On July 27th, 1992, the U.S. men’s national basketball team — more commonly referred to as The Dream Team played against Croatia in the group phase who was at that time considered to be one of the best teams in Europe.
Back when the NBA wanted to galvanize the global marketing of the league, they worked it out so the NBA pros would get to play for Team USA. This resulted in the 1992 team in Barcelona consisting of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, and Christian Laettner. Needless to say, the U.S. was favored to win the gold medal.
Their first big test was going to come in the second game of the prelims when they faced off against Croatia. The Dream Team won their first game 116-48 against Angola and Croatia won their first game 93-76 against Brazil. It was time to see if both sides were as good as advertised.
The Dream Team started Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, and David Robinson. Croatia countered with Danko Cvjeticanin, Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, and Stojko Vrankovic. This was a talented Croatian team that was definitely worthy of the US taking them seriously. But even as the announcers stated early on in the game, the odds were very much against the Croatians:
“This is the NBA pros – five of them – against four of them who are good enough to play in the pros and one other.”
That shade being thrown is headed the way of Danko Cvjeticanin. Petrovic played for the New Jersey Nets, Kukoc was headed over to the Chicago Bulls a year later, Radja had been drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1989 and was headed there in 1994, and Stanko Vrankovic was playing for the Celtics already. Cvjeticanin played 17 years in Europe and would eventually serve as a scout for the Sixers from 1998-2010. He’s now a scout for the Nets.
It took maybe two seconds for the Dream Team to score and start flexing its muscles.
That’s the cool thing about this Dream Team experience: there were just so many open court plays on both ends of the floor. If you managed to get out and run on them a little bit, they’d track you down. If you couldn’t keep up with them in the open floor (and few could), they’d make a highlight reel out of you.
The final score is 103-70, which would be the lowest margin of victory for the Dream Team before these two teams would meet again in the gold medal game. USA Basketball won that gold medal matchup by 32 points.
Having steamrolled through the competition by 43.8 points per game en route to an 8-0 record, the Dream Team — made up of 11 Hall of Fame players— has since been labeled the greatest sports team ever assembled. And rightfully so.