Patrick Reusse: Dream Team now a memory, always a dream

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2012 - 9:32 AM

The Dream Team that ran through the Barcelona Olympics field was then and is now the greatest athletic team ever assembled.

hide

Michael Jordan, left, and Magic Johnson made a pretty solid pair of starting guards on the Dream Team, so good that they were already out of the game when the gold medal celebration began.

Photo: John Gaps, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The hair on my arms stood and turned to bristles. It has happened once in over four decades as a sportswriter, and that occurred 20 years ago in Portland's Memorial Coliseum.

The Dream Team was about to make its competitive debut against Cuba in the Tournament of Americas. There were four Olympic berths available for the 10 teams in the Western Hemisphere's qualifying tournament.

There wasn't much drama as to whether the Dream Team would secure its place in the Barcelona Olympics. There wasn't much drama over the outcome of this opening game against Cuba on June 28, 1992.

Yet, when the lineup was announced -- Charles Barkley and David Robinson, then Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson -- there they were: bristles.

They came from the realization that here, inside this old arena in Portland, Ore., we were about to see the official debut of what might be the greatest athletic team assembled in the history of the universe.

After the first 7 1/2 minutes, coach Chuck Daly's starters went to the bench accompanied by a roof-rattling roar, and there was no "might" left in the proposition about greatness.

It was an amazing opening shift, played at the speed of Ferrari, with marksmanship and energetic defending, with no-look passing and alley-ooping, and then here came the second five: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin and Scottie Pippen.

On that day, Patrick Ewing still was recovering from a dislocated thumb, and the college kid, Christian Laettner, was waiting his turn -- as he would throughout the crushing run to the Olympic gold medal.

The final was Dream Team 136, Cuba 57. The 79-point drubbing did have its reward. The Cubans were able to corral the Dream Team for a mass photo and coach Miguels Calderon Gomez said: "We can take back to Cuba a beautiful photograph of us with them taken before the game."

The Dream Team won six games in Portland by an average of 51.5 points, took a 12-day break, then flew with their families to Monte Carlo on July 18 for a final week of preparation before arriving in Barcelona.

For four days, there was much golf, gambling, beach prowling and pool sitting, and widespread disinterest in basketball practices. For instance:

Vacationing young ladies had a tendency to not wear the tops of their swimwear, causing Barkley to say he had spent most of his time in Monte Carlo at the pool "sightseeing."

On July 22, Daly decided he had to put some fire back in the troops and split up the side between the Michaels (Jordan, Pippen, Bird, Ewing and Malone) and the Magics (Johnson, Mullin, Laettner, Robinson and Barkley).

Stockton and Drexler were both injured -- so it was 5-on-5, to the death on the scoreboard.

Jack McCallum from Sports Illustrated has dubbed it the "Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw" and has 20 pages of print devoted to it in this week's issue. The fierce intersquad match also gets attention on the "Dream Team" documentary that has been running on NBA TV.

Those covering the Dream Team in Barcelona only heard anecdotal reports of the Michaels' victory over the Magics, but what Daly conjured up that day in Monte Carlo -- the capital of European hedonism -- served its purpose.

The United States played eight games in Barcelona and won by an average of 43.8 points. The closest games were a 33-point victory over Croatia in the preliminary round and a 32-point victory over Croatia in the gold medal game.

There were complaints that the NBA and USA Basketball had engaged in overkill in putting together this machine. LeRoy Walker, the U.S. Olympic Committee's head of athletes delegation, kept making moronic statements that the basketball players should have stayed in Olympic Village housing and not a very expensive hotel.

Janet Evans, the 20-year-old star swimmer for the U.S. team, sat next to Walker at a closing news conference, listened to one of his naïve outbursts and said:

"Charles Barkley came to the athletes village one day. It was a mob scene. It was wild. It would have been impossible for them to stay at the village ... They would have lost. They would never have slept."

Jordan laid it for Walker and the USOC officials that had whined about the Dream Team's accommodations, chartered commercial jets and incredible level of attention-getting.

"The USOC should learn from this," Jordan said. "If you're going to hire 12 Clint Eastwoods to go get a gold medal, don't tell 'em what bullets to use."

The Dream Team did more than reclaim the gold in this American game, and it did more than put basketball at the peak of international sports. The presence of Magic Johnson as the emotional leader of the greatest athletic team ever assembled taught the United States and much of the world more about AIDS.

Remember the fear on Nov. 7, 1991, when Magic announced he was HIV positive? Some players were afraid to play against him -- afraid of his blood, even his sweat.

Nine months later, he was standing with his fellow Dream Teamers on the victory podium inside the Palau d' Esports in Barcelona, hearing cheers from a largely European crowd, gold medal around his neck, smiling the Magic smile, and waving away much of the crazed mythology of his disease.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Chart: The Dream Team

    Saturday June 30, 2012

    Eleven of the best professional basketball players in history and one college player made up the Dream Team at the...

  • EDITOR'S NOTE

    For the next three Saturdays, columnist Patrick Reusse will look back at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

    Today: The Dream Team

    July 7: Oscar de la Hoya

    July 14: Wrestler Dennis Koslowski

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto 0 Top 1st Inning
NY Yankees 0
Washington 0 Top 1st Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets - J. deGrom 12:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Boston - J. Kelly 12:35 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 12:35 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Chicago WSox - J. Danks 12:40 PM
Tampa Bay - N. Karns
Cleveland - C. Kluber 1:10 PM
Minnesota - A. Swarzak
Detroit - R. Porcello 1:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Seattle - H. Iwakuma 1:10 PM
Houston - C. McHugh
Los Angeles - J. Wright 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 7 1st Qtr 9:45
Buffalo 0
Dallas 0 1st Qtr 6:10
St. Louis 7
Washington 7 1st Qtr 8:42
Philadelphia 0
Houston 0 1st Qtr 8:10
NY Giants 0
Minnesota 0 1st Qtr 9:36
New Orleans 7
Tennessee 0 1st Qtr 7:10
Cincinnati 0
Baltimore 3 1st Qtr 9:11
Cleveland 0
Green Bay 0 1st Qtr 11:13
Detroit 7
Indianapolis 3 1st Qtr 9:30
Jacksonville 0
Oakland 0 1st Qtr 9:35
New England 0
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 12:30 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(22) Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 0 13:06
Montreal 0
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close