The 1992 Dream Team gets stiffest challenge yet
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This weekend in Springfield, the most exalted squad of basketball aptitude ever assembled will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 1992 USA Olympic Men's Basketball team, more affectionately referred to as "The Dream Team," will take their place in the pantheon of hoop legends.
Until the '92 Summer Games in Barcelona, the United States was confined to collegiate athletes for representation. This was thanks to a FIBA rule which restricted American professionals from Olympic participation, yet allowed European and South American pros to compete. This limitation manifested itself in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, both comprised of paid athletes, finished ahead of the American amateurs. Public outcry demanded a level playing field, forcing FIBA to permit NBA involvement. This amendment planted the seeds for what would materialize into a hurricane of hardwood-talent for the US, one that would blow away the world's competition. (In defense of FIBA, the US had won every Olympic contest with amateurs, save for the 1972 Munich Screwjob, until Seoul. And many basketball critics believe '88 would have produced gold if coach John Thompson had selected Tim Hardaway, Rod Strickland, and Steve Kerr over Bimbo Coles, Jeff Grayer, and Charles Smith IV, the latter a guard on Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas.)
During this same period, the NBA was entering into a "golden age" in its relatively young history. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, whose rivalry had saved the 'Association in the '80s, were ending their storied careers. Their torch was passed to Michael Jordan, who was in the midst of his first 3-peat with the Chicago Bulls. Patrick Ewing was reviving the Garden in New York, while Charles Barkley was taking his engaging, appealing, and semi-destructive circus to Phoenix. Karl Malone and John Stockton were turning the pick-and-roll into an art form. Clyde Drexler and David Robinson were two amiable and approachable superstars for the league to put on display. And quietly, Scottie Pippen was establishing himself as the best second banana in league history.
Sweet DreamsThe "Dream Team" is heading to to the NBA HOF
So when the opportunity opened for America to showcase its finest, the NBA obliged and rolled out the proverbial red carpet.
A team comprised of Jordan, Johnson, Bird, Ewing, Barkley, Malone, Stockton, Drexler, Robinson, Pippen, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner were gathered to take on the world's best in Barcelona. Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly was selected to guide this assembly of all-stars in the Summer Games, instilling the disciplines and principles that he employed on his '89 and '90 championship Piston squads.
This "Dream Team" was greeted in Spain as conquering heroes before even hitting the floor, as raucous welcoming crowds reminded one of The Beatles arriving in America. The roster acted as goodwill ambassadors for the league, promoting the NBA to those who had only seen the game on television. In essence, the actual contest themselves were secondary, as these games turned into exhibitions of American excellence. The outcomes certainly mirrored this sentiment, as the US tore through the eight-game tournament, with their closest game equating to a 32-point victory over Croatia in the gold-medal matchup.
The dominance and star power helped cement the "Dream Team's" legacy as the most formidable lineup in hoops history. Yet, as the '92 Olympics proved, the team was lacking an adequate opponent. Thanks to the Whatifsports.com's NBA simulation engine, we were able to construct an adversary worthy of sharing the floor with the "Dream Team". We selected the greatest NBA players of all-time, sans the members of the '92 Olympic squad.
Filling out a roster with guys like Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain was a cake walk. The real challenge came in giving context to current ballers such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan. The end result was a medley of young and old, of NBA pioneers and future legends. If you think you can assemble a fiercer foe, construct your own "Dream Team" here at WhatifSports.com.
If you want you can also simulate this exact matchup yourself and adjust the depth charts to your liking.
We pitted the two rosters in a seven game series, and here is what transpired:
Game 1: Dream Team 112, NBA All-Time 107
Jordan hit two clutch jumpers in the waning minutes to seal victory for the Dream Team in the opening game of the series. His Airness finished with 24 points, as K. Malone and Magic each added 14 for the Olympians. Elgin Baylor paced the All-Timers with 26 points and 8 boards. Some may question why Baylor received the starting nod over LeBron in our simulation. These stats should testify our verdict:
Baylor '60-'61: 35.5 pts 19.8 reb 5.1 ast 2.1 stl
James '08-'09: 28.4 pts 7.6 reb 7.2 ast 1.7 stl
Game 2: NBA All-Time 94, Dream Team 69
The '92 team led 26-17 after the 1st quarter, but quickly unraveled. The trio of Russell, Chamberlain, and M. Malone silenced the Dream Team big men and combined for 27 rebounds. Kobe and Wilt led the All-Time roster in scoring with 16 each, and the Big "O" dished out 10 dimes to go along with 7 boards. (Speaking of Kobe, has anyone gained more from LeBron's "Decision" than Mr. Bryant? Two summers ago, #24 was humiliated in the NBA Finals and ridiculed for his no-show in Game 6. Now, with two straight titles under his belt and the universal abhorrence for LeBron's performance in the Boston series, Kobe has suddenly been christened the game's best once again. Go figure.)
Game 5 of the '76 Finals. The 1992 East Regional Final. The Looney Tunes vs. The MonStars in Space Jam. Game 3 of our series joins these epic battles in the "greatest basketball game of all-time" discussion as the All-Timers pull out a W against the Dream Team in double overtime. Larry Bird, who played only seven minutes, hit a fadeaway 10-footer as time-expired to send the game into OT. The Dream Team then had a chance to walk away victors, but an errant Jordan jumper equated to a second extra period. Finally, Jerry West, aka "Mr. Clutch" hit a running floater with 9 seconds left, and the All-Timers held on to go up 2-1 in the series. Oscar Robertson led the All-Time team with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists, and Tim Duncan chipped in 18 points and 9 boards. "The Mailman" poured in 25 for the '92 squad, and Jordan contributed 21 in the losing effort.
Game 4: NBA All-Time 104, Dream Team 83
The Dream Team suddenly find themselves on the brink of elimination as the All-Timers capitalize on an off-night from Jordan and take a 3-1 series lead. Duncan put up18 points for the All-Time team, and Elgin Baylor submitted a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double performance. MJ struggled from the floor, going 3-for-11, and only Ewing and Magic hit double-figures for the '92 Olympians.
Game 5: Dream Team 102, NBA All-Time 94
The Dream Team staved off elimination with a 32-17 3rd quarter run. Charles Barkley led the US in scoring in '92, averaging 18.0 points a game during the Dream Team's Sherman-esqe March through Barcelona. However, through five games, The Round Mound of Rebound is putting up just 7.2 points a contest. It seems that Chuck has been plagued by foul trouble throughout the series, a product correlated to guarding LeBron, Moses, and Duncan. What a knucklehead.
Game 6: Dream Team 109, NBA All-Time 86
The Olympians laid the smackdown in the 1st quarter, lighting up the scoreboard with 41 points, on their way to a 109-86 blowout. The Dream Team had seven players score in double figures, led by Jordan's 21 points and Magic's near triple-double (11/9/8). The All-Timers were hampered by poor performances from LeBron and Baylor (both 4-for-13 from the floor) and their three centers (Wilt, Russell, and Kareem combined for just 6 points and 16 rebounds). The Dream Team's victory means we get to utter the best two words in sports vernacular: Game. Seven.
Game 7: Dream Team 108, NBA All-Time 87
Don't call it a comeback! The Dream Team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the All-Timers 108-87 in the finale of our championship series. The Olympians built a 20-point cushion heading into halftime, a figure that their opponents could not surmount. Clyde Drexler dropped 17 points to lead the '92ers, and Karl Malone added 16 points and 8 rebounds for good measure. The MVP of the series was, who else, Michael Jordan, averaging 16.3 points in the series.
The 1992 USA Olympic squad has been described as the greatest team ever assembled. Thanks to our simulation, that depiction is no longer hyperbole.
Think you can build a better Dream Team? Give it a try for FREE by creating your own NBA Dream Team roster.
Let us know what you think of Whatifsports.com's tribute to the 1992 USA Dream Team. Shoot us an email at BtB@whatifsports.com.