The 1992 Dream Team is widely accepted as the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Despite their unrivaled dominance and cast of 11 Hall of Famers, they are still being challenged by teams today.
Kobe Bryant was asked if he thought the 2012 Olympic Team could beat the ’92 Dream Team and said, “I think we’d pull it out.” In describing the potential matchup, Kobe said the ’92 team would have an advantage inside but that their wings were a lot older.
Charles Barkley responded to Kobe’s comments a little more confidently.
“I just started laughing,” Barkley told The Mike Missanelli Show. “How old is Kobe Bryant? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? At the time, we were only like 28, 29. Michael Jordan and me were the same age. We were both 29. Other than Kobe, LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.”
So what would happen if these two teams did played? How would each player do and which team would win?
The game would obviously be played with FIBA rules. These rules have affected the more recent U.S. Olympic teams and the rules would affect this game somewhat but it wouldn’t be as drastic since both teams are comprised of NBA players.
Both the ’92 team and this year’s team take advantage of their ability to pressure other countries’ guards in the backcourt. That wouldn’t happen in this matchup and the pace would resemble more closely an NBA game.
Let’s go through the matchups.
David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone vs. Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
This is the most obvious advantage for the ’92 team. Their size advantage would be tremendous and it probably would prove impossible for this year’s team to overcome.
Looking at the rosters it feels like Chandler would have to try and play the entire game for the 2012 team. Love and Griffin would have no chance against Robinson-Ewing-Malone.
The ’92 team definitely gets a huge edge here and would get a ton of second-chance looks and be able to run much more of their offense in the post.
Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin vs. Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook
These are the backup wings that would get the most run. Let’s assume that Bird, Laettner, Iguodala and Harden don’t play much in this matchup.
This one is a little closer and maybe a tossup between the two teams. All four of these players should be effective in this game but not enough to swing the game either way.
Westbrook may have the most trouble because he will be playing the two-guard for the 2012 team and matching up with Drexler or Jordan will be very tough for him.
Carmelo could be effective on offense playing the four but would have trouble on defense and rebounding.
Mullin went 14-for-26 on threes in the ’92 Olympics so would be pretty automatic if left open. Drexler’s specialty would be an automatic two points on the fast break.
Magic Johnson, John Stockton vs. Chris Paul, Deron Williams
Magic was past his prime in ’92 but not by that much. Stockton was realizing his though so the ’92 team would have another advantage here.
Magic would be a huge mismatch problem of course and whenever Paul was on him he would probably take him into the post. This would be near impossible for the 2012 team to contend with.
If Magic has to try and guard Paul then that’s not a great thing for the ’92 team though.
Magic’s personality would win out though. When you envision this matchup you envision him dominating, talking trash throughout the game and picking up a ton of assists.
This one is close but an advantage again for the ’92 team.
Charles Barkley vs. Kevin Durant
Barkley and Durant won’t necessarily be guarding each other in this matchup but their effect in the game would be similar. Both would score a lot of points, possibly leading their team in that department.
Durant might be the best international style player ever and would be a really tough matchup for the ’92 team especially with the shortened 3-point line.
With the 2012 team’s lack of size, Barkley would feast on them down low. Barkley will struggle with whoever he has to guard though on the 2012 team.
This one is a tossup too. The point being that these two would both underrated-ly dominate in this game and score a ton.
Scottie Pippen vs. LeBron James
LeBron is obviously the better player but Pippen is probably the best shot at guarding him. In this setting, LeBron is not his usual dominant self and defers more than ever to teammates so Pippen should be able to do a decent job on him.
LeBron might be asked to do other things like guard Barkley or Malone or even Magic at times.
This one is closer than you think but the edge has to go to the 2012 team.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
This is really what this matchup would come down to. Not because they are the two best players but because you know if somehow these two were able to go at it like this, they wouldn’t hold anything back.
The matchup is really not close at all. Kobe is a shell of himself while MJ was at the peak of his powers in ’92. Even Kobe in his prime vs. this MJ would have no chance.
It would be the coolest part about this matchup though watching MJ and Kobe isolate on each other. Jordan would torch Kobe though and shut him down on the other end.
The 2012 team should probably put LeBron on Jordan but there’s no way Kobe would allow that by backing down from the challenge so get ready for Jordan doing pretty much whatever he wants while Kobe has a nice 6-for-19 shooting night or something.
This is where we stand. At the end of the day no one is beating the Dream Team. They are the best basketball team ever assembled and having the best player ever playing in his absolute prime is a big reason why.
We’ll never truly know what would happen though but it’s always fun to think about.
The 2012 team will kick off their exhibition games tonight at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN vs. the Dominican Republic. The London Olympics begin July 27.
Topics: 1992 Dream Team, 2012 Olympics, Andre Iguodala, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, Chris Paul, Christian Laettner, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson, Deron Williams, James Harden, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Russell Westbrook, Scottie Pippen, Tyson Chandler, USA Basketball