Kobe Bryant recently caused quite the stir when he said that this year’s Olympic basketball team would beat the 1992 Dream Team, which is widely considered to be the greatest team ever assembled. Michael Jordan laughed at the thought and Larry Bird sarcastically said, “They probably could. I haven’t played in 20 years now and we’re all old.” Breaking down the matchup, I have compiled my own research and come up with a prediction for how I think this game would be played out.
Starting Lineups (Season Statistics for year they played in Olympics)
Magic Johnson (90-91 stats): – 19.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 12.5 apg
Chris Paul: – 19.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 9.1 apg
Both team’s starting point guards are certainly not short on
talent. Magic was spectacular in his prime and was one of the most exciting,
stat-stuffing players to ever play the game. Paul masterfully conducts whatever
offense he is in, having carried several talent-barren teams into the playoffs.
Coming into the '92 Olympics, Magic had not played the previous year, as he was
forced to retire due to contracting the HIV virus, while Paul is coming into
the Olympics fresh off a second-round playoff run. However, the
deciding factor in this matchup is size, where Magic stood at 6’9” and Paul
stands much shorter at 6’0”. While both players could do an excellent job of
setting up their teammates for easy baskets, Magic would be able to back down
Paul in the post and get numerous baskets for himself.
Advantage: Johnson (Dream Team: 1 | 2012: 0)
Michael Jordan: - 30.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.1 apg
Kobe Bryant: - 27.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.6 apg
This is the dream (no pun intended) matchup that everyone would be
watching under a microscope: Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the best player to ever
play the game, against Kobe Bean Bryant, who is arguably the closest thing to Jordan
that we have ever seen. Both are extremely competitive and would do everything
they could to not let their opponent gain an inch. Jordan was coming into the Olympics
fresh off of an NBA Championship and was still several years away from reaching
his prime. Kobe
is coming off an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and although he put up big numbers and is still one of the best in the
game, he certainly is past his prime. This matchup makes basketball fans
everywhere froth at the mouth, but due to the point where each player was at in
their career when they played on these teams, Jordan gets the advantage. Keep on
Advantage: Jordan (Dream Team: 2 | 2012: 0)
Larry Bird: - 20.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 6.8 apg
LeBron James: - 27.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.2 apg
James and Bird are very well-rounded players, and both
were constant threats for triple doubles on any given night. Bird piloted the
famed Celtics teams of the '80s to several championships, while Lebron barely won
his first championship this past year. However, sadly enough, the '91-'92 season
was Bird’s last, as he suffered serious back injuries that in essence were the
cause of his retirement, but he gave it one last go with the Dream Team. James
is currently in arguably the best shape of his life and is a straight-up beast,
standing 6’8’ and weighing 250 pounds. Larry Legend and his bad back stand no
chance against the dominant Lebron.
Advantage: James (Dream Team: 2 | 2012: 1)
Karl Malone: - 28.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
Kevin Love: - 26.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.0 apg
Had Blake Griffin not torn his meniscus before this year’s Olympics, he would certainly be playing a major role on this year's team, and it was widely considered that either he or Kevin Love would have started (Carmelo Anthony started the first exhibition game at PF), and Love gets the nod here. Both Malone and Love crashed the boards hard and put up monster offensive numbers. However, Malone possessed a unique set of post moves and is widely considered one of the most built players to ever play the game (along with Lebron). Love lost a bunch of weight a couple of years ago and now seems more accustomed to playing outside rather than bang inside, even though he was second in the league in rebounding this past year. Love could stretch the Dream Team defense with his long-range shooting, but Malone could shoot it a little himself and he would bully Love on the block.
Advantage: Malone (Dream Team: 3 | 2012: 1)
Patrick Ewing: - 24.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.9 apg
Tyson Chandler: - 11.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 0.9 apg
The starting center battle is not even close. Ewing was the
captain of the bruising Knicks teams of the ’90s and Chandler is the defensive anchor of the Dallas Mavericks team, which won a championship two years
ago. Chandler is an excellent defensive player, being the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and would certainly give Ewing a little trouble on the defensive end, but he is
extremely limited offensively. Ewing was a
threat on both sides of the ball and would dominate this matchup. I can’t help
but wonder what would be the result if Dwight Howard hadn’t gotten hurt.
Advantage: Ewing (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 1)
Bench: Players listed based upon playing time and role from the Dream Team, and projected playing time and role for 2012 team
Charles Barkley PF: - 23.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.1 apg
Kevin Durant SF/PF: - 28.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg
Other than the Jordan
matchup, the battle of the sixth men might prove to be the most interesting.
Barkley was, in fact, the Dream Team’s leading scorer at 18 points per and was
arguably one of the most well-known players on the team (if not for his play,
certainly for his quotables). KD is the three-time defending scoring champion
and is able to put the ball in the basket from anywhere at any time, and one
could make a strong argument that he will be the 2012 team’s leading
scorer throughout the Olympics. Both are extremely talented on offense, but due
to the nightmares that Durant would give Barkley and the Dream Team on defense, he gets the nod (although arguably Scottie Pippen would guard Durant, but I
don’t have enough time to break down all those possibilities).
Advantage: Durant (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 2)
Chris Mullin SF: - 25.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
Carmelo Anthony SF/PF: - 22.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg
'Melo and Mullin have eerily similar statistics, but it is the
role that they play on their respective team that will determine the winner.
Both can score the ball and neither was spectacular on defense, but looking at
physical ability, 'Melo gets the edge here. He is arguably one of the top two best
scorers currently in the NBA and can get baskets in a variety of ways. Mullin
was no slouch, but he got the majority of his baskets with the Dream Team as that other guy who got open looks because of the defense focusing on other
players; plus, he simply would not be able to stop 'Melo on defense.
Advantage: Anthony (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 3)
David Robinson C: - 22.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.5 apg
Deron Williams PG: - 21.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 8.7 apg
Now, I know you might say that it is unfair to compare a
point guard to a center, but as I said before, the bench comparisons are based
on the player’s role and playing time on their team. Robinson played a key role
on the Dream Team, and Williams figures to do the same for the 2012 team.
However, Robinson will take advantage of the 2012 team’s lack of size and will
dominate inside. The 2012 team’s lack of quality bigs would prove to be its
biggest downfall in this game, and the Dream Team would take full advantage.
Williams would prove to be effective for the 2012 team, but going against Magic
and John Stockton would be no easy task.
Advantage: Robinson (Dream Team: 5 | 2012: 3)
Clyde Drexler SG: - 25.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 6.7 apg
Blake Griffin PF: - 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.5 apg
Drexler did quite a bit for the Dream Team as their
fifth-leading scorer. Griffin is hurt and will
not play for the 2012 team, but Kobe
didn’t know that when he said they would beat the Dream Team. Drexler was
another one of those players who can affect the outcome of a game in a variety
of ways, and Griffin
can, well, dunk. His limited offensive abilities would hurt him greatly against
the Dream Team and his effectiveness would certainly be curtailed. Drexler would
still be able to contribute greatly to the Dream Team’s success and that is why
he has the advantage.
Advantage: Drexler (Dream Team: 6 | 2012: 3)
Scottie Pippen SF: - 21.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.0 apg
Andre Iguodala SF: - 12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg
Both Pippen and Iguodala were called to be the defensive
stoppers on their respective teams. Pippen is arguably one of the greatest wing
defenders of all time, and while Iguodala can still stick pretty solid D, he is
nowhere near Pippen’s league. Pippen was also able to give you 30 points on any
given night, and the same cannot be said for Iggy. Having Scottie Pippen as the 10th man on your team is a gift from God, and Iguodala is not even seriously
considered to be in the top tier of players in the NBA at the moment. Pippen
runs away with this one.
Advantage: Pippen (Dream Team: 7 | 2012: 3)
John Stockton PG: 15.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 13.5 apg
Russell Westbrook PG: 23.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.5 apg
Russell Westbook is a freak and it would be difficult for Stockton to hang with him on defense if he were by himself. However, Stockton had David Robinson, Pat Ewing, Karl Malone, and Scottie Pippen behind him, which is when Westbrook would meet his demise. Decision making is key in this matchup, as Stockton would beautifully orchestrate the Dream Team offense while Westbrook would lower his head and relentlessly attack the rim for turnover after missed shot after turnover. Westbrook would stupidly try and convince everyone that he is the best player on the court, which would lead to greatly hurting his team. If Coach K were smart, Westbrook might not see the floor during this game.
Advantage: Stockton (Dream Team: 8 | 2012: 3)
Christian Laettner PF (college stats): - 21.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg
James Harden SG: - 16.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg
The 12th guy on each team doesn’t figure to play very much in the game, but when they do get in the game, Harden takes Laettner to school. Laettner was on the Dream Team because the team wanted to have at least one amateur player on their team (I think it should have been Shaq). Harden is a three-year pro at this point and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. He would be able to help out his team to a much greater extent than Laettner would his, even if it didn’t really affect the outcome.
Advantage: Harden (Dream Team: 8 | 2012: 4)
Now that the individual matchups have been broken down, I came up with a simulated game with statistics to see how the game would pan out. The final score and statistics for each player were:
Dream Team: 124
Magic Johnson: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists
Michael Jordan: 27 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Larry Bird: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Karl Malone: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 0 assists
Patrick Ewing: 10 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists
Charles Barkley: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Chris Mullin: 5 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist
David Robinson: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 0 assists
Clyde Drexler: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Scottie Pippen: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
John Stockton: 4 points, 0 rebounds, 7 assists
Christian Laettner: 2 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists
Chris Paul: 6 points, 0 rebounds, 7 assists
Kobe Bryant: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Lebron James: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Kevin Love: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists
Tyson Chandler: 5 points, 8 rebounds, 0 assists
Kevin Durant: 24 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Carmelo Anthony: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 0 assists
Deron Williams: 10 points, 1 rebound, 8 assists
Blake Griffin: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists
Andre Iguodala: 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Russell Westbrook: 4 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists
James Harden: 3 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists
The Dream Team pounds the ball inside to Robinson, Ewing, Malone, and Barkley early and often, to which the 2012 team has no response. Jordan leads the Dream Team with 27 points, Magic hands out 7 assists, and Malone goes for 15 and 8. Pippen plays defense on Durant, but KD still manages to get loose and pace his team with 24 points. 'Melo and Deron Williams both have strong games off the bench and Lebron is his usual stat-stuffing self. The game is remotely close after the first quarter, but in the second, the Dream Team begins to build a lead, when Westbrook makes several ill-advised plays in a row leading to bad shots and turnovers. The lead seems to hang out at the 16 point mark, and even gets as close as 12 midway through the third quarter, but the Dream team never leaves this game in doubt as they hang on for the 19-point win. Nonetheless, the game is exciting and entertaining from the tip as both teams give it their all trying to prove that they are the best. However, in the end, the true champion and best team ever comes out on top.
I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose were on the 2012 team. I guess then you have to cut Laettner from the Dream Team and replace him with Isaiah Thomas or Shaquille O’Neal. Sadly, we will never get to see these two teams play, but it is sure fun to talk about.