Kobe Bryant had a master plan: There is nothing going on in sports right now, so I will say something that everyone can talk about.
And it has worked.
Bryant confidently stated that he though this year's 2012 edition of the Dream Team could be the original 1992 Dream Team.
In previous years we have scoffed at any comparison between the 1992 team and any other team. The 1992 team has been considered untouchable, until now. The 2012 team returns several stars from the 2008 gold medal winning team, and adds a few new faces. Even with notable stars like Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard not competing, people are starting to think that 2012 would have a shot against the infamous 1992 squad.
As Bryant predicted, the 1992 squad feels otherwise. Believe it or not, the usually reserved Charles Barkley had a few things to say to the 2012 squad and being called old:
To help settle the debate, we will look at 1992 vs. 2012 by the matchups:
Point Guard: Magic Johnson (1992) vs. Chris Paul/Deron Williams (2012)
If Magic is in his prime, this isn't even a debate. However Magic was 32 during the '92 games and had already been out of the NBA for a year. It's fair to imagine that Paul and Williams might be a step quicker than Magic, but lets not forget that Magic is 6'9. Magic would use his size to his advantage, and still had the best court vision in the world.
EDGE: Magic/Dream Team
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan (1992) vs. Kobe Bryant (2012)
Kobe is currently the only player ever who can be compared to Jordan, and this is still NOT EVEN CLOSE. Kobe is out of his prime and no where near as athletic as he used to be, and Jordan was in his prime in 92'. Regardless of athleticism, Jordan has so much of a mental edge on everyone that he will absolutely refuse to be beat.
EDGE: Jordan/Dream Team
Wing/Small Forward: Scottie Pippen/Larry Bird (1992) vs. Kevin Durant (2012)
I am taking the 2012 coaching duties into my hands and guessing that 2012 will go small with KD at the 3 and LeBron at the 4. In this matchup the old, injured Bird and mainly Scottie Pippen go against Kevin Durant in his prime. Off the bat, you may think that Durant has a big athletic advantage, but he really doesn't especially against Pippen. Durant is a good athlete, but he's not crazy explosive and he is definitely not strong. Pippen actually matches up with Durant as good if not better than anyone else does. Bird, who was obviously on the downside of his career, would have some trouble with Durant, but don't underestimate Bird's grit, toughness and IQ. Still, Durant is the top scorer in the NBA today.
Wing/Power Forward: Charles Barkley (1992) vs. LeBron James (2012)
In 1992, the Dream Team was using a true power forward, today, the 2012 team will most likely start LeBron at the "wing" position. On a team that sported Bird, Magic and Jordan, Barkley is often the most overlooked asset of the Dream Team. Barkley was a physical force, a rebounding machine and a talented offensive player. Barkley's cocky attitude and athletic abilities make him as good of a matchup for LeBron as you can get, because there is no perfect matchup for LeBron. LeBron would look to take Barkley to the perimeter and beat him with speed and agility, and would probably succeed.
Center: Patrick Ewing/David Robinson (1992) vs. Kevin Love/Tyson Chandler (2012)
If this is a matchup between Ewing and Howard, the 2012 edition has a real shot. Ewing and Howard might be the craziest physical battle ever. But Howard is injured. Love will use his range to try and pull Ewing away from the rim, which could definitely work to his advantage. Chandler would serve only as a defensive rim protector. Ewing and Robinson were complete, all around centers at this point in their careers. Ewing was a physical specimen that even the likes of Chandler and Love would struggle with.
EDGE: Ewing/Robinson/Dream Team
Bench: Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, John Stockton (1992) vs. Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, James Harden (2012)
The bench would play a huge role in this game: remember that Anthony was one of the top scorers on the 2008 Olympic squad, and Malone was the third leading scorer on the Dream Team. Drexler would serve as an athletic off the bench wing player, while Mullin would be a spot up shooter. Stockton wasn't heavily used. For the 2012 team, Griffin will be important depth in the front court, and an obvious athletic nightmare for the 92' squad. Like Mullin, Harden will be a shooter used to space the floor.
Coach: Chuck Daly (1992) vs. Coach K (2012)
Daly was the coach of the infamous Detroit Pistons bad boys teams in the late 80's and early 90's. Daly got the most out of his players and instilled a cut throat attitude. Daly's teams were out for blood every game. Daly was an opposing, strong willed coach who was also crafty and smart. When the 92' Dream Team scrimmaged the best college players before going to the Olympics, Daly famously engineered a loss. From that point on, the Dream Team was focused on winning the gold. The Dream Team came back and scrimmaged the same college team the next day, and even though it was not a public game, Chris Webber, playing for the college team, said his college team didn't even get close to scoring. Coach K has also put together quite a resume coaching at Duke, where he has won four NCAA championships. Coach K won the gold for the Redeem Team in 2008, after several years of turmoil for USA basketball. Coach K has excelled at connecting the best players of the NBA and fostering teamwork at the international level.
So with the final tally tied at 3 apiece, who would win?
Admittedly, the 2012 squad might be the best challenge for the Dream Team that US basketball has ever assembled. My decision really comes down to two things:
First, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and Derrick Rose are not playing. Especially Howard. If the 2012 team could put Howard in the middle to anchor that incredible slew of wings, I would have to think really long and hard about this one. But with no Howard, there is a big gap in the middle.
Second, for whatever athletic advantages the 2012 team has, I think they lack the mental edge that the Dream Team possessed. It started with Jordan, Barkley and Bird. Pippen was a killer. Magic was glue. They were the toughest era, the most cut throat group the NBA has ever seen. They flat out had another level of hate to lose that this team, this era doesn't have.
For those two reasons, I pick the Dream Team: 96-88.
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