Dreaming of a Matchup Between the 1992 and 2008 Versions of Team USAThere will probably never be a team that has a better collective resume than the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team--the only squad that should ever be referred to as the "Dream Team." However, in the wake of the tremendous performances by Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and LeBron James in this year's FIBA Americas Tournament, it is at least reasonable to ask what would happen if the 1992 team played the 2008 U.S. Olympic team (assuming that it is composed of the same players who were on the roster this year). With Malice asked several bloggers to break down this matchup. Most of the respondents offered thoughtful replies, though one answer seemed to be included for name value more than analytical depth--unless you happen to be unaware that Michael Jordan was very good and that he played for the 1992 team.
Five of the six bloggers picked the 1992 team to beat the 2008 team. I agree with the majority verdict but not necessarily with all of the reasons that some of the contributors provided. We tend to forget that many of the big names on the 1992 team were no longer in their primes and that both Larry Bird and John Stockton were severely limited due to injuries--so a recitation of their career accomplishments is not an accurate indicator of how they performed for the Dream Team or what they would be capable of doing against the 2008 team. I posted a comment at With Malice offering my take:
Interesting question, but some contributors obviously took the assignment more seriously than others (Michael Jordan was on the first Dream Team? Really? I never knew that, so saying that he might make the difference in a close game is really some deep analysis).
I agree that the '92 team has been a bit mythologized. Laettner was a spare part, Stockton played briefly in just four games due to a fracture in his leg and Bird was at the end of his career and could barely play in some games due to back spasms. Jordan was obviously the best player but people forget that the player who actually performed the best was Barkley (team-highs of 18 ppg and .711 field goal percentage). Jordan (team-high 37 steals) and Pippen (second on the team with 23 steals) were absolute terrors on the defensive end and they took special delight in abusing Toni Kukoc, who they viewed as Jerry Krause’s pet. I’ll bet a lot of people would be surprised to hear that Pip led the team in assists (47 in eight games), Jordan was second (38) and Magic was only third (33 in six games). It is true that the '92 team was never seriously tested by a team as good as the '08 team but I doubt that MJ, Pip, Barkley, Magic and the others would somehow shrink from that challenge.
The individual matchups would be amazing to watch: isn’t a Jordan-Kobe showdown with both players in their prime something we all want to see, whatever our opinions are about Kobe? Pip on LeBron or Melo would also be tremendous, as would Magic on Kidd. I think that those perimeter matchups would end up being pretty even overall but that where the '92 team would win the game would be in the paint, with Barkley, Ewing, Robinson and Karl Malone getting the better of Amare, Howard and Tyson Chandler (who actually probably would not get any playing time because he usually only got on the court in Vegas when Team USA was up 20 and that would never happen in this game). Some analysts think that the '08 team will have problems in the Olympics with the best FIBA big men and, while I don’t think that will cost Team USA because Kobe and Kidd are on a mission, that is the area that would prove decisive in this hypothetical matchup. Dream Team '92 wins, 108-100, and Barkley (28 points, 15 rebounds) is the MVP.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:10 AM