Authors: Jack McCallum
Copyright © 2012 by Jack McCallum
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dream team : how Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the greatest team of all time conquered the world and changed the game of basketball forever / Jack McCallum.
1. Basketball teams—United States—History. 2. Basketball Players—United States—Biography. 3. Olympic Games (25th : 1992 : Barcelona, Spain)—History. 4. Basketball—United States—History. I. Title.
Cover design: Faceout Studio
© John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
“The older I get, the less interested I am in what’s new, and the more interested I am in what endures.”
“To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes.”
—TOWNES VAN ZANDT
“I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout Angola. But
Angola’s in trouble.”
BARKLEY, Charles, 6′4″ forward;
TNT commentator whose fame has grown exponentially since retirement; boldly continues to play celebrity golf despite universally lampooned swing; leading scorer for Dream Team; known in Barcelona for rambling along Las Ramblas and elbowing an Angolan.
BIRD, Larry, 6′9″ forward;
at this writing still general manager of the Indiana Pacers but longing for golden years; limited by aching back in Barcelona that led to post-Olympics retirement; struck up unlikely Dream Team friendship with Patrick Ewing; engaged Chris Mullin in legendary H-O-R-S-E shootout.
DREXLER, Clyde, 6′7″ guard;
Dancing with the Stars
veteran; wants to be NBA head coach; happy to have been Dream Teamer but unhappy he was added late; remembered for wearing two left shoes to practice and trying to get away with it; does not believe Michael Jordan was better than he was.
EWING, Patrick, 7′0″ center;
assistant coach with Orlando Magic and perturbed he’s been unable to get interview for head coaching job;
much more popular with Dreamer teammates than with press; “Harry” half of Harry and Larry.
JOHNSON, Earvin, 6′9″ guard;
guiding force behind Magic Johnson Enterprises, having made good on long-ago vow to become big-time player in business world; sometimes irritated Dreamers with it’s-my-team attitude but changed millions of attitudes worldwide about HIV and AIDS; at this writing, scheduled to be immortalized on Broadway, along with Bird, in play about their seminal importance to NBA.
JORDAN, Michael, 6′6″ guard;
chairman of the Charlotte Bobcats; trying to make it right after bad experience running Washington Wizards; serenaded aggravated Magic with “Be Like Mike” solo after legendary intrasquad scrimmage win; acknowledged by all Dreamers as team’s alpha male and greatest of all-time … with Magic holding out just a little and Drexler holding out a lot.
LAETTNER, Christian, 6′11″ forward;
his BD Ventures, co-run with ex-Duke teammate Brian Davis, has had cash flow problems; at this writing wants to get into coaching; seems serious about changing spoiled-brat image; earned way onto Dream Team by being immortal college player.
MALONE, Karl, 6′9″ forward;
serious big-game hunter who wants back into NBA in some capacity; work ethic was inspiration to several other members of Dream Team; Jordan-Magic woof-fests at practice got under his skin.
MULLIN, Chris, 6′6″ guard/forward;
successful as ESPN commentator but might get another shot at front-office job after failure in Golden State; Barcelona sharp-shooting (.619 overall, .538 on three-pointers) affirmed selection to skeptics and Dream nod reaffirmed benefits of sobriety to him.
PIPPEN, Scottie, 6′8″ guard/forward;
has had serious money problems but, with commentating gig and reality-show wife, never far from public eye; hinted LeBron James was better than Jordan, then took it back … kind of; showed he belonged on Dream Team with world-class versatility.
ROBINSON, David, 7′1″ center;
runs private school in San Antonio called Carver Academy; faith-based activities govern his life; mostly outsider to other members of Dream Team but universally respected; teamed with a Marsalis for rooftop duet in Barcelona.
STOCKTON, John, 6′1″ guard;
full-time chauffeur for his family in his hometown, Spokane, and couldn’t be happier; tutored star women’s guard Courtney Vandersloot at alma mater Gonzaga; broken leg limited Dream Team play.
DALY, Chuck, coach;
died of cancer in 2009; vowed never to take a time-out in Barcelona and didn’t; everybody loved him, everybody misses him.
“You have a tape?” Michael Jordan asks. “Of that game?”
“I do,” I say.
“Man, everybody asks me about that game,” he says. “It was the most fun I ever had on a basketball court.”
It is reflective of the enduring legend of the Dream Team, arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport, that we are referring not to a real game but to an intrasquad scrimmage that the Dreamers played in Monte Carlo before the 1992 Olympic Games. The United States engaged in fourteen games in that summer two decades gone—six in a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament and eight as they breezed to the gold medal in Barcelona—and the closest any opponent came was a fine Croatia team, which lost by 32 points in the gold medal final. The common matrices of statistical comparison, you see, are simply not relevant in the case of the Dream Team, whose members could be evaluated only when they played one another.
A video of that game is the holy grail of basketball, and the account of it is here, in
A perfect storm hit Barcelona in the summer of the Dream Team. Everything came together. The team members were almost
exclusively NBA veterans at or near the apex of their individual fame. The world, having been offered only bite-sized nuggets of NBA games, was waiting for them, since Barcelona was the first Olympics in which professional basketball players were allowed to compete. They were a star-spangled export for a country that still held a position of primacy around the world.