be the best, while competing at the ’92 Barcelona games.
So there it is, proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that only four players (LeBron, Kobe, Durant, and Paul) could have landed a spot on the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team, the greatest basketball team ever assembled. End of debate!!