[Editor's Note: This post is completely sports related, and it's prolly borderline blasphemous to some. Consider yourself forewarned.]
I know I'm about to open a huge can of worms, but it just occurred to me this morning that what this year's Redeem Team is accomplishing is far more impressive than the 1992 Dream Team.
Pick yourselves off the floor and let me explain why.
Back in 1992, we sent the absolute best 11 players in the league, plus Christian Laettner, whom some might argue is the best college player evar. Note, I said best college player.
Just peep this roster.
Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ersWith the exception of Laettner (who barely played), every member of this team is either in, or will soon be in, the NBA Hall of Fame. Jordan is considered the best player evar. Johnson is the gold standard for PG's. Stockton is the silver standard. Malone revolutionized the power forward position. Barkley is the best player under 6-4 to ever lace up. Pippen became the prototype for small forwards. Bird is Bird. Mullin is one of the best shooters to ever lace up. Drexler did his thing. Ewing and The Admiral are among the 50 best players ever. Laettner did one heckuva job fetching donuts.
Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics
Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers
Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks
Earvin "Magic" Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls
Christian Laettner of Duke University
Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz
Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors
Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls
David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs
John Stockton of the Utah Jazz
These players were the best in the world at the time, let alone the best in the league. I would have definitely bet online for them. Only Isaiah Thomas (politricks) and Hakeem Olajuwon (not yet a US citizen) were the only truly elite NBA players excluded from this team. It was the creme de la creme. The Dream Team rolled over foes by an average of 43.8 points a game, and never even called a timeout.
This year's Redeem Team is still a couple of games shy of the gold, but given their redemptive drubbing of Australia (whom they only beat by 11 just a week ago) on Wednesday, it's hard to see them losing to anybody. They are winning by an average of 32ppg as I write this.
It's roster is impressive, but probably not as impressive as the Original Dream Team.
Carlos Boozer of the Utah JazzIt's hard to tell these sorts of things so early, but player for player, this is probably not as star studded a team as the 92' squad. Bryant, Wade, Paul, and James are MVP caliber players, but you can't really say that yet for any of the other players. Prince isn't even an all star. Redd will not be Hall of Famer, and Bosh may not be either. Anthony is one DUI away from being a Clipper. Kidd is toast. Howard is showing his Shaq-like limitations. Williams and Boozer are good, but nobody is readying a place in Springfield for either yet. And some great NBA players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Elton Brand, Joe Johnson, Allen Iverson, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, etc. are back home. We could have sent a better team.
Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks
Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz
Michael Redd of the Milwaukee Bucks
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic
Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors
Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets
Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons
Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets
So, why in the ham sammich am I suggesting this team might be better than the 92' squad? Simple: The level of competition.
Back in 92', few of the foreign teams had legit NBA players. Germany had Detlef Schrempf, who was a 6th man for the Sonics. Lithuania had then-current Golden State Warrior reserve Šarūnas Marčiulionis and eventual Blazer Arvydas Sabonis. Croatia had five current or future NBA players in Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, Dino Radja, Stojko Vranković, and Žan Tabak. Petrović died before he made a huge NBA impact. Toni Kukoč went on to a respectable NBA career. The other guys were
This year, seemingly every opponent has 2-3 solid NBA players. China has the NBA's best big man in Yao Ming, budding star Yi Jianlian, Lakers rookie Sun Yue, and NBA yet Wang Zhizhi. Germany has Clippers star Chris Kaman and recent NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki. Greece has recent NBA players Vasileios Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, Andreas Glyniadakis, and Clippers draftee Sofoklis Schortsanitis. Spain has Lakers all-star big man Pau Gasol, Blazers rookie Rudy Fernandez, recent NBA players Raul Lopez, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Jorge Garbajosa, Raptors starting PG Jose Calderon, Grizzlies rookie Marc Gasol, and teen sensation (and likely #1 pick in next year's draft) Ricky Rubio. Australia has Bucks' center and recent #1 overall pick Andrew Bogut. Argentina, Lithuania, Croatia, and Russia have more NBA players than I've got time and space to list here.
But each and every one of these teams has been completely obliterated by the Redeem Team. Every single one.
I'm not saying the original Dream Team wouldn't have rolled over these teams with ease, they probably would have won by even more, but there's no way of knowing. And let's not forget, in addition to playing vastly inferior opponents, the Dream Team had the whole fear/star factor at play. It was common for opposing teams to be in total awe of Team USA and ask for photos, autographs, and jerseys after, before, and sometimes even during games. No such thing is happening for the Redeem Team, since they already play most of their opponents during the regular season. Their foes are getting thrashed, but they ain't scurred. Many of them have beaten Team USA before.
I suspect many of you will tell me I'm smoking for going out on a limb and saying this, but I do actually believe this year's team's accomplishment is more impressive than the Dream Team. That doesn't necessarily mean this year's Redeem Team is necessarily a better team that the 92' squad, so please, spare me the comments. I am emphatically not calling this a better team, despite this title's post. But when you consider all the factors, and the net result, you'd be hard convincing me that what these guys are doing isn't as awe inspiring, if not greater.
Question: Assuming you've watched both teams in action, am I too far out of bounds in suggesting that this year's Redeem Team is just as impressive, if not more so than the Original Dream Team? Which squad would win a Best of Seven series in a theoretical head to head match up? Would you like some of what I've been smoking?
USA Basketball Wiki [Wikipedia]