Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

Kevin Durant’s team would beat The Dream Team (Yeah, I said it.)

The Summer of 1992 was a great Summer for a pre-adolescent boy. Kathy Ireland was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Minnesota Twins were the defending champions. And most importantly, the greatest basketball players in the history of the world were teaming up to destroy the rest of the world.

For me, the “Dream Team” was one of my favorite things to happen in sports, ever. Just telling me Larry Bird was going to be involved would have sold me, but adding David Robinson and John Stockton to the mix while giving me a reason to root for the uber talented players that normally broke my heart was more than I ever could have imagined. I begged my mom for triple cheeseburger meals from McDonalds because they came with the commemorative Dream Team soda cups. I collected Coca Cola cans so I could trade them in for the Olympic mix tape that included the Fresh Prince’s homage to the team. You might say I was a little obsessed.

So when Kobe Bryant, a person I loathe, recently said the newest incarnation of the USA Men’s National team could beat the team from 1992, I should have been irate. Instead, I agreed.

Most people think I’m crazy. Michael Jordan, for one. Another guy was President Obama. And, of course, Charles Barkley weighed in with his belief that only three players from the current team (Kobe, LeBron, and Kevin Durant) would even have been selected to the team in 1992.

Those guys are wrong. Here are the arguments for why the Dream Team would destroy the ’12 team and why they’re garbage:

The Dream Team consisted of the best players to ever play the game.

Putting aside that Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner received roster spots, it was only true at the time. The team led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird would have beaten the all star team of any other era, but for the same reason the 2012 team would do the same. Athletes get better.

Think about it. No one would question that Michael Phelps would leave Mark Spitz in his wake if they were to race against each other with each being in the respective primes. In fact, Spitz (who dominated the 1968 and 1972 games) swimming his fastest wouldn’t even make the U.S. Swim team today. Yet somehow, people think that basketball players peaked twenty years ago. That is nowhere close to true.

Exercise and training routines have improved exponentially over the years. More importantly, athlete’s commitment to both has changed immensely. In the nineties, Michael Jordan was an anomaly because he lifted weights during the off season. These days, a player who does not commit to improve himself when basketball is not being played does not play for very long. The drive Jordan showed then would only be enough to keep up with the Joneses today.

The same could be said for the elite athleticism that gave Jordan such an edge. He was a track star that had basketball skills. Now that’s the truth of all basketball players. These days point guards, particularly Thunder star and 2012 Olympian Russell Westbrook, can dunk as easily as Jordan who was the best of his time.

Watch the commercial that is embedded above. In it, 1992 team member Scottie Pippen is transported back in time thirty years where he plays against the basketball players of that era. He easily dominates them using crazy new fangled innovations to the game like dribbling behind his back and being able to dunk. These days, he’s the old timer. People in 1992 had never conceived of the Euro step that James Harden uses or the crab dribble that LeBron utilizes to make fools of today’s players. The best athletes of 1992 would be among the worst now. Yet, no one questioned the truth behind the Pippen commercial then.

Everyone on the Dream Team was a Hall-of-Famer

There was a mystique behind the ’92 team because the players all had storied careers. They had storied careers because they were past their primes. In twenty years, most of this 2012 team will also be boasting plaques in the Hall of Fame, the difference is that now they are in their prime as opposed to the ’92 team that featured Larry Bird contemplating retirement and Magic two years into retirement. The related argument is…

The 2012 team’s youth would do them in

Here’s the thing. The 2012 team is loaded with players that are babies compared to the 1992 team. Just looking at the Thunder players on the roster (who make up 25% of the team), Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden are all approximately 23 years old. In 1992, Barkley, Jordan, and Ewing were at or around 30 (Magic and Bird were much older…only Robinson-27-and Laettner-22-were considered young). Except, by professional experience, it is a wash. Jordan had just completed his seventh NBA season. LeBron James, two years younger, just finished his ninth. Even Durant has five years of NBA service, that’s three more than than David Robinson who was four years older.

The current team would have no answer for Dream Team’s post play

It is true that the 1992 team boasted some of the best centers to ever play the game in Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. In addition, they had Charles Barkley and Karl Malone at power forward. With the exception of Tyson Chandler the 2012 team has no traditional big men. While Chandler is probably superior defensively to any of those guys, he is only one man and five fouls.

That said, what the current incarnation lacks in traditional strength, they more than make up for in non-traditional ability. LeBron James may be a small forward, but he’s bigger and stronger and more skilled than any of Dream Team’s power forwards (the position James plays for the National Team). In addition, he’s a better ball handler and passer than Barkley or Malone who never had to guard anyone of similar skill with their limited defensive abilities. Kevin Durant, who will also be playing power forward in London, is just as much of a challenge for them. Those guys never had to play perimeter defense, which means Durant could blow right past them or else shoot open jumpers. It would turn the 92 team’s advantage into a disadvantage.

Also, the current team is light years ahead at the point guard position. In 1992, Magic Johnson had just set out a year after learning he had HIV. As such, he was out of shape and not at the top of his game. The only other point guard on the roster was John Stockton who played the Olympic games one legged because of a stress fracture. Scottie Pippen had to run the offense most of the time. Not having strong point guard play, neutralizes the offensive advantage in the post because of the lack of a person to get the pass inside. This was not a problem for the Dream Team because they were so much more talented than their competition and just turned every play into a fast break.

Against a US Team from a different era, they would not possess a sizeable talent advantage. Moreover, this 2012 team has three great point guards (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook) all of whom would put considerable defensive pressure on a team without a true ball handler.

Dream Team destroyed everyone they played, the 2012 team struggled to beat Brazil

Brazil would have annihilated the best team Dream Team played. A lot has changed since 1992, much of it because the Dream Team existed. The attention brought to the game of international basketball because of the US team that year changed the way the rest of the world handled their national teams. More programs Americanized their training, opened up their borders, and generally emulated everything the U.S. team was doing. It also convinced more tall kids in other nations to give up soccer.

Whereas basketball in the early ’90s was isolationist and limited to being as good as their limited predecessors from their country, now the game is global. Kids from China wear Kobe jerseys (not just because they were the ones who put it together at the factory) and emulate moves they saw KD do on YouTube. That Brazillian team that gave the Americans a good fight on Monday possessed enough NBA players that Anderson Varejao (a guy most NBA teams covet) had to come off the bench. That was not the case in 1992 where a developing Toni Kukoc was the most talented player that suited up against the Dream Team.

Michael Jordan would never let his team lose

First I take on the mythology of the Dream Team, and now I have to try to take the great M.J. down a peg. Here it goes: This line of thinking exists because Jordan won six championships in the last six full seasons he played (let’s just pretend the Wizards charade never happened). That is impressive, but it’s also kind of the way it should have happened.

Because of salary cap rules restricting the maximum amount of money a player can earn, talent these days tends to pool together. A guy can make the same amount and play for a winner as he could playing for a loser. In the nineties, that wasn’t the case. Since players could make more money if they were the best player on the team, they tended to distribute around the league better.

In the eighties, the Bulls followed the current Thunder plan. They drafted two players (Jordan and Pippen) who turned out to be superstars. Then they got stocked the team with talent surrounding those two. A recent ESPN Insider piece said that, statistically, the Bulls had the seventh (Jorden, Pippen, and Toni Kukoc) and first (Jordan, Pippen, and Horace Grant) best threesome in NBA history. (Sidenote: The team with Kukoc was actually even better than that considering they had hall of famer Dennis Rodman as their fourth banana.) Meanwhile, the rest of the league was lucky to have one superstar and no cap space to bring in a second. The best team the Bulls played during their reign was the Utah Jazz, who similarly drafted John Stockton and Karl Malone in successive drafts.

If that Bulls team had played today with superteams being the norm, there is no way they put together a reign of similar proportion. Certainly the Heat with LeBron/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh, Thunder with Durant/Westbrook/Harden, Lakers with Kobe/Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum, or Spurs with Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili put a dent in their run.

Had Jordan played in the current landscape, won maybe a couple of championships, his aura of being the greatest winner of all time certainly wouldn’t exist.

Conclusion

Would the 2012 team beat the 1992 team? I think so. I doubt it would be a blowout like this well thought out argument at CNN suggests, but if it were a seven game series, I think the 2012 team would win in six games. The X-factor would be Kevin Durant who is the ultimate international player. He has the height of a post player, the ball handling ability of a guard, the athletic ability of an Olympic high jumper, and the shooting talent of an alien robot. No one on any team in any era has an answer for this guy. Until the 2032 Olympic team is assembled.

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Comments

  1. Clark, why did you say that? Why? Why Clark? You’re my hero, Clark. You come out with stink like that. Poop, you poop mouth! Poop out of your mouth.

  2. Exactly, run the Dream team to death, actually play some defense and beat them in game 6 or 7. Plus if some of the injured players from the 2012 team could play they would be even stronger. I’d like to see them drop a guard and pick up some more size, but they still take the Dream team in a 7 game series.

  3. kids these days…
    the point guard play was much better on the 1992 team.

    Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were still in their prime, and no way anyone on the current dream team could match up. (no, LeBron is not a 4)

    Then do I even need to mention Ewing and Robinson inside? Who in the hell on this team is going to stop that?

    I’m not even talking about Jordan yet, the best basketball player in the history of basketball.

    LeBron would get his, no doubt, but that’s the LeBron rule, you let him get his.

    Could the current team beat them..yes, but not in a 7 game series.

    I think you forget just how good those 11 hall of famers were. Larry Bird was done, so I’m not even counting him. Most of them weren’t past their primes either, just Bird and Magic, to say Michael was past his prime in 1992 shows just how ignorant this article is.

    • Magic had been retired and hadn’t played for more than a year (unless you count the all star game) and Stockton was injured. Both hardly played. There were no other point guards.

      • really think you need a point guard with MJ? Magic was only a year out of playing, not like his skills eroded that much. Koby is 33, Magic was 32

        • Stockton did miss the first 5 games in Barcelona, yes, but the year he got hurt, he averaged 15 points and 13 assists a game in the NBA.

          He also played another 11 years (after 1992)

          I still don’t think you addressed your assertion that all of these players were past their prime.

            • 1992 team is more smarter and have all the killer instinct and they would kill to win as compared to players nowadays except Kobe who played for money and fame rather than to win at all cost.

              Jordan and Bird will trash talk them to death particularly their younger players and they would not even stand up to fight anymore because of shock and awe.

              As Jordan said, they learned from us, we did not learn from them. Enough said.

              Without Jordan, can you imagine where will Kobe pattern his moves. The head fakes, the fadeaway, the competitive spirit. Everything kobe has was because of Jordan.

              So if you think the 2012 team can beat their elders. Then I respect your opinion.

              But for me, the dream team is just way better and too much for the 2012 team USA.

            • Sir Charles alone, will PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY and MENTALLY abused all the players of 2012 Team USA.

              Bryant, James and Durant will put up a fight and they will use their outside shooting to avoid Barkely, Robinson and Ewing from the inside. But once Barkley started to use his warrior instinct, I don’t know if these 3 guys will have a chance at him anywhere on the court.

              This was for Sir Charles only. You still have the trash talking of Bird, Jordan, the point guard smarts of Stockton, Magic, the defensive wall of Pippen, Robinson or Ewing and the shooting and athleticism of Mullin and Drexler.

  4. Sorry I had to come back and post something already, but your incorrect statement of “everyone past their primes” shows just how little you researched this

    Laetner 22 (ok, it was him, but he was on the team lol)
    Ewing 29
    Drexler 30
    Robinson 26
    Bird 35 (truly the most over the hill player on the team)
    Mullin 28 (better spot up shooter than anyone on the current team)
    Stockton 30 (played many more years)
    Malone 28
    Magic 32 (close to out of his prime, but still a horrible matchup for anyone on the current team)
    Pippen 26 (say what you want, but he would lock down Lebron)
    Barkley 29
    Jordan 29

    really? past their prime eh?

  5. The argument that the post players would own the game seems most relevant to me. Everybody always forgets Hakeem Olajuwon was on that team as well. So lets see Robinson, Olajuwan and Ewing taking equal shots with fresh legs against…………Tyson Chandler? They would obliterate him.

  6. At the risk of my 12 year old self punching me in the nuts, I’m going to have to agree with you on this one. Fun post.

  7. Agreed. Athleticism is at a different level today. They simply could not hang with the Durant Team.

    • MJ, Karl Malone, Barkley, Pippen, and David Robinson have just as much “athleticism” as anyone on the current team.

      You are too young to remember just how good those players were in their prime.

      Everyone of those players were still in their prime.

  8. I think Oklahomans tend to romanticize anything that KD does, and thats ok. Our grandchildren will one day he had the powers of Mr. Fantastic and slayed the Hydra, but I just have hard time believin this team beats the 92 team. Those guys were dirty, nasty, filthy human beings who would rather kill your family than lose to you. Only ONE player on this team is truly brutally cut throat, and that man is Kobe. The game would be competitive and definitely extend into multiple overtimes, but the Dream Team would prevail. Just look at how MJ used to treat one of his best friends growing up, Mugsy Bouges, he verbally and emotionally ravaged him on the court. The Dream Team didn’t want to win, they wanted to kill. And saying the Brazillian team would beat the Dream Team, thats outlandish, foolish, and hyperbolic. You know better. I love you’re sports commentary though. You should give it up to yourself more often.

    • To clarify, I said this Brazil team would have essentially been the silver medalist in 1992. But I think the Dream Team would have struggled to put them away.

  9. If Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard were on the team I would probably say so, but Im not sure about this current team would outlast the Dream Team. I mean Nene and Varejao gave us fits the other night, imagine what Sir Charles, the Admiral, Ewing and Malone would do. And its hard to say the current team has that much better guard play when they couldnt buy a 3 the other night. It would be a much slower pace of a game but I think the Dream Team had the size and experience to beat the current team more times than not

  10. 9 of 11 members of the ’92 Dream Team are or will be Hall of Famers. 3 of the current Dream Team will be make it to the Hall. Enough said!

  11. Clark, I am sorry but you must have had one too many at the 51st St Speakeasy. KD and Westbrook and The Beard are wonderful basketball players, and from what I know, 2 of the 3 are good people. But they have not demonstrated that they have what it takes to win a championship…which is what the Gold Medal is. The Dream Team had so many rings they looked like Mr. T’s hand and our boys in blue aren’t there yet.

    DT12 will win a gold, but they could never beat the original Dream Team.

  12. Excellent post. First of all, the basketball HOF is worthless. I didn’t even know Chris Mullin was a hall of famer. Drexler? Meh. And I think nostalgia is causing everyone to misremember Ewing and Robinson as skilled offensive forces. The problem for this group is they will never have the best from this era all playing together like the Dream Team. With Rose, Wade and Howard this team would be pretty sick. Even with the current roster, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think they could hang with the ’92 team.

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