The Timberwolves are in San Diego for a week of training camp. The most famous basketball unit in history also officially assembled in San Diego, although that might not mean much to this team, since it was 25 years ago and five of the 14 Wolves with guaranteed contracts weren’t born yet.
The 1992 NBA Finals ended June 14, with Chicago defeating Portland in six games. A week later, the Dream Team — including the Bulls’ Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and the Blazers’ Clyde Drexler — arrived in San Diego.
The great Brian McIntyre from the NBA was overseeing the media operation, and he cleared lowly sportswriters to stay in the same Torrey Pines hotel as the team. I was leaving my room one evening and the gentleman coming out of a larger room was Jordan.
Michael was wearing a very nice suit, for which I complimented him.
The Dream Team was tasked with going to Portland for the Tournament of Americas, where four of 10 teams would qualify for the Olympics. The NBA stars (plus college selection Christian Laettner) won six games from June 28 to July 5 by lopsided margins.
The 12 players took a short break and then went to Monte Carlo for a final tuneup. Coach Chuck Daly said he would not impose a curfew in Monte Carlo, one reason being his favorite hangout there didn’t open until midnight.
The Dream Team arrived in Barcelona on July 24, the Friday before the Opening Ceremony. It was madness everywhere the players were spotted between then and Aug. 8, when they wrapped up the 8-0 sweep of international competition by demolishing Croatia for the gold medal.
It was proven in Spain: Star power was now more important than taut competition in the modern world.
The NBA offered largely boring playoffs for two months last spring, yet the offseason events created a furor (Kyrie Irving, Lonzo Ball) on the national sports scene.
The purists whined as the Dream Team rolled past opponent after opponent. And yet 25 years later, taking its legends to the Olympics remains an epic and long-serving marketing triumph for the NBA.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Charles Barkley quotes with the Dream Team:
• Asked about opponents looking on with awe: “Whoever put this team together made sure there would be some awe on it.’’
• Asked about their first qualifying opponent: “What do I know about Cuba? The country is run by a scruffy-looking guy who smokes cigars.’’
• Asked about their first opponent in Olympics: “I don’t know anything about Angola but Angola is in trouble.’’