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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Which basketball team was better -- 1992 or 2012?

Posted Thursday, September 6, 2012, at 5:13 PM

As the sports landscape changes to high school football, pro football and baseball pennant races, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London have started to fade into our memory banks.

But before it slips away, I would like to throw in my two cents into the discussion about which team is better - the 1992 Dream Team or the 2012 USA men's basketball team.

Before I go forward, I would like to go backwards and talk about the 1960 Olympic team.

Two of the best guards to ever play professional basketball -- Jerry West and Oscar Robertson -- were at the front and center of that squad. West is still the face of the NBA as his likeness is the heart of the red, white and blue logo for the sport and Robertson is the only player to average a triple-double for an entire season.

Jerry Lucas, who Bob Knight said was the best player to ever play in the Big Ten (pretty high praise indeed) and Walt Bellamy, a fourth Hall of Famer who amassed over 20,000 points and 14,000 rebounds in his NBA career, were part of that overlooked squad.

Although I was just a kid when those guys played in the 1960 games in Rome, that team was no slouch as 10 guys played in the NBA. The whole team was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. I was lucky enough to watch those players later in their pro careers.

Off the path, I thought it was interesting that Bob Boozer, the No. 1 draft pick out of Kansas State in 1959, postponed his NBA career one year to play in the Olympics. How many players would do that today?

They deserve a little love in this discussion, even if they did not have the depth to compete with the two teams in question. They did go 8-0, under coach Pete Newell, and won those games by an average of 42.4 points per game. The scored 100 or more in five of those games as five players averaged in double figures.

The world of basketball is a much different place today, compared to 20 years ago. Every team but one in the Olympics featured NBA players. The competition today is fierce compared to way back then.

In 1992, there was no doubt that Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, to name a few, were going to demolish what little competition was placed in front of them on their way to a gold medal, and restoring the pride of American basketball, which was why pros were first used by the good old USA.

Their margin of victory was almost 44 points per game and they beat Croatia by 32 in the Gold Medal game. That Croatian team did have future NBA players Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, and Dino Radja, but little else.

Some 20 years ago, only Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Detlef Schrempf and Sarunas Marciulionis were European players on the NBA radar.

When this year's team beat Spain 107-100 for Gold, the Spanish roster included Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, and Juan Carlos Navarro, all NBA players. Plus, they were missing injured point guard Ricky Rubio.

It's certain that the 1992 team never played anybody as good as Spain, or even Argentina.

But the Dream Team was so talented John Stockton and Karl Malone weren't even good enough to start.

In all, the 1992 team had 11 players that ended up in the Hall of Fame. That is a staggering statistic that only time will tell if this year's Olympic champs can match.

Lebron James capped off one of the best years in the sport by leading this year's "Dream Team," if you will, to the Gold Medal, capping off an NBA championship won with the Miami Heat in June.

James was brilliant in the closing minutes against Spain, helping secure America's ego about being best at roundball.

Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler and James started with guys like Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook coming off the bench.

Beside Jordan, Barkley, Magic, Bird, Stockton and Malone, Chris Mullin, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Clyde Drexler were on the 1992 roster. Somebody quipped that this year's No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis, who filled in for injured Blake Griffin, was better than the only college player on the '92 team, Christian Laettner, and that might have been the only advantage they had.

It was funny that Kobe told the press that this year's team could have beaten Jordan and the 92 squad.

Kobe said that team of 20 years ago was old and not athletic.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Jordan said that Mullin, Ewing, Pippen and he were still in their 20s.

"We were smart," he said. "Most of us were in the prime of our careers, at a point where athleticism doesn't really matter. You have to know how to play the game."

Jordan, who 20 years ago had just won the second of his six NBA titles, said there was no way that this year's team could compare with the Original Dream team.

"For him to make that comparison, it's one of those things where it creates conversation," Jordan said. "I guess we'll never know. I'd like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn't learn from them."

Time will only tell how great Williams, West brook, Durant, Paul and Love will be, as well as James, who has likely just scratched the surface of his talent.

If we are talking about one game, anything can happen in 40 minutes, the NCAA tournament is proof of that. But if we are talking about a best-of-seven series, I am going with the old school guys, what a surprise.

It is a debate that could rage on for a long time.

Either way, it was a win-win for American basketball fans.

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor of the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at hargisbj@gmail.com.



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