Michael Jordan wasn’t immediately on board for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He already had an Olympic gold medal from Los Angeles in ’84. The possibility of playing on the greatest team ever assembled intrigued MJ, but not because it meant winning was a sure thing. ”My only reason for going was to see how the other guys competed. I knew how I practiced, I wanted to see how everybody else practiced and competed” explained Jordan to Jackie MacMullan. It was a scouting and psyops mission, and no one felt it more than Clyde Drexler.
Two left shoes
The iconic moment from the 1992 playoffs was Michael Jordan shrugging his shoulders after draining six consecutive threes right in Clyde Drexler’s and the Portland Trail Blazers’ faces.
But winning in the Finals wasn’t enough for MJ. As David Halberstam described in his book “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made “it didn’t take long for Jordan to remind Drexler of what had happened not long ago, and he did it in front of the entire Dream Team during practice. “Didn’t I just kick your ass? … Anything here look just a little familiar? … Think you can stop me this time, Clyde? … Better watch out for the threes, Clyde.”
This was exactly what Chuck Daly was afraid of, that the team won’t function as a unit because everyone would be seeing their NBA competitors and not Team USA teammates. We know that didn’t happen, and many unexpected friendships were created that summer. But no one wanted to show any weakness, particularly Drexler in front of Jordan. One day, a lot of gear was delivered, and players rushed to grab as many as possible. In the rush, Drexler made a mistake.
“Clyde grabbed two left shoes, but he didn't want to say anything, so he went through practice with two left shoes, till someone actually noticed and I can remember Michael saying 'That's kinda' why you guys lost to us.'”
Chris Mullin, The Icons Club
Imagine how important it was not to give MJ a thing as irrelevant as “damn, I grabbed two left shoes” when Clyde decided the smart course of action is to spend the entire practice in two left shoes. That’s how much Jordan was under his skin.
Given all that happened in the playoffs and the begging of Team USA training camp, you’d think Drexler hated MJ’s guts. He actually took all the trash-talking as a compliment. “I loved it, that means you’re a real threat. But on the other side, don’t think we weren’t coming for him.”
As we know from multiple stories about MJ, Kobe, and other legends - if you stand up to them and can back it up with game, that’s how you earn their ultimate respect. Out of all the unexpected NBA friendships that were created in the summer of ’92, the one between Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler was most surprising.
“We play golf, joke around, text each other - that's the product of what the Dream Team did. We talk ALL THE TIME.”
Michael Jordan, The Icons Club
Drexler confirmed they try to get together as much as possible, particularly if there’s a chance to hit the golf course. From an immense amount of trash talking and two left shoes to becoming close friends - the miracle of the Dream Team.