|Photo By: James Robert Smith / Flickr|
It has been 25 years since 'The Greatest Team Ever Assembled," a phrase made famous by Marv Albert, an NBA play-by-play commentator, has left an impression in the Olympics through their dominance and excellence, on and off the court.
Now, every USA Basketball Team that has made an impression in the Olympics would be always matched to the "Dream Team."
Creating the Dream
Prior to the 1992 Olympics, only amateur players were permitted to represent their country through the men's Olympic Basketball team. The year 1988 saw the USA Team, which was composed of college stars, finish third in the Basketball event of the Summer Olympics in Seoul. The defeat would lead to the influx of calls to allow professionals to be allowed to play in the Olympics, which FIBA's Broslav Stankovic has been advocating for years.
On April 1989, FIBA modified its rules in order to permit professional athletes to compete in the Olympics, and from that point on, USA Basketball sought NBA's aid in providing players for the 1992 roster.
September 21, 1991 - Ten NBA players were selected to represent the USA in the upcoming 1992 Olympics in Barcelona:
Chicago Bulls - Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
Utah Jazz - John Stockton and Karl Malone
Los Angeles Lakers - Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Boston Celtics - Larry Bird
New York Knicks - Patrick Ewing
Golden State Warriors - Chris Mullin
San Antonio Spurs - David Robinson
Philadelphia 76ers - Charles Barkley
Portland Trail Blazers' Clyde Drexler and the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas were the candidates for the final pro spot, while Duke University's Christian Laettner and Louisiana State University's Shaquille O'Neal were the choices for the non-pro spot. Drexler ended up filling the final pro spot, while Laettner bested O'Neal for the non-pro spot. O'Neal would later realize his Olympic dreams as part of the 1996 roster.
Laettner's selection is a throwback to the previous amateur system.
Robinson was part of the 1988 roster and was armed with hopes of clinching a gold medal. Fortunately, he was able to do it as part of the 1992 and 1996 rosters.
Jordan, Ewing, and Mullin were part of the 1984 USA Team, the last amateur-filled roster team to clinch a gold medal.
Pippen, Barkley, Malone, and Stockton, on the other hand, would clinch their second gold medals as part of the 1996 roster.
Journey to Barcelona
The team would make its international debut on June 28, 1992, at the Tournament of the Americas, an Olympic qualifying event in Portland, Oregon. The team would dominate Cuba with a 136-57 blowout win, yet Cuban players were more interested to have photos with NBA's luminaries. With a 127-80 win over Venezuela on July 5, the Dream Team became one of the four Americas squads to qualify for the Olympics.
For six days, the team trained in Monaco, devoting two hours of practice a day and playing exhibition games against various national teams.
As the Olympics commenced, the Dream Team stayed at a luxury Barcelona hotel because of security concerns. Fans would flock outside the hotel with the hopes of seeing their favorite players. Chuck Daly, Dream Team's coach, remarked: "It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together. Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars. That's all I can compare it to."
Opposing basketball players and athletes from other sports would often ask for a picture with these men.
In fact, a story goes that a player was cueing for his camera-wielding teammate on the bench to get a snapshot of him guarding Magic Johnson.
The Dream Team displayed their dominance with an average of 46 points, and they were also the first squad to score more than 100 points in every game.
In its Gold Medal battle against Croatia, the Dream Team's task of reclaiming Olympic gold for the USA was fulfilled. Perhaps the most noteworthy story of this battle was Jordan and Pippen's hounding of Toni Kukoc, a Croatian player who just signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls.
Coach Daly would prognosticate that:
"Finally there will come a day -- I'm not saying it will happen anytime soon, mind you, but it's inevitable that it will happen -- that they will be able to compete with us on even terms. And they'll look back on the Dream Team as a landmark event in that process."
Barkley, the team's leading scorer, commented that: "I don't think there's anything better to representing your country. I don't think anything in my life can come close to that."
For Johnson, "The 92 Dream Team was the greatest moment of my life in terms of basketball, bar none."
As for Jordan, who was a back-to-back champion in the NBA, the Olympics was an event that aided him in discerning his teammates' weaknesses. And he would capitalize on it as he went on to clinch four more championships in the 90s.
Cementing an Establishment
Sports Illustrated hailed the Dream Team as "arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport." The year 2010 saw its induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Eleven of the twelve players and three of the four coaches have been inducted into the Hall of Fame as individuals.
Daly passed away on May 9, 2009, after a bout with pancreatic cancer.