Today, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced that along with Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Johnson, the 1992 USA Mens Olympic Basketball Team will be inducted this August. This marks a historic occasion for one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
After a Bronze-medal finish in the 1988 Summer Olympics, through a rule change in 1989, Team USA was allowed to use professional basketball players to compete in Olympic competition. We know this as the birth of the “Dream Team.” Just naming them off is something else. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner.
Talk about star power. 10 of the 50 greatest players of all-time played for Team USA, most in their prime. With the exception of Laettner, this team had no flaws. Speaking of that, many players could have filled the spot Laettner took up but only one comes to mind, which is Isaiah Thomas. Was Isaiah shut out of the 1992 team? You know he was. After years of shutting out Jordan in All-Star games and banging heads with the big names in the NBA, it was only a matter of time until that caught up with him. Isaiah was hated by players, but none more than Jordan. Did Jordan make an ultimatum along the lines of “If he plays, I don’t”? Maybe, but you can’t deny the legacy of the 1992 team would’ve been that much greater with Thomas.
The 1992 team had 2 men who dominated a decade of basketball (Magic and Bird), and one who was getting the torch passed to him (Jordan.) The star of the games was neither one of these guys. Surprisingly, it was Charles Barkley. Charles found himself embracing the spotlight and shining on the world stage, spearheading the scoring attack of 117 ppg, leading the team in scoring at 18 ppg. Karl Malone also hit it hard, with 13 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
Most people who to play against this team were so in awe, that before the games would start, other teams would take pictures and get autographs from their idols. Imagine stepping up to halfcourt for the opening tip and standing next to Jordan. Watching your undersized center tip against David Robinson or Patrick Ewing. Magic or John Stockton running the court. Malone, Drexler, and Barkley attacking the basket. Bird and Mullins hitting j’s left and right. Pippen and Jordan pressing guards into submission. How many times do you see the opposition in such shock? The shock never wore off, as Team USA won by an average of 44 points a game. No team got within 32 points of them (Croatia coming the closest at a score of 117-85. That’s not even funny, except if you’re American. Then it’s painfully funny.) The fact that these 12 men and the late Coach Chuck Daly will be inducted into the Hall of Fame together shows how special this team was. Only in a Dream.