I still remember the Sports Illustrated cover. I was looking at it like, “What the fuck is this?”
Till then, college kids still repped the US for basketball and the pros were only being allowed (forced) to rock because the John Thompson-led 1988 team featuring David Robinson among others, had so shit the bed that the US was both embarrassed enough and desperate enough to start winning again.
Jordan would be the Big Star, of course. He was the Big Star in the league already. But they’d surround him with a couple of perennials in Barkley and Ewing, add a couple of geezers in Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and round out the crew with David Robinson (again), John Stockton, Duke’s Christian Laettner, Chris Mullen, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, and Karl Malone.
Conveniently but amazingly absent was the best point guard in the league at the time, Isiah Thomas. Word was that Jordan issued the directive that if Zeke played, he wouldn’t.
And the fact is, Jordan and Ewing had already copped Olympic gold in ’84 on a team from which fat Barkley had been cut.
The results were predictable: Dream Team 1 walked to a Gold Medal, their average margin of victory, 43.8 ppg.
6 (mostly) forgettable Dream Teams later, we have this latest incarnation which, if the team holds to form, looks poised to break Dream Team 1’s margin of victory record and also play far better basketball than any group of men we’ve ever seen assembled.
Well, just like how Dream Team 1 coud galvanize around Jordan, some of the players loving the guy, some having traditionally loathed him, but some, like, say, Magic who played in the Western Conference and had never been as much as an all-star teammate, had to be looking forward to actually being on the same court with the guy in the same uniform, the absolute absence of today’s best player, one LeBron James, gives this Dream Team something to galvanize around.
So many subplots, so little time.
There’s Kevin Durant, long time suffering competitor and former MVP who just left his moribund Oklahoma City Thunder to give it a shot with the 1-off Champ Golden State Warriors.
There’s Carmelo Anthony who’s looking to add a 4th Olympic Medal and will return to possibly the best Knicks team he’s ever had.
There’s Kyrie Irving, LeBron’s teammate, looking for a little individual glory.
There’s Paul George proving he’s back (totally) from the gruesome leg injury that took place the last time he took the floor for team USA.
There’s Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. Raptors teammates, coming to terms with personal stardom and eager to show worth.
There’s Jimmy Butler who, like DeAndre Jordan, probably feels he should be a more known entity.
There’s DeMarcus Cousins, unbridaled psychopath and the best young center since Alcindor.
There’s Klay Thompson, sharp-shooter and maybe the real key being the Warriors Championship of a couple years ago.
There’s Harrison Barnes, now a former Warrior and solid competitor.
Last, there’s something Dream Team 1 didn’t have, a Team Fool.
Perhaps they would have had one if they’d had the foresight to invite Dennis Rodman, but this Dream Team left nothing to chance and invited Draymond Green, a nut-kicking, dick-pic-taking Snapchat junkie who’s sure to keep the atmosphere light.
And, like I said, without the Jordan role available, expect better ball movement from this Dream Team, less egos and more pure basketball.
Expect, in fact, the best team you’ve ever seen.