|2012 Olympic team vs. '92 Dream Team (Chicagonow.com)|
The wait is over for the 2012 Olympic games, and no storyline out of the USA camp has been bigger than that of the USA basketball team.
It’s not because they’ve really been questioned by an opponent so far, but because this year happens to mark the 20th anniversary of a certain other USA basketball team that changed the way the Americans approached the Olympics.
It seems like a never-ending topic; who is better, the 2012 squad or the 1992 Dream Team? But caution; the 2012 team hasn’t won anything yet, and unless they bring home the gold medal, this debate is pointless.
The Dream Team - which will always be in reference to ‘92 - was made up of veteran players, many of whom had already put up hall-of-fame careers. The youngest player on the team (minus the one college player, Christian Laettner) was Scottie Pippen at the fresh age of 26, while five players were over 30 and four more were pushing it at 29. The 2012 squad includes much younger talent, with Kobe Bryant the only player over 30. It’s easy to assume there are several future HOFers in this group, but right now they are still writing their futures. This team could still be better in the future.
The competition also has to be considered. International basketball has grown substantially over the past 20 years. From 1992-2012, the number of foreign-born players who are playing in the NBA has tripled. While the Americans are still the outright favorite to win gold, the playing field is much more difficult than it was 20 years ago. The rest of the world is accepting and loving basketball, and the world talent continues to rise. This is not to say the Dream Team would have struggled playing against current world teams, but teams such as Spain and Argentina are much better than they were two decades ago.
The truth is it’s not important which team is better. What is important and what makes the Dream Team so special is 1992 marked a turning point in basketball around the world. The idea that the game’s best players should replace collegiate athletes and play on one of the world’s greatest stages was monumental. This had to affect how the world viewed the game, as international fans watched all-time greats put on a show of pure mastery. They saw basketball at its most elite, and then it just so happened that more international players worked their way to the NBA.
Without the Dream Team, the 2012 team wouldn’t exist. Players would still want their summers to relax and recover, looking at the Olympics as an obligation instead of an honor. Collegiate players would still compete well, but the game’s best would be watching from couches. The Dream Team wasn’t just about winning gold, it was competitors and rivals coming together, and putting differences aside, to take pride in America.
So while you watch the USA throughout the Olympics, remember that it doesn’t matter if the Dream Team is better. Just be glad the Dream Team happened.
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