1992 Dream Team vs. 2012: Who Would Win?

07.09.2012

SPORTS

The U.S. Men’s Basketball Team is always one of the highlights of the Olympics, especially since 1992, when the team fielded a roster of all professional athletes. It’s a rare opportunity to see the best players in the world team up to form The Avengers on the hardwood.

Watching NBA TV’s recent, fascinating Dream Team documentary, one can’t help but pose the hypothetical question: “Who would win a matchup between the original 1992 Dream Team and today’s NBA stars?” It may be tempting for many – such as ESPN’s Chris Palmer – to say that the 2012 squad would take care of the team that globalized the game 20 years prior, aka “the greatest team ever assembled.” But not so fast.

For starters, here’s a bit of history: the ’92 Dream Team consisted of the following players: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton. That’s 11 Hall of Famers plus Laettner, arguably the best four-year college player since Lew Alcindor. And the coaching staff was led by Chuck Daly, who was assisted by Lenny Wilkens, P.J. Carlesimo and Mike Krzyzewski.

The 2012 Olympic men’s basketball team, officially announced this weekend, includes the following: Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Igoudala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. Krzyzewski is now the head coach, with assistants Jim Boeheim, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan helping him. Anthony, Bryant, James, Paul, Williams all played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Chandler, Durant, Igoudala, Love and Westbrook all played internationally in 2010 in the FIBA World Championship. Griffin and Harden are the lone newcomers.

It’s a damn good team to be sure. But good enough to beat the “best ever?” It makes for an interesting debate and here we look at the three major areas of contention: athleticism, skills and intangibles.

Athletically the edge goes to the modern day players without question. While MJ, Scottie, Drexler and The Admiral were phenomenal athletes no doubt, every single person on the 2012 team is arguably as or more athletic than everyone on the Dream Team. Much of that has to do with natural evolution. Evolution of the game of basketball, and the evolution of the players that play it. Guys now, largely due to new and improved technology, are bigger, faster and stronger than ever. In 1992, anyone 6’8″ and up was almost surely a slower-footed back-to-the-basket post player. That’s why Magic was such a standout and revolutionary, because he was 6’9″ running the point. Larry Bird was also 6’9″ however, neither he nor Magic were exceptionally fast, and neither could jump.

Nowadays, especially thanks to Kevin Durant and a large European influence on the game (which came as a byproduct of the Dream Team’s global reach), many players 6’8″ and up consider themselves perimeter players. So there’s Durant, LeBron, Carmelo and Love who all have the ability to play outside, off the dribble and shoot it from deep. None of them, including Love, are stiffs either. All can run, jump and maneuver with the best. The only Dream Team player comparable is Pippen.

At guard, the 2012 team washes the Dream Team – athletically. The blazing speed of Westbrook, Paul, Williams and Harden could potentially expose the Dream Team’s lone blemish. As Jack McCallum, author of Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever, noted in the NBATV documentary, the one weakness the Dream Team could have had was “defending quick guards.” Especially considering the omission of Isaiah Thomas. If Bobby Hurley gave the Dream Team trouble in their first scrimmage, there’s no doubting that the 2012 guards would do the same.

From a skill standpoint, 2012 also matches up fairly well. Again, the evolution of the game has players today in positions unfathomable 20 years ago. Players are playing seriously at an earlier age. With camps, AAU, trainers, the Internet and countless other resources that have emerged over the last two decades, guys are equally, if not more, skilled than their elders.

At the least, the two teams would be equal in this aspect, except for Michael Jordan. He remains unmatched. LeBron and Magic cancel out here in the skills category – the ability to dribble, shoot and pass, specifically, at full speed against the best in the world. As would Kevin Durant and Larry Bird. Same goes for Stockton and Paul, Carmelo and Barkley, Pippen and Bryant, and Love and Malone.

In the final aspect, however, the Dream Team wins and it’s hard to argue that it would be close. It’s the intangibles. In this case, intangibles is competitive drive. One point made constantly throughout the doc was how competitive each member of the team was. “Now I get to spend time with some of the guys I competed against all the time,” Jordan said. That’s why he wanted to play. The practices were supremely intense because all of them were out to prove that they were the best – not in the world, but in the League. Malone and Barkley, and Magic and Mike in particular, would face off in practice everyday. And Bird, Pippen, Stockton, Ewing and the rest were the same way. The practice teams seldom changed according to Jordan, because they always wanted to beat each other. He had to play against Magic, and Magic felt the same way. Beyond Kobe and Chris Paul, no current player has consistently shown the will to win, hatred to lose and passion to be the best like the members of the original Dream Team.

Regardless of athleticism, skills or anything else, competitive drive can trump all, and the Dream Team had that completely. Ironically, in this instance, evolution of the game where the 2012 team falls behind. Whereas Jordan and company likely never played with or against each other until college or the NBA, almost every member of the 2012 team has likely played with or against each during high school and possibly before then. With AAU, national elite camps, etc., players are competing against “the best” at a younger age and they develop relationships. Much of the talk about LeBron and Durant leading up to and during the Finals noted how good of friends they are. That’s not to say neither is a competitor, but the mindset has shifted in this day and age.

It would be a good, interesting game, to be sure, but the original Dream Team would win. The 2012 players want to play with each other because it would be fun to play with all their boys and they’d be really good. But the Dream Team wanted to play with each other to beat one another in practice. They were great as players and Olympic teammates, but at their core they were fierce competitors driven not only by the will to win, but to also out perform each other.

Who do you think would win in the matchup between the original Dream Team and the current lineup?

  • http://twitter.com/JNothstein Jared Nothstein

    2012 would win easily. Basketball did have a different feel back then, but it also wasnt as negative back then. It meant more back then b/c it was a more positive timing in history. Half those players back then would get killed in todays game. They didnt even play defense back then. Go back and look at how many open shots jordan would get even though they all knew he was the best. There was no double teaming back then. We need to stop living in a fantasy world where these older basketball players were so much better. Those basketball players were good but the rest of the competition was horrible. Now there are so many more good, athletic players in the league. Only thing i might give dream team edge on is shooting. Maybe they were more pure shooters where todays game is all about attack. But still 2012 would win easily.

  • http://twitter.com/JNothstein Jared Nothstein

    2012 would win easily. Basketball did have a different feel back then, but it also wasnt as negative back then. It meant more back then b/c it was a more positive timing in history. Half those players back then would get killed in todays game. They didnt even play defense back then. Go back and look at how many open shots jordan would get even though they all knew he was the best. There was no double teaming back then. We need to stop living in a fantasy world where these older basketball players were so much better. Those basketball players were good but the rest of the competition was horrible. Now there are so many more good, athletic players in the league. Only thing i might give dream team edge on is shooting. Maybe they were more pure shooters where todays game is all about attack. But still 2012 would win easily.

  • Patrick Olsen

    What world are you living in? Jordan would get double, triple and quadruple teamed and he would still score like crazy. I wonder what games you were watching in the 90′s.

  • Patrick Olsen

    What world are you living in? Jordan would get double, triple and quadruple teamed and he would still score like crazy. I wonder what games you were watching in the 90′s.

  • Patrick Olsen

    What world are you living in? Jordan would get double, triple and quadruple teamed and he would still score like crazy. I wonder what games you were watching in the 90′s.

  • Patrick Olsen

    What world are you living in? Jordan would get double, triple and quadruple teamed and he would still score like crazy. I wonder what games you were watching in the 90′s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robertslow Robert Mahinay

    OG Dream Team wins it.

  • http://twitter.com/ewcorpuz Erkki Corpuz

    Bill Walton was way better than Laettner.

  • http://twitter.com/Semtext44 Jonathan Blum

    Barkley would kill anyone on the 2012 Roster by just staring at them like a death ray machine on legs. And then there’s the trash talk. LeBron would just crumble if MJ came up to him and said “Hello.” And don’t get me started on Larry Bird. Only person I can see competing is Kobe, as pointed out above. Let me seal this with a quote from Sir Charles: “I might be wrong, but I doubt it.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WP65FXTL62Q74DG43QK2AJKY5Y kentotz

    jared.. what are you smoking??

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WP65FXTL62Q74DG43QK2AJKY5Y kentotz

    jared.. what are you smoking??

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CATL6BAOL2QSKSPF5IVYVHVRIQ Fro

    “They didnt even play defense back then.” <—???? What were you watching!?! I bet if LeBron & Wade played back in the days they'd be crying after every game not because they didn't get foul calls but because they were getting their asses handed to them for real.

  • http://www.facebook.com/romanacostapoten Roman Acosta Poten

    1992 best team Ever

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Maynard/642134104 Eric Maynard

    the current team would crush the original team, just like in any other sport. its called evolution

  • http://twitter.com/cockyjeremy Jeremy Lester

    Not even worth asking. The 92 wins in every single category. Most of them by a mile. You don’t beat a team with MJ, Pippen, Magic, Bird, etc. Period.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CTVRCH3PHFBZJY5XVU624S4MAU confused

    Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkey… the ’92 team would win. In their prime Patrick Ewing would school Tyson Chandler or any of today’s big men, just like he did evey time I watched the Knicks against Shaq and the Magic in the ’90s. Robinson, Drexler, Malone, Stockton, Pippen, Mullin… it’s really not even debatable imho.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cundiff5535 Bobby Cundiff

    First, Jared you are an idiot… please dont speak about basketball ever again…

    Now that that is out of the way. The 92′ team wins hands down… if not for any other reason than size. Robinson or Ewing could put up 50 on Tyson Chandler… and Malone and Barkely would have a field day on the block with any of these forwards.

    The size would generate match up issues all day on the perimeter and Bird Drexler, Mullen, and Stockton would shoot the lights out (esp from that close international 3 point line).

    To add to that I really do not see a guy on the 12 team that would match up with Jordan or Magic? Obviously Lebron and Kobe are the two that come to mine right away as they play solid D but, I dont know… Additionally, if you have officials calling the game from now adays… you might as well figure on K.D and Melo fouling out…. Melo doesnt play a lick of D and fouls a lot and K.D was in foul trouble the entire finals… Imagine Jordan getting ticky tac foul calls that the modern day player gets… it would be ridiculous. To add to that… back in 92′ hand checking and checking in general was within the rules… guys like Scottie Pippen, Jordan, or Magic being able to slash to the lane and guys not being able to put their hands all over them… really?

    This is not even close… 92′ team win in a very large way

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003304661568 Guye Weber

    2012 would win hands down…. competitive only takes you so far against evolution …. if everyone on the 2012 squad is faster and stronger and more athletic and have a sense of drive ….. you would be stupid to believe otherwise

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003304661568 Guye Weber

    i just noticed they compared pippen to bryant…. that was a stupid match up im a mj fan but you need to compare kobe to mj if u are going to make any type of comparison at all…..

  • Anonymous

    who gives a shit? please tell me…. who?

  • http://twitter.com/MYCKE4 MIGUEL ANGEL

    OBVIAMENTE QUE NO HAY DUDA, AUNQUE EL DREAM TEAM 2012 ES DIN DUDA EXCEPCIONAL. LOS QUE GANARÍAN SERIA EL DREAM TEAM 1992 COMANDADOS POR SU AÉREA MAJESTAD. HONOR A QUIEN HONOR MERECE.

  • Nadier Batshon

    it almost disgusts me that there is even a debate on the subject.. i got 3 words for you jared. “his royal airness.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/lawrencewright2404 Lawrence Wright II

    I really can’t say who would win. MJ and Bron balance the team off for the simple fact that there is no efender who could stop either. Yes MJ is the greatest but that doesn’t make him the greatest defender. If you place Howard, Bosh, Rose and Wade in place of Harden, AI, Westbrook and Griffin, Iam going with the 2012 team over any Olympic team ever placed together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649946129 Chris Wheeler

    @Jared Nothstein – and they play defense better today? Do they play defense consistently. Superstars drive today and 9-10 times the lane lets them thru..view some old clips..the lane was challenged. I played then..and now at the court with some young fellas. The “tic/tac” phantom fouls they call now are a sight to see – didnt get them much back then. Kids I play with now think “banging” & “bodying” up are below there game. Yeah…some great athletes now…but lets not write of anything twenty years ago as athletically inferior. Some guy mentioned evolution – there are some track & field records that took 20 or more years to break (Bob Beamon’s 29 ft – 100/200m 10-15 yrs at one point). Older aint always better…but neither is newer.

  • Sinuhe Luciano

    OLD SCHOOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649946129 Chris Wheeler

    @Jared Nothstein – and they play defense better today? Do they play defense consistently. Superstars drive today and 9-10 times the lane lets them thru..view some old clips..the lane was challenged. I played then..and now at the court with some young fellas. The “tic/tac” phantom fouls they call now are a sight to see – didnt get them much back then. Kids I play with now think “banging” & “bodying” up are below there game. Yeah…some great athletes now…but lets not write of anything twenty years ago as athletically inferior. Some guy mentioned evolution – there are some track & field records that took 20 or more years to break (Bob Beamon’s 29 ft – 100/200m 10-15 yrs at one point). Older aint always better…but neither is newer.

  • Nederroth Nobracell

    1992 Dream Team is way far from today’s dream team not because they are all hall of famers but because they are all Legendary XD

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P4L5SOZDVZPQYKTTNXMOT3SJ4Q Freedom fighter

    Comparing the 2012 team to 1992 is way to premature. Let’s see if 2012 team can win a gold medal first. Just think back to last olympics with many of our superstars we barely beat Spain in the championship game. Spain came within 5 with about 2 minutes and it took a tough three point play by Kobe to give US some cushion. Kobe had about 7 points in last 3 minutes to pull it out for the US, without clutch shots by Kobe US was in big trouble.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P4L5SOZDVZPQYKTTNXMOT3SJ4Q Freedom fighter

    Jared you are clueless about the defense. Today’s NBA players would be considered soft and big floppers. The Celtics and Pistons literally pounded the living S*** out of each other (Rodman, Dumar, Lambdier, Bird, McHale, Chief were all very physical tough players). Lakers could also play physically. Lebron would NOT be driving uncontested to the hoop like he does, he would have so many bodies thrown at him he would be pulling up for jumpers in the first quarter. And tell me Pippin couldn’t play defense…obviously you never watched the Bulls. I would put either Jordan or Pippin on Lebron and let him have some bodies early in the game.

  • Mr.Rude

    Take any team from today and put them up against the OLD pistons when Rodman was with them.. Isiah and Joe dumars too… lmaooo… Niggas would hang their jersey’s up after the 1st Quarter.. Or need a Asthma Inhaler.

  • http://twitter.com/E_Sizzl Ethan Prete

    2012 Would win by 20, the fact that this is even a discussion without Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose on the roster is ridiculous. How many of you guys have actually seen MJ or Magic ever play before? That’s what I thought quite pretending like you know what you’re talking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arvin.loremia Arvin Loremia

    i don’t think you are aware of the rules back then. have you heard about the “no hand-check rule”? the game was MUCH MORE physical back in the days. if we look at the rules flagrant 2 fouls today are “no call” 20 years ago. the only reason players today can do all those moves is because the defense are not allowed to touch them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arvin.loremia Arvin Loremia

    Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose? How many rings do they have?

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