Sports creates a constant stream of questions, analysis, and debate. Is Tim Tebow a good quarterback? Is LeBron clutch or not? Now the latest installment involves the 1992 Dream Team vs. the 2012 Olympic squad. Fans love to make comparisons, and fuel was added to the fire with Kobe Bryant claiming this current roster would beat perhaps the greatest assembly of basketball players ever.
Logically many people immediately associate the 1992 team with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Those three arguably compose a third of the top five players in the game’s history. So any comparison to that team seems blasphemous, but is it really that far-fetched to believe the current version of Team USA could win? Let’s break this fantasy match-up down.
At point guard the 1992 team trots out two Hall-of-Famers in Magic Johnson and John Stockton. They are both great players, but don’t forget that Johnson was just coming back from his HIV retirement. Stockton is one of the greatest passers the game has seen, but how would he defend today’s current crop of athlete.
Russel Westbrook, Deron Williams and Chris Paul all have an advantage with their speed and quickness. The 2012 team would be smart to press both Stockton and Johnson full court, making them work just to bring the ball up. While Johnson’s height does neutralize some of the advantage, it’s hard to ignore that the 2012 team’s point guards create a mismatch with their athletic ability.
Point Guard advantage: 2012
Moving on to the two guards, we have the greatest to ever play the game. Jordan himself makes this an advantage for the original Dream Team. Clyde Drexler also provides depth to the 1992 roster behind Jordan. The current roster does boast this new generation’s best player in Kobe Bryant, and James Harden is talented. There is no doubt here though that Jordan and Drexler trump the Bryant and Harden combination.
Shooting Guard advantage: 1992
Small forward may be the most intriguing match-up between these two teams. The 2012 Olympic squad has the most athletic player on either roster with LeBron James. His late game mentality can be questioned, but in terms of physical ability, he is as good as there has ever been. The new Finals MVP is joined by scoring machines Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Don’t under estimate Anthony and Durant’s ability to get hot for a quarter and carry the scoring load. Andre Iguodala is also a capable defensive body.
The Dream Team would battle against that quartet of forwards with a trio consisting of Bird, Chris Mullen and Scottie Pippen. Bird was on his last legs during the Barcelona Olympics, and only played in two of the six games on their eventual path to a Gold Medal. Mullen was a dead eye shooter and Pippen was a great defensive player, but he can’t cover Anthony, Durant and James at the same time.
Small Forward advantage: 2012
Once in the post is where the 1992 team starts to exploit their biggest advantage. At power forward Charles Barkley and Karl Malone provide brute strength that would bully the 2012 team. Christian Laettner would basically be an after thought, and it would be unlikely he sees the court. The 2012 roster has Kevin Love and Anthony Davis, both good players, but Malone and Barkley are grown men against children with this match-up.
Power Forward advantage: 1992
Finally the center spot doesn’t give 2012 supporters much relief. Two of the greatest five men ever in David Robinson and Patrick Ewing would have a field day against the lone 2012 center, Tyson Chandler. Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year would get pounded on, as the Dream Team would be smart enough to feed the post on nearly every offensive possession.
Center advantage: 1992
So in case you weren’t counting, the original Dream Team seems to have the upper hand at three positions. So the 1992 roster definitely wins, right? Not necessarily. Positions are obviously interchangeable and this game would come down to who imposes their will on the other.
If the current Olympic roster pressed full court and forced a fast paced tempo they could create serious problems for the 1992 point guards. On the other hand if Stockton and Johnson handle the pressure, they would find themselves with a front court just itching to get the ball, and power in an easy two points.
It surely would be an interesting match-up. There would be a lot of pride on the line, and Pippen’s claim that his team beats the present day squad by 25 would make for some bulletin board material. As a betting man I’d jump all over a 25-point spread if Pippen offered it to me (and something tells me Jordan would have no problem throwing some money around gambling).
For now though this Dream Team vs. “Dream Team” fantasy match-up will simply have to remain a dream.