There has been a lot of talk recently about whether the 1992 Dream Team is better than the current 2012 version there of, which is no longer named the Dream Team, of course. We had the “Redeem team” in the 2008 Olympics. Jerry Colangelo already said the current team could beat the 92 squad, as I wrote for Yahoo! Sports back in December when Colangelo made his outrageous comments.
Was Colangelo out of his gourd?
Or could the 2012 team really stack up with what many call the Greatest team ever assembled?
One thing that has changed in recent time is the inclusion of role players. Tayshaun Prince was on the 2010 National team, and the current team features Tyson Chandler. While both are excellent defenders, their offensive skill sets pale in comparison to every one of the 92 members, Christian Laettner included…We could speculate all day why Laettner was included on the team instead of the fresh faced LSU underclassman Shaquille O’Neal, but our answers would include the fact that Laettner both graduated and led Duke to a National Title, so maybe speculation there is unnecessary.
The 92 team was not without its head scratchers. I wrote an article for Bleacher Report in 2010 that racism may have been a deciding factor in choosing an All American white boy like Chris Mullin over the much better and proven Isiah Thomas or even Dominique Wilkins, but we’re again going to stray from the lack of inclusion issues with the 1992 team, because what it did feature was a cast of legends:
David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson (…and Christian Laettner).
Every single member of the 1992 team, with the sole exception of Laettner, is in the Hall of Fame. All of them are included in the top 50 greatest players of all time. As for whether the current team will include such a hallmark of resumes when everyone’s careers are completed is a matter of debate.
The 92 team also included the greatest player ever. Michael Jordan’s excellence has been unequaled, and the closest thing the 12 team has to Jordan is Kobe Bryant. What I fear is that Jordan could SHUT DOWN Kobe. Jordan’s defense was equally as impressive as his offense, and even a prime Kobe would have trouble getting his usual array of shots off against a defender like MJ.
The 2012 roster includes: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis (The NCAA selection), Kevin Durant, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams.
Could any of those players step toe to toe with the guys in 92? For starters, the lack of Dwight Howard would make neutralizing David Robinson and Patrick Ewing next to impossible. Had Olajuwon participated, and not been a resident of Nigeria, I would fear for Dwight Howard’s life. I wrote for Yahoo! that there’s just no way Howard could compare with the players of that era, and facing two of them in one game would give him fits. It may be irrelevant with Howard not competing, but it needs to be considered, if you really want to even think a team like the 2012 team could match up down low.
Let’s try to look at this from a rational standpoint, comparing players on a per player basis:
92 Centers: David Robinson & Patrick Ewing
2012 Centers: Kevin Love & Tyson Chandler & Anthony Davis
Let’s be real: Love and Chandler would have a lot of problems with Robinson and Ewing; both are far too talented offensively and Robinson has a tremendous speed advantage vs. them, and indeed any center in the modern era. Robinson’s acumen facing up would give Love all he could handle to say the least, and Chandler would foul out in no time at all. The 92 team is going to have a serious advantage on the blocks. Davis would be all but shut down by the two legends.
92 Forwards: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone
2012 Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James
Think about this: Bird, Barkley, and Malone are all probably in the top 25 players to have ever played. Pippen may even enter that realm in the eyes of many.
Chris Mullin would function primarily as a spot up shooter in any scenario with such a talented team, but the fact that Dominique Wilkins wasn’t on the team is another debate all for itself.
Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin are all dynamic scorers, but Pippen could give any of them headaches, and Griffin wouldn’t get to the rim as easy for rebounds with someone like Karl Malone boxing him out all of the time. LeBron James is the one trump card here, because I think Pippen could potentially have trouble with The King, but who on the 2012 squad could cover Sir Charles?
Even with six forwards, and very good defenders like James and Iguodala, I have a lot of trouble believing the ’12 squad could do much defensively to slow the Dream Team.
92 Guards: Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Magic Johnson
2012 Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
Jordan and Magic are almost unarguably two of the five greatest players ever to touch a basketball. Kobe Bryant is in that realm, but Gordon, Harden, Paul, and Westbrook are nowhere close. The best we could give any of them is Drexler and Stockton level, and even that is pushing it, to be sure.
Will Chris Paul ever equal Stockton in assists? It’s possible, and he might get there in steals too, but why wouldn’t we go with what has already been proven?
Harden, Gordon, and Westbrook all have yet to reach their full potential, but I don’t see anyone other than Kobe being able to hold a candle to the guys on the 92 squad, and I don’t mean just Jordan and Magic.
Kobe is better than Stockton and Drexler, but he’s just not paired with the guards to compare these backcourts.
Overall, I think you see the 92 team is just superior in all aspects. Is the 2012 team very good? Yes, you bet your butt they are, but they just aren’t proven Hall of Famers, and many of them never will be. They’ll romp through their competition, and the ultimate measure might not be in box scores anyway, since the competition globally in 1992 was just far weaker. Teams like Italy, Argentina, Greece, Turkey, Serbia Montenegro, and many others have just amassed a world’s more talent in the last two decades, and the game has become more global. So, of course the 2012 squad will be unable to replicate the lopsided scores the 92 team did.
But that isn’t proof of any equality. The teams just don’t stack up, and I don’t believe players are any better today than they were 20 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure all of the members of the 2012 squad could have flourished then, too, but as I wrote in the Howard article for Yahoo!, I don’t believe all of their dominance would have been quite as pronounced, and for this reason, I have to favor that 1992 team as the greatest team ever assembled in sports, all sports.
Topics: 1992 Dream Team, 2012 Olympic Men's Basketball Team, And Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Anthony Davis (The NCAA Selection), Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Barkley, Chris Bosh, Chris Mullin, Chris Paul, Christian Laetter, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson, Eric Gordon, James Harden, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, NBA, Patrick Ewing, Russell Westbrook, Scottie Pippen, Tyson Chandler, USA Basketball