Kobe Bryant sparked a huge debate a few weeks ago when he said that the 2012 Men’s Olympic Basketball team could beat the 1992 “Dream Team”. Michael Jordan laughed, Scottie Pippen said the ‘Dream Team’ would win by 25, and Charles Barkley called people “knuckleheads”.
In all reality, the 2012 team is more athletic, explosive and has more ‘pure’ scorers than the 1992 team. I have profound respect for every player that played on the 1992 team. 11 Hall of Famers and what not, Jordan was the greatest of his era, Pippen was a great defender, Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson were beasts inside the paint. Without a doubt, all the boys on that team could play. But people under-estimate the 2012 team because they almost have no post presence and no Jordan. But what they do have is superior athleticism and skill.
Russell Westbrook might be the most athletic freak-of-nature point guard who has ever stepped foot on an NBA floor. LeBron James is a human freight-train, being 6’8 and 250 pounds. Carmelo Anthony has one of the best mid-range games the NBA has seen in some time. Kevin Durant is 6’10 and can stroke three-pointers with ease. Chris Paul is a nasty defender and Deron Williams is a bull of a point guard. Kevin Love, when given a chance, can rebound with the best players in the world. Tyson Chandler and James Harden might be the only “weak” links on this team. And Anthony Davis is 10x the player that Christian Laettner was at the time and Andre Iguodala is a nice defensive stopper. And who could forget the “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant.
The only thing the ‘Dream Team’ has on this team is size and the so-called “Jordan Factor”. But I think the athleticism and strength of the backcourt players on the 2012 team would be too much for the ’92 team. The point guards are much more athletic, stronger, quicker, and bigger than back-in-the-day. Do you think it would be easy for John Stockton to get the ball up the floor against Paul, Westbrook, or Williams? I think he would have an extremely difficult time getting the ’92 team in its offense. They would wear-out Magic Johnson, who was recently diagnosed with the HIV virus prior to the 1992 Summer Games.
Let me throw out some scenarios now.
Let’s say the 2012 team goes with this lineup: Paul, Westbrook, James, Anthony, and Durant.
The 1992 team counters with: Magic Johnson, Jordan, Pippen, Malone, and Robinson or Ewing.
Who is Pippen going to guard? LeBron? Anthony? Durant? That’s where the match-up problems start for the ’92 team. If Jordan and Pippen guard Anthony and James or James and Durant, that will leave either Durant or Anthony against a power forward. And sorry, but there is no way a 29-year old Karl Malone is guarding a 23-year old Kevin Durant or 28-year old Carmelo Anthony. Malone couldn’t guard Anthony if Anthony was 35 and Malone was 25. The 2012 team has the ability to force turnovers and score in transition with little or no contest. Yes, the 1992 team would turn the ball over against this type of pressure. They are not immortal. And take into account that the international competition back in 1992 was chicken feed compared to the international competition today.
I understand that a lot of people believe Jordan is the greatest player to ever play basketball and that he would be the difference in the 1992 winning. That’s false because basketball has never been an individual’s game. Why do you think Jordan never won a title until Pippen and Horace Grant came along and James never won a title until he teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Jordan could never get past those great Boston Celtic teams because he was all the Chicago Bulls had at the time and it wasn’t good enough.
But let’s get back to the “never-going-to-happen but it’s-sweet-to-think-about” matchup between the 1992 team and 2012 team.
Players who would be ineffective due to matchup problems are: Stockton, Chris Mullin, Larry Bird and Laettner; Harden and Davis. So if you take those players out you are left with the following rosters: Johnson, Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Pippen, Ewing, Malone, Robinson, and Barkley; James, Bryant, Love, Williams, Westbrook, Paul, Durant, Anthony, Chandler, and Andre Igoudala.
The 2012 team has quickness, athleticism, and pure-scoring ability over the 1992 team. On the other hand, the 1992 team has size and strength over the 2012 team. But here is an interesting fact I discovered on my own: 1992 Olympic Team’s average height and weight: 6.675 ft and 222.91 lb; 2012 Olympic Team: 6.56 ft and 220.5 lb. So, there really isn’t much of a difference between the size of the two teams and this year’s team only has one seven-footer, too (Tyson Chandler). But what would the 1992 team do with all their size? Provided the 2012 team can pressure their point guards, their size would be useless. Yes, I said “use-less”.
The NBA is in a better place today because of the amount of superstars and stars in the game. Every player, except for Davis, Harden, Chandler and Iguodala, are superstars in the game or stars and are the best player or one of the best players on their teams. Don’t forget, D-Rose, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Chris Bosh aren’t on this team. Other players such as Andrew Bynum, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, and Roy Hibbert could be on this team as well.
The ‘Dream Team’ may have 11 Hall-of-Famers, but who is to say that most of the players on the 2012 team won’t be in the Hall some day? Magic and Bird were the only “sure-fire” HOF-ers on the team at the time of the Olympics. Jordan’s HOF status was just as clear as LeBron’s is now. Kobe will be a first-ballot HOF-er and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul, Durant, and James join him as soon as their careers are done. Westbrook, Williams and Anthony have a good chance of ending up in the Hall of Fame, too. Anthony Davis’ chances of ending up in the Hall of Fame are incredibly better than Laettner’s were.
In the end, the 2012 team has too much athleticism and quickness for the 1992 team. The scorers today are much more creative in how they go about scoring from the perimeter and inside. You’d better be able to elevate over guys in today’s game, otherwise you will get your shot blocked. And for the 1992 players saying that only a few of the players on the 2012 team would make the 1992 roster, they know that’s a bunch of you-know-what. James, Bryant, Durant, Paul, Anthony, and Westbrook would be on the 1992 team. That’s half the team right there. You can substitute Davis for Laettner, giving them seven players.
One last interesting fact: Chuck Daly never called a timeout during the entirety of the Olympics. I guarantee you it wouldn’t be like that if these two teams matched-up today.