When basketball fans around the world gear up for the summer Olympics every four years, it’s a given that NBA players will participate for the United States. It wasn’t always this way — and the root of the world’s best representing the USA can be traced back to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
The Dream Team.
Twenty years later, there’s still very little doubt the ’92 Olympic men’s basketball squad was the greatest collection of talent ever assembled in team sports. NBA TV’s documentary The Dream Team chronicles what the group of players meant to basketball globally and reveals never-before-seen footage of team practices and trips, as well as interviews from all 12 of its members. All of the NBA players on the team (11) are enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The documentary, which premieres tonight, is a must-see.
Here are 5 of the film’s most intriguing moments:
1) The ‘Dream Team’ lost a game.
Training camp started for the Dream Team in June, 1992. It was a chance for the enormously talented squad to learn how to play together. The team’s coach, Chuck Daly, scheduled a scrimmage between the team and a select group of college players. The college stars, including a young Grant Hill, Chris Webber and Penny Hardaway, were understandably geeked at the opportunity. And the college players quickly took it to their shockingly unselfish NBA counterparts.
“We didn’t know how to play with each other,” Scottie Pippen admits in the documentary. “We didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes or hurt any egos. And so these young kids…they were killing us.”
Sloppy passes and an overall lack of energy spelled doom for the future Hall-of-Famers. The Dream Team’s first ‘game’ as a team ended in defeat.
But there’s more to the story.
Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach under Daly, claims the head coach ‘ threw’ the game as a way to send a message to his players. Larry Bird questioned why Michael Jordan didn’t play much during the scrimmage. Wherever the truth lies, the loss did wake up Team USA. They went on to defeat their Olympic opponents by an average of nearly 44 points per game.
2) Isiah Thomas’ ‘snub’ wasn’t just about Jordan
Isiah Thomas deserved to be a member of the Dream Team. For many basketball fans, the common thinking is that Michael Jordan didn’t like Isiah and wouldn’t play if Thomas was a part of the team. And that may be true — Jordan alludes to this vaguely in the documentary, though it still isn’t clear – but Thomas’ snub went beyond Jordan. MJ said the bad rap on Thomas and ultimately the hesitation to include him on the team was also coming from ‘higher places’.
The NBA’s deputy commissioner at the time, Russ Granik, said the choice not to select Thomas was also a matter of timing. The team was selected right after the Thomas’ Pistons had lost to Jordan’s Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Before the game ended, the Pistons walked off the floor, marching in front of the Bulls’ bench on their way to the locker room. Team USA selection committee member Rod Thorn said this poor sportsmanship left a “bad taste” in a lot of peoples’ mouths.
Scottie Pippen may have put in the clearest context: “No I did not want him on the Dream Team.”