LAS VEGAS — Kobe Bryant was direct, in his very Kobe Bryant way. When asked to compare this 2012 Team USA — with himself, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and so on — and how it would do against the 1992 Dream Team with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan (a team with 11 Hall of Famers), he gave the answer you knew he would.
Kobe said he thought today’s squad would win.
Of course he did. Kobe has never stepped onto a basketball court thinking the team he was on wouldn’t win. That’s part of Kobe.
USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has a better, longer-term perspective (he was an assistant with the Dream Team) and was asked if this team could beat the legendary Dream Team.
“Right now I wouldn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said, referring to how the team looked after a few days of practices. “But this team can be very good. The one thing about this team they are all kind of in their prime or getting ready to go into their prime, and Kobe hasn’t lost anything. Whereas in ’92 there were guys at the end of their careers. Larry (Bird) had a hard time physically, John Stockton was hurt, Magic had been out a year. In their prime, all those guys together, there was no team ever like that.”
It’s an interesting point. That 1992 team did have a prime Michael Jordan plus Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing (the 2012 team would struggle to slow him), Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler in his prime, among others. But the point that that Dream Team was not 1985 Magic or 1986 Bird is a valid one, we don’t always think of it that way because those guys were able to put on a show against inferior competition.
It’s also hard to judge teams across generations because the competition against them changed.
“The competitive nature of it is so much different (now than 1992), there is so much more competition now,” Coach K said. “Remember in ’92 not only were we ahead (in terms of basketball talent), but Yugoslavia split just before that, so they never put the Yugoslavian team together. And Russia split and became Russia and Lithuania. That would have been more competition. It’s not like the world was that far behind at the time, but the two best international teams in the world other than the United States, were split for the ’92 Games. Nobody is getting split before 2012.”
No, but we have the same expectations of them.