Dream Team at 20

GQ has a great look back at the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team titled "The Dream Will Never Die: An Oral History of the Dream Team."

GQ has a great look back at the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team titled “The Dream Will Never Die: An Oral History of the Dream Team.” A key excerpt:

The first scrimmage between the Dream Team and the college all-stars, on June 24, has become legendary, for unlikely reasons.

Miller: Coach Daly told the college team coaches he wanted them to play like international players, so when they got near the three-point line, just jack it.

Houston: We were asked to play a style that they hadn’t really seen a lot of yet. We figured we had nothing to lose. So we go in there, and Penny gets a couple dunks. I remember hitting a couple of shots. Everybody’s kind of flowing.

Penny Hardaway (college squad player): They just thought, “Okay, they got these young guys to give us a little warm-up. We’re going to beat them up a little bit, sign a couple autographs, and then everybody go on about their merry way.” They didn’t know how talented we really were.

Brian McIntyre (NBA vice president of public relations): Penny had a couple of steals at midcourt, and everyone was going, “Whoa.” There was—I can still feel it—there was tension. First day!

Charles Barkley (Team USA power forward): The first time we saw them, they looked like babies. We were like, “Hey, man, let’s don’t kill these little kids.” And they were playing like it was Game 7. Before we knew it, they upset us.

Houston: The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.

Malone: We took them for granted, and they kicked our butt. And Coach Daly just had that look on his face like, “Well, this is what we told you guys. You gotta be ready.” After that, we was chomping at the bit to play them again that same day, but he didn’t let us. He let us stew on it a little bit.

Webber: When we busted their ass, they didn’t say any prima donna stuff—“We let you win.” That night was special. I remember me and Bobby Hurley decimating the golf course on some golf carts because we were so excited.

Houston: Back at the hotel, I was on the same elevator as Bird and C-Webb, and C-Webb was chirping. Bird got off the elevator and said, “Don’t worry, tomorrow’s a new day.” He kind of left us with that thought. And yeah, we got back in there, and it was a new day. [laughs]

Barkley: We sent them a little message.

Webber: We didn’t score a point. Not one point. Not a point on a free throw, not a point in the game. We were the perfect wake-up call for them, and they were the perfect reality check for us.

McIntyre: When the buzzer sounded, Barkley walks over to the other bench and says, “You guys are just lucky we didn’t come out with an attitude today.” Just cracked me up.

Also fairly amusing:

Branford Marsalis (bandleader, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno): I saw a lot of the guys around the hotel. I saw Jordan sitting watching Angola on tape, just staring, looking for weaknesses. I said, “I don’t even want to bother you, but why are you watching this game?” And he said, “I always take my opponent seriously. I never underestimate anyone.” It wasn’t lost on me that he was the only guy watching the game.

Lenny Wilkens (Team USA assistant coach): Angola was physical. They were aggressive. They played hard. One guy hit Charles in the back of the head with a forearm.

Herlander Coimbra (Team Angola): We felt like we were the luckiest guys in the world. We were going to play against the best, but also against African-Americans—our little cousins from America. During warm-ups we tried spectacular dunks to show them that we could play like in the NBA. They didn’t dunk even once. They were really serious, all business. To keep our hopes up, our coach told us that only Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were really, really good—that the other Dream Teamers were just okay. But those guys were on another level—a galaxy far, far away. We tried to do our best, but our emotion got the better of us.

Barkley: They were playing a little chippy, and I warned him a couple of times. I thought he was getting away with a couple of little cheap shots.

Wilkens: We thought it was amusing, but Charles was not going to let him get away with it. He chased him the whole way down the court.

Coimbra: I was listening to my coach on the sideline when suddenly Barkley elbowed me in the chest.

Barkley: Well, he should have been paying attention.

Coimbra: After the game, all the journalists wanted to talk to me about the incident. They wanted to know why. Did I say anything to provoke Barkley? I told them I didn’t do anything. For the next days, that’s all the press wanted to talk about. It became so crazy that I had to say in a statement that we only came here to show how good we were. We didn’t want to feed the rumors. But between us, we talked about it. We were not really surprised that Barkley did that, because he was known to be a dirty player.

David Stern (NBA Commissioner): Now it’s the Dream Team of blessed memory, but at the time it was “the U.S. bullies!”

That first collection of NBA superstars was something special. The players were all legends and the gap between Team USA and the international competition was epic. Now, the other guys are much better, it’s harder to get our best players to commit their rest time to play in a tournament with little upside. Winning is expected, while losing is humiliating. And everyone is compared to that 1992 team and fails to live up to it.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Also worth remembering that Magic was on this team just about six months after he revealed he was HIV positive.

  2. Kit says:

    That was a great team, but I much preferred the Miracle On Ice team of 1980. At some point between the two the Olympics lost its way and I (mostly) lost my interest. Strident nationalism, international stars and overblown theatrics don’t really need a special world stage every four years. The Dream Team were a class act and helped write one of the Olympics’ more interesting chapters, but they were also part of forces which helped push the games away from their original ideals.

  3. I also remember getting a kick out of this story:

    The U.S. Olympic Basketball team’s locker room was inaugurated by Frank Sinatra, who used it as his dressing room at Barcelona’s Sant Jordi stadium, where Sinatra bowed the Cultural Olympics. Sinatra left a message on a locker room door: “To the U.S. Team, Bury them!–Frank Sinatra, Boy Singer, June 3, 1992.”

  4. @Kit:

    The 1980 Hockey team, of course, was made up of amateurs, which is something you just don’t see from the major nations in hockey and basketball anymore. Ever since both sports lifted their rules against professionals competing in the Olympics, it’s been a very different game

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Kit: @Doug Mataconis: The reason Miracle on Ice was so special was precisely because the Soviet team was comprised of professionals whereas our boys were college all-stars. The difference now is that we’ve dispensed with the artificial “amateur” distinction in all sports.