Maybe the best sports debate in months arose last week when Kobe Bryant stated that the current 2012 US Men’s Olympic Basketball Team could defeat the 1992 team known famously as the “Dream Team.” Actually it turned into mostly a one sided debate with very few giving Kobe’s crew a chance versus Michael, Magic and crew.
I thought Kobe’s back and forth with Kyrie Irving over one-on-one was great, this not as much. Kobe Bryant is obviously confident in his and his teammate’s talents but he is just wrong here. I love the talent the 2012 team has but they couldn’t match up with the ’92 team in a game, series or any match-up. I think Kobe should have called out the 1996 team first as a feeler. That would be a great game actually. Much is said about the 11 hall of famers the Dream Team had and I think this year’s squad will end up close to that but there are glaring differences between the two.
First and foremost, the 92 team had Michael Jordan in his prime. Kobe is a future hall of famer but he doesn’t stand up to Jordan. Maybe the titles are close but Jordan won six legit. Kobe has five but the Portland and Boston game sevens are still questionable. The career stats don’t lie, FG%, 40 point games, 30 point games, FG% in big games, etc. Kobe would also get Jordan fired up if they were to ever meet. No golf, no casino, no cigars pregame. Well, maybe not. Jordan is the greatest and on this kind of stage it would show. EA Sports has to be working on this game as we speak.
Second, the current team has no match for David Robinson and Patrick Ewing up front. David Robinson was only 26 in 1992 and was at the start of dominance. Add Patrick Ewing in his prime and the 2012 crew couldn’t match up with Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love. Dwight Howard would help but still not close. The 1996 team also would own them in the pivot with Shaq and Hakeem and Robinson but that is a different story. Chandler is a top defender and solid player but nowhere near the level of the Admiral. I think people forget how good David Robinson was. Many see him as the second fiddle late in his career to Tim Duncan, but were talking 1992 here. First fiddle.
Third, I have heard everyone trying to compare Larry Bird to guys like Lebron James as starters. Bird is a legend but he was hurting at that point and I would almost say he was the 10th or 11th guy if the games matter. In a big game the ’92 team would go with Scottie Pippen or Charles Barkley not Bird. Lebron would be the second best player on the court to Jordan but Pippen and Barkley would give him a battle unlike most in the current NBA. And with help at the rim like Robinson, Ewing and Karl Malone it would be a tough time for James to dominate like we saw in the NBA playoffs.
Fourth, the point guard position. Chris Paul is one of my favorite players and one who will eventually be a Hall of Famer but he presents a mismatch. Who is he going to guard when the 1992 team goes with Magic and not Stockton? Magic was only 31 at the time and had a year of rest after retiring still as a top performer. Paul would be caught in a mismatch having to take Magic, Jordan or Pippen in Coach K’s man defense. Krzyzewski is obviously one of the greatest coaches and could address this but he was also an assistant on the 1992 team. So it’s tough to compare the coaching staffs of Daly and Coach K. Many will say that Paul would be too quick for Magic and that is true but Magic had quickness and mainly his length would give Paul much more trouble than Paul taking any of the 92ers. Deron Williams may be the better option for the current team here. And when Magic goes to the bench, no problem, in comes the NBA’s all-time assist leader.
So far the current team has started Carmelo Anthony (a Coach K chosen captain) over Kevin Durant. Durant would cause a tough matchup off the bench for the Dream Team but after Durant the 92 team’s bench would take the 2012 bench. Durant vs. the 92 team would be a great sight to watch going against guys like Pippen or even Magic. After Durant, the current team has no match for Clyde Drexler, the Barkley/Malone non-starter, and Chris Mullen (all NBA in 1992.) Guys like Love, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala. Westbrook would be an “X” factor in this game after what he has shown in the exhibitions so far. MJ and Scottie would be ready to step up to the challenge to take on an enigma like Westbrook.
The current team would love to have a healthy Dwyane Wade, but they don’t this time around. Drexler is the perfect case like Robinson where this argument is seldom lost. Clyde Drexler was the NBA’s second best shooting guard for years only to Jordan and Robinson was a dominating force I feel has been forgotten. Drexler shot field goals about 4-5% on average per year better than Kobe Bryant. Kobe is and will go down as a better player but just want to show how good he was at the time.
Finally, I just think the 1992 Dream Team would be mentally tougher. We can compare stats and average win margins but I just can’t see this current team hanging with 1992 team. Magic, Jordan, Barkley and Malone would not let them lose. I can imagine how focused they would be for a game or a series. Jordan would probably slap Laettner in practice multiple times. And this is nothing against the current team assembled. Lebron, Kobe and Durant have proven to be megastars in the class of Jordan, Magic and Bird but just not quite to that level. Michael Jordan is the greatest athlete the world has ever seen and he was only 29. He average 20 ppg 10 years later with the Wizards. +
I think the misbelief is that the 1992 team was old and that’s simply far from the truth. Most guys were in the 25-30 age range and right in the middle of their prime. And who are you going to take upfront? Mailman, Admiral and Ewing or Chandler, Love and I guess Lebron having to play down low?
I see it in a one game scenario the 1992 team by 10 and in a seven game series, the 1992 Dream Team wins 4-1.
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