Today I accidentally caught myself using “Dream Team” in reference to the USA men’s basketball team competing in the 2012 London Olympics. I quickly corrected myself as the words sounded blasphemous the second they left my lips.
The 1992 “Dream Team” is irreplaceable, not only because of the star-studded roster, but because that team was a historical first that will never be duplicated in Olympic competition as far as the U.S. is concerned. It is, however, absolutely possible for the dominance and ferocity of the first NBA player-led Olympic team from the USA to be replicated.
The 2012 men’s team has one thing the 1992 didn’t… an uber-talented, healthy roster from top to bottom. Remember, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson may have been the most famous names on the Dream Team, but they were both at the end of their careers, serving primarily as figurehead fan-favorites and were no longer the most talented men on the basketball court. Bird was in such poor health that he didn’t participate in practice and his teammates said he could hardly walk because of severe back pain.
That is not the case as the 2012 roster is deep with skill and talent. Despite a lack of size without marquee players like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin, Team USA is still chalk full of hoops greatness.
So then what is holding the 2012 squad back from that top-tier where the original Dream Team resides? Well, the guys have to play the games before we can crown them kings. Period.
Team USA has looked great in two of three international games played thus far. Brazil gave the guys a bit of trouble, exploiting USA’s lack of size down low but not enough so to beat the red, white and blue.
If the Americans will be tested by anyone at all in London, Spain and Argentina will do the honors. And they’ll have the pleasure sooner rather than later as the U.S. will face two of the world’s best teams for some pre-Olympics friendly fun within the next few days.
Interestingly enough, the exhibition games are being played at Palau Sant Jordi, the site of the Dream Team’s gold medal game in Barcelona back in 1992.
The U.S. faces Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola on Sunday, the two NBA stars, leading an Argentine team that won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games. Tuesday, the U.S. is up against a ridiculously stacked Spanish team that ultimately lost to Team USA, taking home silver in the 2008 Beijing Games. If you recall, that game was no gimme as the U.S. could’ve been beaten by the Spaniards.
Speaking of Spain, the national team has seven current or former NBA players, plus another two whose draft rights are owned by NBA teams, on the roster. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headline the group that is incredibly talented, despite losing phenom Ricky Rubio to injury during the NBA season.
Back in 1992, Team USA beat opponents by an average of nearly 44 points per game in Olympic play. But there was no Manu Ginobili playing for Argentina, or Pau Gasol representing Spain. Instead, those guys were young kids inspired by the NBA stars they were watching in the Olympics on television.
The presence of the Dream Team in 1992 changed the course of history for international basketball, ultimately ensuring that no team could ever dominate at Team USA’s level again, by way of increasing the popularity of the sport worldwide.
Could another American team come close to earning the “Dream Team” name? It’s unlikely. The 2012 team definitely has the star power, but do they have what it takes to dismantle significantly tougher teams than the Americans faced 20 years ago? We’ll find out soon enough.
This is why Kendrick Perkins is one of my favorite athletes to cover as a reporter. He looks mean and scary but the Oklahoma City Thunder center is actually a really nice guy and also happens to be exceptionally honest.
A week or so after getting dunked on by Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Perkins had a lot to say, not only about the dunk itself, but about LeBron James who famously tweeted after the dunk, “Dunk of the Year! @blakegriffin just dunked on Kendrick Perkins so hard!!! Wow! I guess I’m No. 2 now. Move over #6.”
I was in Indianapolis covering Super Bowl week when the dunk happened, and when I saw James’ tweet up on SportsCenter, my first thought was, “wow, LeBron can’t help but show arrogance even in trying to compliment someone else! Go figure.” It turns out I wasn’t alone as Perkins absolutely ripped James in a conversation with Yahoo Sports writer Marc J. Spears.
Take a gander at this missile Perky launched directly at the Heatles super star:
“You don’t see Kobe [Bryant] tweeting,” Perkins said. “You don’t see Michael Jordan tweeting. If you’re an elite player, plays like that don’t excite you. At the end of the day, the guys who are playing for the right reasons who are trying to win championships are not worrying about one play.
“They also are not tweeting about themselves talking about going down to No. 2. I just feel [James] is always looking for attention and he wants the world to like him.”
I had a hot flash reading that. So juicy. So angry. So real.
Perkins - a former alter boy who once told me he needed custom-made robes to fit his large frame as a child - threw down SO hard on LeBron right there that he should probably go to church and ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, Big Perk is just speaking the truth, isn’t he?
“The people that move out the way and stuff are the people who have insecurity problems,” preached Perkins. “That’s my job. How will my teammates look at me if next time I just back out the way and just let him dunk when I’m supposed to be defensive-minded, a shot-blocker? That would be a coward move on me. He’d just have to dunk on me again.”
I love that. Perkins would rather get posterized while doing the right thing than save himself the embarrassment by backing down.
I have yet to meet a reporter who knows Kendrick Perkins and doesn’t like him. While the Big 3 and Rajon Rondo possessed the top talent in Boston, Perkins had become the heart and soul of the Celtics. Perkins represented what that Celtics group was at its core, becoming an extension of Kevin Garnett in terms of ferocity, intimidation and drive.
The Thunder are lucky as hell to have a veteran like Perkins to keep the young guys on track and teach them what defense and determination are all about. In most cases, I would think a move like this by a player was a calculated way of using the media, but knowing Perk, Spears might have just asked the perfect questions that solicited honest answers from a genuine, hard-working man.
Sunday, March 25… Mark your calendars folks because LeBron and the Heat will face Perky down low and the rest of the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The teams meet again in Miami on Wednesday, April 4. I’m guessing LeBron will play with an air of oblivion, as if Perkins did not verbally abuse him in the press. As for Perkins, I expect him to put on his meanest and nastiest game face yet, using the tweet and his own comments as big-time motivation next time he takes on the Heat. A la Bart Scott, “CANTWAIT!!!”
To read the rests of Perkins’ gritty comments, click the link for the original story from Marc J. Spears: http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=mc-spears_kendrick_perkins_lebron_james_blake_griffin_020712
At least somebody has found a way to make money off of NBA players during the lockout - that somebody is President Barack Obama who, according to his website is holding “a game featuring basketball’s greatest super stars in support of the Obama Victory Fund.”
Shell out $200 for a general admission ticket or up to $5k for a courtside seat at the first ever Obama Classic Basketball Game on Dec. 12 in Washington DC at a location to be announced later.
Here’s the roster of confirmed players thus far, straight from barackobama.com :
Ray Allen - Carmelo Anthony - Chris Bosh - Vince Carter - Tyson Chandler - Jamal Crawford - Kevin Durant - Baron Davis - Patrick Ewing - Derek Fisher - Rudy Gay - Blake Griffin - Tyler Hansbrough - Dwight Howard - Juwan Howard - Antawn Jamison - Dahntay Jones - Brandon Knight - Kevin Love - Jamal Mashburn - Cheryl Miller - Alonzo Mourning - Dikembe Mutombo - Chris Paul - Quentin Richardson - Doc Rivers - Steve Smith - Jerry Stackhouse - Amare Stoudemire - Tina Thompson - John Wall - Russell Westbrook
Nice mix of super stars, role players and retirees on the roster, but who will coach? I vote for either Doc Rivers and Cheryl Miller, or Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as surprise guest coaches. Just a thought.
Man, if I weren’t unemployed and without any income right now, I’d definitely be there (in the cheap seats, of course). Even if you don’t like President Obama’s politics, he has impeccable taste in various areas of the arts and entertainment, as was evident in the Motown tribute concert he and the First Lady hosted at the White House that I watched on PBS last night. DVR it if you get a chance; Martha Reeves’ diva on-stage takeover of the finale is absolutely classic.
Okay, I digress. From filling out brackets on ESPN to sitting courtside at the Carrier Classic on Veteran’s Day, it’s no secret that President Obama loves hoops. He has hosted a BBQ and pick-up game for NBA players in the past and even got elbowed in the lip (requiring several stitches) while playing with his staffers.
According to ESPN.com, “Proceeds will go to the Obama Victory Fund, which is jointly held by the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s re-election campaign. Whether Obama will directly take part in the event was left an open question.”
For the sake of entertainment, I hope Obama suits up and even better, since it’s a co-ed event, I would love to see Michelle out there too. I bet she could post guys up, no problem.
Since the event is a fundraiser, I doubt it could be televised on a network because of equal time laws, but what about Pay-Per-View? People could pay $60 to watch from their couch for a cause. This way folks who might not normally pay attention to politics can find a way to get involved while simultaneously getting perhaps the only opportunity to watch NBA players this season.
Good call on this one Obama. Sounds like fun. Now, if you could somehow convince both parties to compromise…. and by both parties, I mean the owners and players :)
For more information or to purchase a ticket to the Obama Classic Basketball Game, click here https://donate.barackobama.com/page/contribute/o2012-decemberobamaclassic?source=20111118_Athletes