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Latest U.S. ‘Dream Team’ Qualifies For Olympics
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. basketball team has qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing China next August. The star-studded team that includes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd just finished steamrolling through the competition at the FIBA America’s Championships in Las Vegas by going undefeated, and beating teams by an average of just under 40 points per game.
But as any basketball purist will tell you, there is only one Dream Team, the original 1992 team. The roster for that squad was Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and college star Christian Laettner.
That 1992 team also destroyed their Olympic competition, proving to all the world that the best basketball players in the world were the Americans who played in the NBA. As if anyone doubted it. Before that, we sent our college players.
The move to send NBA players to the Olympics was a reaction to the 1988 Olympic team’s loss to the Soviet Union, which earned them the Bronze medal. There was so much shock and outrage that in April of 1989, FIBA voted to let the pros play. I guess we made our point.
Yes, the Dream Team was fabulous. But after a while, watching them annihilate their Olympic competition was like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. It smacked of American excess. It reeked of overkill. And ultimately, it made me miss the college kids. We all know the days of true amateur competition in the Olympic Games have long since passed. The ancient Greeks must be rolling over in their graves.
Next summer, the U.S. will send its best NBA players to Beijing. The team seems hungry to win gold, as though the shame of a bronze medal, which the team earned in 2004, must be stripped away by any means necessary. But they will also face the best of the rest of the world, unlike some of the B-teams they just defeated. True to Commissioner David Stern’s vision, basketball has become a global game.
The world’s best players still play in the NBA, but they aren’t all Americans anymore, as evidenced by the last three league MVP awards, which went to two-time winner Steve Nash who is Canadian, and last year’s winner Dirk Nowitski, who is German.
The U.S. team is the odds on favorite to win Olympic gold in 2008. But our efforts to globalize the game have literally helped the rest of the world catch up to us. It’s not likely to happen next year, but the day is bound to come when the U.S. will send its best team and not win gold.
And when that day arrives, I don’t want to see rule changing and excuse making. Just an honest acknowledgment that players and teams from other countries have “got game”, just as we do. Surely, we’re big enough to deal with that.